personal reflections

Free Airline Upgrade with Chocolate

Sunday morning reading to catch up on travel news is a relaxing way to start the day. One of the articles I came across today is a feature article on Budget Travel by Fran Golden – “How to Get a Free Upgrade“.

Here is a tip that made me laugh.

Remember that gate agents deal with a lot of demanding, obnoxious passengers,  and offering a few kind words and a smile goes a long way. John E. DiScala,  founder of travel-advice site, reveals that chocolate helps him get  upgraded-or at least moved to a better coach seat-about half the time. DiScala  says he brings one-pound chocolate bars for the gate agents and flight crew, who  have discretion on seating after the cabin door closes.

Of course there is going to be some expense in buying a pound of chocolate, so that strategy isn’t exactly free.

Here is my Loyalty Traveler tip to combine with JohnnyJet’s sage advice for all you hotel travelers wanting a free airline upgrade:

Save up the pillow chocolates from turndown service and see if a bag of little chocolates has the same result!

Club Carlson pillow chocolates.



  • Angelina March 11, 2012

    LOL that’s funny. Just being nice/relatable seems to work just as well for me 🙂

  • Gary March 11, 2012

    1. Saving pillow chocolates isn’t free either, not in an economic sense, since there’s an opportunity cost — you can’t EAT them!

    2. Certainly being nice matters for operational upgrades where the agent has discretion to do what’s necessary just to get the plane out. But several airlines even have procedures for this. And how often are those premium cabins empty, at least domestically?

    being nice to agents is great, but I am skeptical that an UPGRADE is forthcoming based on CHOCOLATES > 50% of the time.

    I’m also curious about John needing a better coach seat that often, though I suppose if he’s booking all his tickets last minute when seat maps are full and under airport control, though the next question is how many of those better coach seats would he have gotten without the chocolates.

    Definitely be nice. I like giving gifts. But don’t do it because you think it will get you upgraded.

  • Steve Kalman March 11, 2012

    If you do it to get an upgrade it is not a gift. It would be, at best, a [bad] bet.

  • BothofUs2 March 11, 2012

    I’ve heard variations of this being used at hotels for upgrades as well, however it’s cash usually in those instances (search on $20 hotel upgrade trick)

  • Stacey @VeryGoodPoints March 11, 2012

    What happens when the crew stays at better hotels than you do and gets better chocolates from turn-down service? Do they move you to a bad seat?

  • Michael March 11, 2012

    Capt. Denny of United Airlines swears by hotels PENS as a great way to persuade gate agents as well. Less expensive than chocolate (if buying) and doesn’t require to self-control needed to avoid eating the turndown chocolates. 🙂

  • […] Loyalty Traveler noted this claim last week, I commented: Certainly being nice matters for operational upgrades where the agent has […]

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