Upgrade to Business Class on day of flight?

For our honeymoon, my wife and I will be flying on Lufthansa from LAX to Frankfurt. We would really like to upgrade from economy to business class, at least for the flight over to Frankfurt. Has anyone had experience trying to upgrade when checking in or at the airport? What might it cost? Is there likely to be a discount compared to buying business class at the original time of booking? Any other tips? Our flight over is on a Saturday.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7732 posts

If there any unsold business class seat the airline will happily upgrade you for about $5000.00....each:)

After that the unsold seats go to elite frequent fliers in coach, who can use miles for a discounted upgrade; there is usually a waiting list for this. There are no bargains on the day of the flight. Business class is where airlines make their profits, coach pays for expenses.

Posted by Chris
Bakersfield, CA, USA
42 posts

Wow, I'm surprised enough corporations are willing to pay for business class to make it work.

Thank you for the information. We will adjust our hopes.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
4369 posts

With airlines gutting their FF programs it'll be interesting to see what happens with Business Class seating. I've been flying to Europe in the cattle class for decades. It's not a pleasant experience, and as nice as it would be to have a big seat I think I'd rather have my cattle class seat rather than a 5k-10k charge on my credit card.

Posted by Alex
Longmont, CO, USA
526 posts

With Lufthansa, they sometimes have Business Class sales. You need to watch their website for them. We did a trip in 2012 where we booked economy, a few weeks later I saw they had a sale going on for Business. I called and upgraded and got our seats for about 1000 each extra. They usually advertise their specials at the beginning of the month, I see right now their deal is for First Class. Just keep checking their site and you may get lucky...their business class is excellent and now has lay flat seats and LOTS OF LEGROOM!!!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7732 posts

"....With airlines gutting their FF programs it'll be interesting to see what happens with Business Class seating...."

They are only gutting the FFs who use coach. The programs are being modified to favor those who pay a lot of money for their ticket (business and first class), over those who just fly a lot of miles in coach.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
718 posts

I'm guessing you've already purchased your coach ticket? It used to be, on American, that you could buy a more expensive upgradable coach fair. I did that and got upgraded for the international leg of the flight and then on both flights on the way back. There was a cost at the airport when I actually got the upgrade, but it wasn't outrageous. Try calling Luftansa now and see if they can provide any guidance.

Posted by Abe
Rick Steves' Europe
369 posts

I have a few colleagues in our office who have upgraded to business class on various flights for a nominal fee perhaps as low as $50. Last year I asked at the check in desk what the cost for an upgrade from Seattle to Amsterdam would be. She said it would be only $200. I don't know what it would be for your flights but it certainly doesn't hurt to ask them when you get to the airport.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14087 posts

That is hard to believe. The upgrade to Economy plus is often $200. We travel a lot, have a pile of ff miles and ten years ago could easily get upgrades. But the last five years or so, it has been impossible to get the upgrades. The airlines have been known to give favors to VIPs for the publicity. So you may be getting special deals that rest of us cannot get.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2073 posts

Abe's observations, given Abe's affiliation, reflects the hierarchy of air travel. Frequent air travelers, especially those who fly full or lightly discounted fares, are more important to the airlines than infrequent tourist travelers booking the cheapest fare possible. Elite level frequent fliers get better treatment than lower level travelers.

The upgrade programs started about 25 or so years ago when I flew weekly for business reasons and companies started eliminating first class travel for us "working class" travelers. I was first "upgraded" on an oversold flight when the gate agent asked me if I would be willing to give up my coach seat for one up front. Gate agents use to upgrade high value flyers without charge if they has space up front.

The upgrade practice soon evolved to airlines first periodically sending us upgrade coupons, then selling upgrades at a nominal price. The industry soon evolved to multiple levels of eliteness and the option of trading miles for upgrades. These days I'm riding in the cattle car with most of you. Then again, I'm flying to someplace that I want to visit and not because it's work.

If Chris is a once a year vacation flier with a discounted advance purchase fare, he can forget about a cheap upgrade. Rick Steves and his producer on the other hand....

