Immediate Flight Upgrades vs Last Minute Lottery

There are two ways in which airlines offer cabin class upgrades in exchange for frequent flyer points. There are “immediate flight upgrades” and there is what is little better than a “last minute lottery”. This blog is about upgrades, not reward seat bookings.

Immediate Flight Upgrades

Airlines that offer the immediate flight upgrades, set aside a certain number of seats from when the bookings open for reward seats. As the time gets closer, they may release more depending on the sales.

What this means is that you can buy an economy fare and request a cabin class upgrade and if they have it available it is yours and locked in.

Sometimes the upgrades can be done online and sometimes over the phone.

I commonly get a booking all typed up on my computer and then ring the airline to check reward seat availability. Their answer will always be based on “right now”. As soon as availability is confirmed I hit the button to process my credit card, and immediately request an upgrade. Easy!

Last minute lottery

The last minute lottery method does not suit me at all. In this scenario, the airline receives your request for an upgrade but doesn’t tell you whether or not you are successful until 24 hours before you fly. I hate it!

What actually happens is the airline looks at all of the requests for upgrade. The first ones granted are the platinum frequent flyers followed by the gold, then silver etc. So how lucky you feel depends a lot on what tier you are in the loyalty program.

The point of this blog is to tell you that you have a choice. If your airline uses the last minute lottery approach and you prefer to know where you stand from the outset, then look around at other airlines and loyalty programs that offer immediate flight upgrades.

We are from Australia. I was a platinum Qantas frequent flyer when they switched from immediate flight upgrades to a lottery. The following year I abandoned Qantas and became a platinum Virgin customer instead – because they still commit to their upgrades on the spot.