When it comes to selecting your accommodation, booking direct through the company’s website can unlock perks such as free breakfast, club lounge access or a room upgrade.
Josh Martin is a London-based Kiwi journalist.
OPINION: It’s the holy grail of holidays, the triumph of travelling: turning left into business class on a plane.
Sadly, despite the scale of how-to guides, so-called hacks and column inches dedicated to giving you a small hope of an airfare class upgrade, the chance of securing one are low. Very, very low.
OK, cue the scoffing from business travellers, influencers and – ahem – travel writers who shrug and share stories and photos of their time they “just so happened” to be issued a shiny new boarding pass for seat 4A instead of the 46H they paid for. Unless you’ve got airline loyalty status, celebrity status or just so happen to write about airlines, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get an upgrade.
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Ask yourself: why would an airline (one struggling to survive out of the pandemic, no less) shower you with champagne, sirloin and so much legroom when they’ve got naught to gain from it? So, put away the suit, the sob story, the “just married” yarn and perhaps focus on a much-more-likely upgrade: The hotel room upsize.
Hear me out. Think about a standard week-long getaway: where will you spend more of your time: parked in your passenger seat onboard or sprawled out and enjoying your hotel? It’s worth chancing it at check-in or letting reservations staff know ahead of time of any special occasion or requirements that might butter them up. It doesn’t take much, particularly outside peak season or if you’re arriving at reception after dark.
STUFF / Connor Scott
This sweet new hotel offers a complimentary hour of all-you-can-eat chocolates and in-room sundae service.
Unlike airlines, which must offer you high-end services as part of the upgraded experience – food, lounge access, staff attention and top-shelf beverages (those bottles of Dom Perignon don’t come cheap), for room upgrades many of the new perks don’t impact the bottom line: higher floors, king-sized beds, sea views, space, late check-out, bathtubs, balconies just sit 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 personalised cabin crew member quizzing you on your holiday itinerary, but those perks are fleeting – frequent business class flyers spend the bulk 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, the lie-flat beds make a difference, but are no antidote to jet-lag.
Large hotel chains, like airlines, have sophisticated loyalty programmes and they’ll bump-up returning customers ahead of you, but boutique, independent and family-run accommodation have no such tiered programmes of platinum, gold, silver or various precious stones to indicate your worth, so are more likely to be convinced that you’re worthy of a corner room with sea views.
When it comes to selecting your accommodation, booking direct through the company’s website can unlock perks such as free breakfast, club lounge access or a room upgrade, as a “thank you” from them for avoiding them paying a hefty slice of your bill to online travel companies (OTA) like Expedia, Agoda or Booking.com.
However, if you use one specific OTA regularly you can build up status, which can also unlock smaller perks like late check-out. 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 flashy smile.
Likewise, any hotel with automated check-in is also a no-go – barcode scanners and touch-screens are notoriously stingy when it comes to freebies and immunity to stories of sympathy or celebration. They’re right up there with airline check-in kiosks.