When it comes to choosing your accommodations, booking direct through the company’s website can unlock perks like free breakfast, club lounge access, or a room upgrade.
Josh Martin is a Kiwi journalist based in London.
OPINION: It’s the holy grail of vacation, the triumph of travel: turning left in business class on an airplane.
Unfortunately, despite the breadth of how-to guides, so-called hacks, and column thumbs dedicated to giving you some hope of an airfare class upgrade, the odds of getting one are slim. Very, very low.
OK, report the mockery from business travelers, influencers and – ahem – travel writers who shrug their shoulders and share stories and photos of their time they “just happened” to receive a new travel card. Brilliant boarding for seat 4A instead of the 46H they paid for. Unless you have airline loyalty status, celebrity status, or write about airlines, you’re very unlikely to get an upgrade.
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Ask yourself: Why would an airline (struggling to survive the pandemic, no less) shower you with champagne, sirloin and so much legroom when it has nothing to gain from it? So, put away the suit, the gory story, the “just married” thread, and maybe focus on a much more likely upgrade: the expanded hotel room.
Listen to me. Think of a standard one-week getaway: where will you spend the most time: parked in your passenger seat on board or lying back and enjoying your hotel? It’s worth changing it at check-in or letting the reservations staff know in advance of any special occasions or requirements that might bother them. It doesn’t take much, especially out of peak season or if you arrive at reception after dark.
STUFF / Connor Scott
This charming new hotel offers a free hour of unlimited chocolates and in-room sundae service.
Unlike airlines, which have to offer you premium services as part of the enhanced experience – food, lounge access, attentive staff and premium drinks (those bottles of Dom Pérignon aren’t cheap), for room upgrades, many new perks don’t impact the bottom line: higher floors, king beds, sea views, spaciousness, late check-out, bathtubs, balconies just unused if they’re not sold.
But, snagging them for the price of an entry-level room gives you a better experience for longer.
OK, so you’re not going to get a glass of champagne, bed socks, or a personalized cabin crew member quizzing you on your vacation itinerary, but those perks are fleeting – frequent business class fliers spend the most of their time sleeping, and in my experience you’re unlikely to get more than 2-3 hours more kip than the same flyer in cattle class, extended beds make a difference, but aren’t an antidote to jet lag.
The big hotel chains, like the airlines, have sophisticated loyalty programs and they’ll put loyal customers ahead of you, but boutique, self-catering and family-run accommodations don’t have such platinum-tiered programs. gold, silver or various precious stones to indicate your value, so they are more likely to be convinced that you deserve a corner room with a sea view.
When it comes to selecting your accommodations, booking direct through the company’s website can unlock perks like free breakfast, club lounge access, or a room upgrade, as a ” thank you” from them to avoid paying a big part of your bill online. travel agencies (OTA) such as Expedia, Agoda or Booking.com.
However, if you regularly use a specific OTA, you can create a status, which can also unlock smaller perks like late checkout. Newly opened hotels are likely to have lower occupancy rates and want to show off their best rooms. Don’t ask, don’t get – but with your usual charm, politeness and bright smile.
Similarly, any hotel with automated check-in is also off-limits – barcode scanners and touch screens are notoriously stingy when it comes to gifts and immunity to sympathy or celebratory stories. They’re up there with the airline check-in kiosks.