The Basics

Frustrating Experiences with Airline Upgrades

Business class upgrade certificates can be incredibly valuable – when you can actually use them. Here are my experiences this year and why it is frustrating

US elite flyers have been frustrated over the last couple of years as US airlines do more monetizing of their first class cabins. This happens with cheaper upgrades being offered to passengers, especially to non-elite passengers. This is taking place at the same time that these airlines are improving their cabins and services.

Aegean Business Class Upgrade Certificate Frustration

aegean business class upgrade certificate

The difference maker between business and coach for inter-European flights

For European airlines, their regional business class cabins are little more than a regular economy row with the middle seat blocked. But, they make up this with some very good catering, even on short-haul flights.

Aegean Business Class Upgrade Certificates

Aegean Airlines changed their elite system a couple of years ago and added to it 4 business class upgrade certificates for their Gold flyers.

  • These Aegean business class upgrade certificates are assignable for only one segment of a ticket, unlike American Airlines that lets you use their upgrade certificates for up to 3 segments on a single one way trip.
  • These upgrade certificates are great because it lets the upgraded passenger get the priority access of a Gold flyer as well as lounge access and the better meals on board.

The first year, I was able to use these Aegean business class upgrade certificates for all the flights I wanted, first time. This year, these business class upgrade certificates have become increasingly frustrating to use.

Frustrating Year with Upgrades

I have tried to apply these business class upgrades many times on flights between (both directions) Athens – London, Athens – Rome, Athens – Frankfurt, Athens – Munich, Athens – Paris, and Athens – Vienna. The only one I was successful on was Vienna – Athens.

Empty Business Class Cabins

This is what is so frustrating about these business class upgrade attempts – each time I was on the plane, there were at least 3 (and sometimes as many as 8) business class seats that were flying empty. This is not like US airlines – there were no upgrade offers to purchase these seats at check-in or at the airport so it was not Aegean holding back waiting for this. Also, these tickets were not exactly just a little more expensive on the day of departure – they were hundreds of dollars more expensive than a coach ticket for that flight (so less likely that last minute customers were going to just pay the difference between coach and business).

Non-Peak and Peak Time Trouble

This was not just for peak travel times. This was for travel throughout the year. It seems that Aegean has become increasingly stingy with their business class upgrade certificates. I am not sure why this is, especially since there must be fewer Aegean Gold members this year than the first year they offered these.

Easy Business Class Transition

The final part that makes this very frustrating is that it is a simple curtain that needs to be moved to create business class seats. These business class upgrade certificates are only available to Aegean Gold members, theoretically Aegean’s most loyal passengers. Even if the cabin was full, it would be possible to open up more business class seats by moving the curtain (I have seen this happen on 2 different occasions). The upgrades I have tried for would have put me in what went out empty. It would be nice if Aegean opened up more space for their Gold members and their business class upgrade certificates.

No Waitlist Approval – Even With Empty Cabins

I was put on an airport waitlist for these upgrades and still not upgraded – even with the many empty seats. I have grown increasingly frustrated with Aegean and their availability of their business class upgrades. Hopefully, they open up more space and make these empty seats available.

I understand that these situations stem from the decisions of revenue management but it would be nice if they were made in concert to the loyalty program offerings. 

Have these mirrored your experiences with the Aegean business class upgrade certificates this year?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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