As the flight attendant closes the flimsy curtain dividing upper class from lower, do you ever want to jump out of your seat and yell, "I belong on the other side!" You endure the long hours in coach with your knees pushed to your chest and the arm rests biting into your sides. All the while, you gaze at the heavenly light glowing from the first-class cabin, believing that your true seat is up front.
You may be made for first class, but the costs aren't always made for you. If you really want that spacious first- or business-class seat, you've got to find a workaround. Lucky for you that the airlines offer three different ways to fly first class for less.
The major U.S. airlines employ two styles of upgrades. Airlines such as Continental, Delta, Northwest, and US Airways offer unlimited complimentary upgrades within the Americas to their most loyal customers. American and United give elite flyers four 500-mile upgrade coupons for every 10,000 miles flown. Travelers can then redeem the coupons for upgrades; the number of coupons required depends on the length of the flight. American and United elites can also get complimentary upgrades with no need for coupons when they purchase tickets in full-fare economy class.To get elite status and its associated upgrades, you'll need to fly. A lot. To reach the lowest elite tier on most airlines, you must fly 25,000 miles in one year or 25 flight segments. The best way to achieve this goal is to always fly on the same airline. Many travelers do rack up over 25,000 miles in one year but never attain elite status because they use a different airline for each flight. If elite upgrades are important, consolidate your miles earnings.