How to upgrade an economy seat on a flight to the Caribbean
Q&A: Travel unravelled
Wednesday 13 June 2012
Q. I bought an economy ticket to Jamaica. I want to upgrade to premium economy on the flight out, but my travel agent wants to charge me another £300. Is it better to wait until I get to the airport and buy an upgrade there? Keith Preddie, Surrey
A. Last-minute upgrades have plenty of appeal to airlines that find themselves with empty premium seats close to departure: they get lots of extra revenue at little extra cost. For passengers, too, the prospect of a more comfort for a modest additional investment is seductive.
The question is: how best to achieve the extra legroom and better service? British Airways has always been among the most proactive in the business. Lately BA has been sending out speculative emails to economy passengers on transatlantic flights a few days before departure, offering upgrades to World Traveller Plus for around £150 one-way. You can also enquire at check-in, though some frequent travellers say this works more effectively at the distant end of the route, rather than outbound from London. The staff in "out-stations" seem to have more flexibility to negotiate.
For Virgin Atlantic, upgrades to Premium Economy are usually on sale at the airport. The airline often has a sign on the check-in desk with that day's price for a more comfortable seat. For a flight to the Caribbean, the current fee seems to be £179.
However, before you hand over your credit card, weigh up the benefits of what you are buying relative to the cost involved. The catering and in-flight entertainment are the same as in basic economy; you are basically acquiring a bit more personal space.
A large slab of your spending – £81 – goes straight to the Chancellor as Air Passenger Duty, because APD doubles for anything above basic economy class.
It might make sense to save the money to treat yourself to a great trip in Jamaica – for example to the fabulous Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.
If you have any cash left at the end of the trip, try for an upgrade at the airport on the way home. The extra APD applies only on journeys from the UK. So not only is the price of an upgrade likely to be cheaper (typically around US$200, or £130) – it will also be more worthwhile as you seek to sleep on the long haul home.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...
£27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...