Cabin crew secrets: BA flight attendant reveals when they'll give passengers upgrades

Cabin crew secrets: BA flight attendant reveals when they'll give passengers upgrades


Flights in Business Class are undeniably better than Economy for most passengers – especially if an upgrade comes as a pleasant surprise. However, it can often feel as though upgrades are impossible to come by. There are schools of thought that if you dress well and ask nicely you may well be in with a chance – but is this always the case? A former BA cabin crew worker has revealed what it was that convinced him to upgrade travellers when he worked for the company.

Flight attendant Simon J Marton explained his upgrade process in his book Journey of a Reluctant Air Steward.

It was nothing to do with manners or appearance, as far as Marton was concerned – it was how much passengers deserved it.

“I was always the one up for upgrading deserving-people, handing out flatbeds, or simply larger seats in short-haul like sweeties,” he said.

Marton explained his approach was similar to Robin Hood – and once upgraded eight people on a Kenya to UK flight.

Not everyone is in with a chance, however. “On one flight I operated, a pretty girl in her 20s, smart-dressed, came on onboard the 777 last, looking slightly like a film-star, and, in an upper-class English accent, asked us the direst question, ‘Could I have an upgrade please?’” Marton wrote.

“I looked at her and simply said, ‘I have to have a very good commercial reason to do so.’

“She frowned slightly and turned towards the rear of the aircraft without arguing. I didn’t mind her asking, as she was daring enough to do so, and it was obvious she had done so before, hence coming on last.

“Other people would ask the same if they happened to see spare seats in Club. The same answer was given.”

So when would Marton give out upgrades? What counted as a deserving passenger? “I would do it on a case-by-case basis if there was capacity – and it made sense to do so for example if businesspeople or families especially were split apart,” the flight attendant said.

“Sometimes it might be Executive Club pax who had endured lengthy journeys with problems along the way, especially if they were nice and reasonable about the request.

“I once upgraded a deportee travelling from Dublin. I don’t think he could believe his luck when I offered him a glass of bubbly.

“Nice to make someone’s journey a little more special where possible. You simply checked the paperwork: the pax list showing TOB (total onboard), special requests, edits and comments, which also showed spare seat location across all the cabins.

“One time I saw an old school-mate and thought it would make his experience better.

“That was a one-off, as there was blatantly no commercial reason whatsoever for giving him Club seat, unless BA needed a house built one day.”

Another flight attendant has revealed what cabin crew and pilots really get up to when they’re away. 

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