The Best Kind of Airline Upgrade!

best airline upgrade
Written by Charlie

There are many great airline upgrades but I think this takes the best airline upgrade title for many reasons – including how it happened!

We all loved getting an airline upgrade. Back when Delta used to have more generous upgrades for their elites, it was rare for me (as a Diamond Medallion) to not get upgraded on all of my domestic flights. Those are the kinds of updates we tend to expect and so are not as great as some other kinds of airline upgrades.

The Best Kind of Airline Upgrade!

The best kind of airline upgrade can start with it being one where you are not expecting an upgrade to occur. I have been upgraded a few times on international flights when I was a Delta Diamond but that is not a published benefit (and so part of what makes it the best kind of airline upgrade!) and that made for one of those great upgrades (not to mention it was very comfortable!).

I have also enjoyed the occasional airline upgrade on non-US carriers such as getting moved from economy to business on a long-haul regional with Aegean, getting moved to business on regional Turkish flights, and even getting upgraded from economy to premium economy on long-haul British Airways. All of these happened as a result of my having elite status (not something I deserved as an elite but a way of filtering for upgrades when they need the space in back).

The Airline Upgrade from Lufthansa Business to First

But it is actually my parents, who do not have any airline status, that got to enjoy what I call the best kind of an airline upgrade. They were flying home from Europe this summer in business aboard a Lufthansa aircraft. They were more than pleasantly surprised when the agents told them they had been upgraded from business to first class!

best airline upgrade

Business class is nice enough – but they were moving up from here!

My parents have flown in business class back and forth between Europe a few times. My dad always had remarked how he had walked through first class (on Lufthansa mostly) and it did not seem like a much bigger deal to him – other than the better seats and more space. But, once he had an opportunity to experience Lufthansa first class, his attitude was definitely more towards the “wow!” in enjoying the experience.

And no, they did not take any photos!!!

What Made This Airline Upgrade So Good?

Besides getting an airline upgrade that neither of them even expected, this is part of what made this airline upgrade so great:

  • Neither parent has airline status
  • They were on separate, unlinked reservations (but same last name)
  • And the best part (simply because it makes no sense) – these were United award tickets!

That’s right – these business class tickets were not even revenue tickets but award tickets booked through a partner (United)! Besides the two of them, one other passenger was upgrade from business to first on their flight.

They (and I) have no idea how they received this airline upgrade but it was certainly an incredible way to travel home! I have enjoyed the old Lufthansa first class but not the new first class so they are ahead of me with that! I still cannot believe that they go this upgrade from an award ticket – and without any kind of status! It is that, combined with the complete surprise, that makes this the best airline upgrade ever – at least in my eyes!

Have you had a similar airline upgrade before? What was the reason for it?

Featured image courtesy of Aeroshots

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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.


  • That is a great upgrade especially on LH First!
    Folks (no status) were traveling back from Belgium to Boston via FRA last summer on LH also on United award tickets but in economy…they had decent seats for the FRA-BOS on the 748i. Flight went mx and as a result had to spend the night in Frankfurt but each received 600 euros and a bump to LH’s Premium Economy for the flight the next day back to BOS. I’d call that a solid score!

  • This is very surprising and against what I have been told by Lufthansa. My parents had the same situation: I booked United award tickets for them and I was on a revenue ticket on Business. Due to weather issues, I was rerouted through a different city (the starting point was different but we were supposed to be on the same flight over transatlantic) But Lufthansa agent called the police and had my father arrested, but it turns out that it was a false arrest. Next day, business was full and United booked them on LH first, then at the check-in Lufthansa agent downgraded to economy because they said my parents didn’t pay the fare difference of 5000USD (business to first). They put my parents on waitlist for business and eventually it cleared at the gate. I personally didn’t agree with how Lufthansa handled the situation and contacted the Lufthansa about it. They gave me a call and explained to me that it is their policy not to upgrade to first in any case but rather downgrade but they admitted there could be cases when their elites get an exception. Now if your story is true, LH basically lied about it. Now I am wondering why LH agent downgraded my parents…Did they still think that my father was a criminal? I mean police made a mistake and LH contributed to it. And the same LH agent at the check-in saw all the drama in the previous day, yet they decided to downgrade. Of course, LH customer service said it was nothing personal but I don’t believe it anymore…How should I proceed with this? Any guidance on this issue?