How to blag an upgrade (the tall girl way)

My name is Laura Schofield and I am the world’s biggest blagger. Ask any of my friends or colleagues and they will tell you. I’ve blagged a leather chesterfield club chair, backstage passes at The Black Eyed Peas and skipped countless nightclub queues. This year I’ve been upgraded on flights no less than FOUR times.

The above has got nothing to do with luck. It’s about spotting an opportunity, acting fast and — in some cases — knowing what to do with what God gave you. I don’t mean batting your eyelashes and showing off your boobs. Sometimes your height is the greatest tool at your disposal.

If you think that being tall makes travelling uncomfortable, awkward, and significantly worse for you than your shorter counterparts, then it’s time for an attitude overhaul. Follow these simple steps and blag the upgrades that your little friends can’t. 

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  • Don’t go in all guns blazing. Straight-out asking for a business class upgrade is what short people do. You’ll appear rude and grasping. Smile sweetly and say “I just wondered if it’s possible to get fire exit seats, because I’m really tall and struggle with the shortage of legroom”. I tried this line when I flew to Dubai with Emirates, and since the fire exits were already full, they bumped my colleague and I up to business class. If they can put you in the fire exit seats, they will, and it’s worth asking just for that.
  • There’s usually someone guiding you to the right check-in desk. If it’s a tall woman, lodge your request for fire exit seats with her first and you’ll have a more sympathetic ear. One female attendant at Gatwick replied, “Gosh, you are tall aren’t you? I thought I was tall and I struggle with the legroom. I’ll see what I can do…”
  • If you’re in a foreign country, ask your driver/ representative to put in a request for you when they drop you at the airport. In Hanoi, our rep said something in Vietnamese and bagged us fire-exit seats on our internal flights. He could well have said “Look how stupidly tall these crazy British people are”, but it seemed to do the trick. 
  • Dress conservatively. This doesn’t mean you have to look super posh, but messy hair, lots of cleavage and neon tops all scream “I’m going to get rowdy on the free-flowing champagne,” so think about what image you’re putting out there. 
  • Make your feelings known. ATTT reader Emma says,“I had a legroom situation on a Cross Country train and tweeted my general displeasure about it. Later on, the train manager from that actual train saw it, and sent me a lovely message back that he would have found me a better seat if he’d known! Lesson learned- speak up”.
  • Your moment at check-in is brief, but a well-timed compliment or conversation starter with the staff-member on the desk will help your cause considerably. As I strolled to the Emirates desk last week the girl sat there was rubbing her eyes (clearly through tiredness), but I asked “Are you ok? If it’s a man he’s not worth it.” Super cheesy, but it got her smiling and on our side.

Shameless. But the endless champagne cocktails,  five course dinners and massage chairs will make you sleep so easy 😉

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Have you managed to bag yourself a good freebie or upgrade? By exploiting your height or otherwise? Please do share your stories… I’m always after new tricks!

L xx

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9 Responses to How to blag an upgrade (the tall girl way)

  1. Oooh thanks Laura! I will need to try these tricks in 3 weeks time when my newly appointed hubby (!!!) and I head off on Honeymoon! I’m 6ft and he’s 6.5ft so we def need those leg room seats! 🙂

  2. allthetallthings

    Aaah congratulations 🙂 And definitely carry your marriage certificate or a copy… tall honeymooners get the best upgrades!! 🙂 xxx

  3. I was able to do this twice on flights going to and from Japan. Even though the rule is, you’re suppose to be able to speak Japanese to sit by the fire exit, the tiny little stewardess took one look at my 5’11 frame and said “One minute” I sat near the fire exit going, business class on the way back home! However, it seems to only work on International flights. ha.

  4. I’m pretty good at this. Most of the airlines I fly make you pay for extra legroom in coach. If you can pick flights that have fewer passengers on them you have more of a shot for the sympathy upgrade. You definitely want to talk to a female gate agent. I usually will come up with some other reason to talking to them – like asking if my ticket is valid because the printer was having problems (which mine does). If she remarks on my height, and they mostly do – it is 1.90m – I point to my running shoes or flats and say I have to get as low as I can because it is so painful. If there is a seat to be had it often comes at that time.

    I agree that dress is important. Nothing too wild, but I do dress to show off my height and especially my legs.

    I have to fly a lot for work. I talked to my doctor about deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and she verified it was a real problem and asked if I had tingling in my legs or swollen or bruised legs when I’m trapped with my legs in one place. I have and she wrote a note saying this was a health hazard for me. For flights longer than an hour my business agrees that I need extra legroom. This means extended coach or, if that is taken, business class. For my part I agree to use my flying miles to upgrade to make this as infrequent as possible. This is in Denmark and health for work is taken very seriously. It may be different in other countries.

    A friend doesn’t fly enough for frequent flyer miles and is much taller than me at 2.00m. She goes up to the gate agent and meekly says something like “excuse me. My legs are killing me and I was wondering if there is a seat with a little more room that is open. I’d really appreciate it.” She gives them a big smile and tries to be as pleasant as possible. She says it works just as well with male and female agents and it works two out of three times for her. If the weather is warm she wears shorts and a tee that is a bit too short. She’s young and thin, so this works for her and shows her legs.

    There are a lot of tricks that probably work so it will be interesting to see what others say. I think some of them depend on how tall you are. One thing I assume is common is to be calm and pleasant. Gate attendants probably hear too many complaints and too little praise.

    If you are stuck in a regular coach seat, I find it pays to get the attention of the person in front of you and politely ask them not to recline their seat during the flight.

  5. Laura! This article was just the inspiration I needed for my upcoming 15 hour flight to South Korea. I shall report back on how it goes. Asking for the exit row backfired on me once. My husband and I were flying from Rome back to the U.S. after our honeymoon. We’d scored first class on the way to Europe but were stuck in regular seats for our return flight. I asked for the exit row and they gladly re-ticketed us. When we got on the plane, our seats were the two BEHIND the seats with all the legroom because it was one of those “2 row” exit areas. I’m convinced we actually had LESS legroom. Now, I like to check seatguru.com (by TripAdvisor) before a flight to scope out the set up of the seats.

  6. Aaah that’s worth knowing. Thanks Bethany x

  7. Fun tips! One more – ask, ask ask! Start at the ticket counter. I just nicely state the obvious, “Hello, I am really tall. Might there be any seats with a little more room available?” Usually the answer is yes. And if it´s a “no”, there´s nothing to stop you from asking at the customer service desk, the check-in counter at the gate, or even as you´re boarding. I once had a tall flight attendant get a (shorter) passenger to change seats with me once we were already on board. As a last resort (and I think I would only try on a long-haul flight) you can even ask another passenger directly.

    And a specific airline tip: On Iberia, it´s worth paying to reserve the EXIT seats. On European flights, they have even more leg space than business! I just flew with them yesterday and the flight attendant said many of their planes have been outfitted recently with an extra row or two, so leg room all over, except for in the exit row, has been reduced.

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