Flight Attendants Reveal What You Should Wear If You're Looking for a First-class Upgrade

You’ll want to add these wardrobe essentials to your closet before your next trip.

In This Article

Jump to a Section

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

WTW for a First-class Upgrade

Travel + Leisure / Kristin Kempa

Sometimes getting a flight upgrade isn't about the right timing or knowing the right people. Sometimes, it's all about having the right outfit.

There's one way you can score a free upgrade to first class without having to do very much, flight attendants told Who What Wear: just pick the perfect ensemble. And the good news is, you don't need to be a fashion icon to do it.

While many travelers prefer to wear sweatpants and sneakers (or even blankets) when they fly, these seasoned cabin crew members say that putting a little more effort into your appearance can go a long way.

"When we fly, we have a strict dress code to follow. No jeans or trainers — so I always go for tight black trousers and a blazer or a dress. For men, chinos or trousers and a shirt are worn," one flight attendant told Who What Wear.

Another flight attendant elaborated that you don't have to be on trend or wearing designer clothes. "Smart but understated. You should look like you travel often...it helps; someone who is potentially due to get an upgrade can be knocked back if they aren't dressed suitably."

Essentially, you can still be comfortable, and elevated basics will take you far. Think casual workday chic. Dirty sneakers, flip flops, leggings, old shirts, jeans, and other "comfy" but generally too casual clothes will probably keep you in your economy seat, while a classic turtleneck, wrinkle-resistant trousers, and knit loafers might just do the trick.

Luckily, there are lots of comfortable, business-casual sweaters and stretchy slacks out there, as well as protective face masks that you can easily wear for hours on end while traveling. Keep reading for our favorite comfortable yet stylish travel clothing and accessories. Wear these next time you board a plane, and they might just help you snag a free first-class upgrade.

Best Jacket

Everlane The Gathered Drape Trench

Everlane The Gathered Drape Trench


Since the cabin's temperature can vary greatly, we recommend wearing a lightweight jacket when you board any flight. This sleek trench coat from Everlane is made with a lyocell and cotton blend designed to be breathable and protective for various weather conditions. Plus, the jacket has an oversized and below-the-knee fit so it can easily be draped over your knees or buttoned up for extra warmth on a chilly flight. Once you disembark your flight, the coat is an excellent choice for versatility, as it can be styled unbuttoned or buttoned for a looser fit or the removable belt can be cinched at the waist for a more fitted look. 

Price at time of publish: $198

Best Pants

Maeve The Colette Cropped Wide-Leg Pants

Maeve The Colette Cropped Wide-Leg Pants


Flattering and stretchy, these wide-leg pants have the perfect combination of comfort and style, especially for long flights. Made out of Anthropologie’s “magic fabric,” the mix of linen, cotton, elastane, and viscose is designed to stretch and mold to the body without pinching or riding up while sitting. While comfort is certainly important for sitting in an airplane seat, the high-waist fit and cropped legs will add effortless style to your airport outfit. As a bonus, since the pants have an elevated look to them, it’s easy to pair them with various tops like T-shirts, sweaters, or blouses. And, there are 10 colors to choose from in sizes 23 to 34 in standard, tall, petite, and plus fits as well, so you may end up getting several pairs to add to your travel wardrobe.

Price at time of publish: $120

Best Personal Item

SteamLine Luggage The Sweetheart Mini

The Sweetheart Mini

SteamLine Luggage

If you’re looking for an elegant travel accessory, this vintage-style crossbody bag from Steamline Luggage is the perfect addition. The exterior of the bag resembles a trunk suitcase that was common in the early 20th century but it has a modern twist thanks to its miniature size and other thoughtful features like gold hardware, a combination lock, and a detachable crossbody strap. When you open up the bag, the interior is lined with delicate floral fabric and there is a slip pocket for extra storage. The purse can also be carried with the top-handle tote straps or the detachable crossbody strap is also adjustable so you can easily switch up the style of the bag. 

Price at time of publish: $295

Best Shoes

Vionic Winny Sneaker

Vionic Winny Sneaker

Vionic Shoes

You can never go wrong with a pair of crisp white sneakers for traveling in style. Vionic is known for its selection of comfy shoes and the Winny sneakers are an excellent option for a nice-looking pair of shoes that aren’t too fancy for traveling. The leather upper gives the sneakers a polished look and the thick rubber outsole is designed for stability and traction, especially for walking through an airport with slick floors. For added comfort, the shoes have a plush microfiber-covered EVA footbed, and best of all, the midsoles can be removed and washed to keep the interior fresh and clean after long travel days. 

Price at time of publish: $120

Best Sweater

Aday All Weather Cardigan

All Weather Cardigan


This wrinkle-resistant cardigan from Aday is made with eco-friendly synthetic fabric that won’t crumple once you tuck it away in a suitcase after a day of traveling. The loose-fitting sweater comes in several neutral colors like black, gray, and olive green, so you can easily re-wear it with a variety of bottoms when you reach your destination. Plus, the top has several touches that give it an edge in style like the ribbed texture on the bottom half, large buttons down the V-neck, and different-colored stitching at the hem. The brand recommends sizing down for a slimmer fit and there are sizes ranging from extra small to extra large in all color options. 

Price at time of publish: $200

Best Accessory

Ted Baker Amie Floral Silk Scarf

Amie Floral Silk Scarf


A multi-use scarf is one of the best accessories to wear on an airplane or when you reach your destination. This smooth silk scarf from Ted Baker London is adorned with colorful flowers and the bottom of each end of the scarf has a fuchsia band for a pop of brightnes. Measuring 25 inches by 72 inches, this long scarf can be worn around the neck or across the shoulder for extra warmth if the flight feels a bit drafty. When you don’t want to wear the scarf, it can easily be folded up to fit neatly in a purse, carry-on, or personal item for superb portability.

Price at time of publish: $135

Best Dress

Quince European Linen Button Front Dress

Quince European Linen Button Front Dress


Flying in the summer or spring? This button-up linen dress from Quince will keep you plenty cool for the duration of your flight thanks to the eco-friendly European flax linen fabric used to make the flowy frock. The collared top has a flattering V-neck with buttons running down the length of the A-line skirt revealing a slight slit in the front at knee length, and the dress also comes with a belt that can be cinched at the waist.  If you weren’t already sold, there are also two pockets on either side of the hips that can hold a phone, passport, or any other small travel item you need to access easily. 

Price at time of publish: $50

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure, where she writes about and reviews travel products. Splitting her time between the East and West Coasts, Anna is always on the lookout for ways to travel in style and comfort, including efforts to get free upgrades while flying. Anna recommended products based on her expertise and she chatted with several travel editors for ideas, too.

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week.

Additional reporting by
Andrea Romano
Andrea Romano headshot
Andrea Romano is a writer and editor in New York City. For the last eight years, she has been a lifestyle journalist for Mashable, Brit+Co, Reviewed, Bustle, and Travel + Leisure.
Madeline Diamond
Madeline Diamond, Associate Commerce Editor
Madeline Diamond is an associate ecommerce editor at Dotdash Meredith, where she primarily works on the Travel + Leisure brand. She writes about all things travel gear, including everything from the best suitcases to the most comfortable travel clothing.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles