The Daily Mail recently asked cabin crew members just how they spot economy passengers trying to give themselves a sneaky free upgrade. The most common way, the insiders revealed, is to sneak into an empty seat and hide under a blanket. However, as one flight attendant pointed out, a blanket is not an invisibility cloak, and a human form is relatively easy to spot.
One flight attendant said that she has encountered passengers who sit in business class with a “doctor’s note” saying they can’t be in economy. In these instances, she will charge the passenger the full amount of the seat and give them a receipt, explaining they can go ahead and try to reclaim the difference through health insurance.
Just so you know, all cabin crew in first and business class have a list of passengers, which they refer to consistently throughout the flight. It is from this list they know things like dietary restrictions and special preferences. It is unlikely that a renegade upgrade will go unnoticed for long.
“The most common punishment for upgrade theft is embarrassment,” Jay Robert, a cabin manager, told The Daily Mail. “While making you take the walk of shame back to the cabin you paid to sit in, the crew often talk very loudly so your fellow passengers know the reason you are being escorted back to your seat. We will also tell all the crew on the plane about your antics and put you on our ‘watch list.’”
However, sneaking into first class could have much more severe consequences too. Those caught changing cabins could be subject to pare the fare difference at the gate upon arrival — which could cost thousands of dollars, depending on the airline and route. So maybe next time use your points or try out a few of these trusted tricks to getting an official upgrade instead.