Virgin Atlantic surprised some lucky passengers with a free upgrade. And revealed what some other passengers have tried in the past to get one.

By Cailey Rizzo
May 31, 2018
Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

To announce their new credit card and the perks it offers, Virgin Atlantic used slow-motion cameras to record unsuspecting travelers at London Heathrow airport.

The cameras captured the travelers’ faces as they were told they were getting a flight upgrade. Virgin Atlantic calls their reactions “Upgrade Face.”

Every person reacts differently to the good news. Most mouths immediately drop open but others are pursed in disbelief. Others cover their face with their hands or scream in delight. The “upgrade face” is an expression of one of the most thrilling moments possible at an airport.

And people will go to great lengths to reach this moment. According to Virgin Atlantic, the most popular way to try to get a free upgrade is to make a good impression. A survey from the airline revealed that 38 percent of people dress nicely to try to get an upgrade and 36 percent arrive early to the gate. About 35 percent of fliers said they’ll try to flirt with check-in staff to score their coveted upgrade.

But some upgrade-hunters are more devious. About one in five will pretend they were just married and one in 20 will claim to be a journalist to move up to first class. (Pro-tip: Don't do this.)

One Virgin Atlantic employee detailed some of the most unusual ways that passengers have tried to secure upgrades. Julie Challenger said that she had seen a husband, who was arguing with his wife, request an upgrade to separate the quarreling couple. A magician once offered to put on a show for crew in exchange for a free upgrade. And one recently dumped young man asked for an upgrade, hoping that first class would mend his broken heart.