On my recent trip between Abu Dhabi and Munich, flying Eithad Airways, I was fortunate enough to be upgraded from business class to first class in both directions.
When I mentioned (boasted about?) this on social media, I received replies from envious folk wanting to know how I’d managed this feat. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.
Like everybody else, I’ve read those “how to get an upgrade” stories and blog posts — which are mostly about getting promoted from economy to business class — and what I did doesn’t fit their recommendations. That’s because what I did was nothing. (By the way, a lot of the advice they give is often contradictory: arrive early, or be the last to check-in; be nice to the staff, or be angry …)
On both occasions, I was simply told at the gate that my seat number had changed. The first leg was a reward flight, so I thought they were going to move me around in the business cabin, perhaps to a less-desirable seat (although they’re all pretty good) to accommodate a full-paying passenger. Instead, they put me into first class.
On the second occasion, the flight was part of a fully paid business-class return fare (yes, I splurged on myself*) to Australia, with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, which is where I am now. (Brisbane, you’ll see me in mid-December.)
So on the first occasion, I could think that it was an extra reward for being a Gold Etihad Guest member and having accrued enough points to afford the reward flight. On the second occasion, it may have been a reward for paying full fare. But they seem like contradictory things.
I’m only guessing here, but I think that travelling on my own (cue: sad violins) has something to do with getting an upgrade, especially on Etihad. Unlike other airlines I’ve used, where business class is full of suits, there seem to be a lot of couples and family groups on Etihad, and one person is easier to move than two, three or five.
I suppose the biggest factor is that I’ve become quite a loyal Etihad customer, which is not difficult when a) I live in their home port of Abu Dhabi, and they are the airline with the widest possible choice of destinations and greatest convenience, and b) Etihad is a truly top-notch airline, with its in-flight service running rings around almost every other carrier I’ve ever flown (and that’s quite a few).
Also, I have no idea whether Etihad (or any other business) keeps a record of these things, but I’m almost always a fuss-free passenger. I can’t imagine any business really wanting to look after a customer who constantly complains. It may work once, but I’d like to think that there’s a little list somewhere to make sure that the difficult people don’t get rewarded in the future.
Oh, and I’m not reluctant to broadcast it when I get good service. I tweeted my delight at getting upgraded, with shout-outs to Etihad’s Twitter account. But I have not done that with the expectation of getting further upgrades, I’ve done it because I appreciate being looked after and I know that word-of-mouth is important to all businesses.
Because I care about my personal credibility, I’m not going to promote a product or service that sucks just because they did me a favour. And even if a business I like doesn’t quite measure up on occasions, I’m not going to be afraid to say so.
Without exception, I’ve found Etihad’s ground and cabin crew to be friendly, cool under pressure and competent. It’s always pleasure to recommend a business that serves me well, be it a corner store or an international airline.
(By the way, if you are travelling first class on Etihad, I recommend the New York eye fillet — one of the best steaks I had in a long, long time, and certainly the best ever in the sky.)
* And, as I’ve noted before, I’m a big guy, I like to be comfortable when I fly and I’m prepared to pay for it.