Posted by Kristen
620 posts

I think it depends on the airline. I have been offered upgrades multiple times on American and this is before I was travelling a lot. Chicago to Florida was $100. Chicago to Puerto Vallarta $300. Chicago to Maui $300. Tampa to CDG $300.....If they have seats available, they want to make some money on them. I think planes are more likely to be full now (because there are less flights available) so I don't see this offered as much.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7732 posts

There is a big difference is upgrades on domestic routes vs. transatlantic.
Domestic routes have more departures and capacity when you add it all up there is more empty space and wiggle room for upgrades. International flights are usually limited to just one plane a day on most routes , and typically attract wealthier travelers, who fill up business and first class very quickly.

Posted by Jaime
20 posts

When flying from Atlanta to Frankfurt on Delta, I inquired at the desk if it was possible to use miles to upgrade to business class. She didn't even glance at me and said no without missing a beat.

I expected I most likely wouldn't be able to do it, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. I'd already called Delta directly a few weeks earlier, but because of my fare class, they wanted something like $3000 total after upgrade and fare change fees.

No, no, I'll be fine in cattle class for eight hours...

Posted by Ginger
253 posts

I would rather cattle class, and have better accommodations when I reach my destination.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7334 posts

I can spend an extra ten days in Europe for what the upgrade would cost; I do spring for economy comfort, however.

Posted by debbiesue22006
43 posts

I may be completely naive, but I have anecdotal evidence, so....
When you get to your departure gate, be very, very charming to the gate agent, tell him/her you are on your honeymoon, be your delighted-to-be-married-to-this-beautiful-woman self, mention to the gate agent that if there is a possibility of empty seats in business or first, you would be delighted to begin your married life this way. Smile. Say thank you.

I know it sounds like complete and utter ridiculousness, but my mom and stepdad have been upgraded at LEAST twice, maybe three times, to business or first class on sheer luck and schmooze alone--and I'm pretty sure it was on Lufthansa, every time. Couldn't hurt to try. :) You'll probably get champagne and people fussing over you a little in any case.

Best wishes on your marriage and your fabulous honeymoon!

Posted by Sarah
United States
220 posts

It looks like you already have your ticket. I've never heard a call for business upgrades or an empty business seat. In my experience, if you fly business to, say, Frankfurt, then coach to your final destination, you won't get the Lufthansa business lounge (really too german for me, but the beer and cleanliness/shower facilities are good).


Posted by Bets
3351 posts

While I was in business on the A380 going over last summer, business class was empty, but coach and economy comfort were completely full. No free upgrades though econmy comfort people were offered the chance to upgrade with money plus miles. AF sends an email a few days before the flight explaining how much money and how many miles. Coming back business was full. My husband and I used to get upgraded on AF for free, but not any more without paying something.

IMHO you should follow the procedure outlined by Dick and do the honeymoon talk as suggested by Debbiesue. But remember they need to upgrade their silver, gold, and platinum flyers first.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2313 posts

I fly to Europe every summer from Seattle, WA, and have always flown on European airlines to get a non-stop flight (as opposed to "direct" as some airlines advertise). When we flew from Houston or Dallas a couple of years ago on Lufthansa we were offered something like "Economy Extra" for an extra $75 dollars each. We took it and had a 4 seat center row to our selves - luck of the draw - guess they did not get many takers. This year we signed up for KLM as it had the best connections to Greece but when we got our literary we see that we fly on Delta from Seattle to Amsterdam (non-stop) and then on KLM to Greece. Seems they are code-share partners. This will be our first flight on Delta so am curious as to how they will perform. We chose to pay $89 each/each way to get something like "Economy Extra" which we felt was a fair price for a 9 1/2 hour flight. I took my first flight in 1946 and my second one in 1963 and have never flown Business Class and only flown First Class once due to a very nice check-in counter lady. I do purchase Lottery tickets whenever I visit the mainland and like to dream about flying "up front" the rest of my life.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2073 posts

Charlie of HI:

I flew the KLM SEA/AMS flight operated by Delta winter of 2013, upgrading to the comfort/econo- plus for something like $120 USD extra for the first time. Some swear by it, but I found that a couple of extra inches and a couple of degrees of extra recline was not very noticeable.

I returned on a CDG/SEA Air France operated by Delta. I did not upgrade to Comfort/econo but got the center 3 seats to my lonesome. A far better deal.