The "upgrade-flirt": Is it wrong?

 

Old Dec 29, 05, 3:12 am
  #1
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The "upgrade-flirt": Is it wrong?

Come on, admit it: we've all done it at least once, haven't we? In fact, I think we all do it to a greater or lesser extent in our everyday lives, subconsciously or overtly. Some call it "charm," others call it "cloying," but here we can call it:

The upgrade-flirt. For absolute clarity, the upgrade-flirt is the act (the art?) of making cheerful, playful, or even vaguely sexual banter with a check-in agent, a gate-agent, or a P-club flight-desk attendant for the purpose (sole purpose, secondary/tertiary purpose, whatever) of scoring an unpaid upgrade (no miles, no cash) to a higher class of service than ticketed. My question is: Is employing the upgrade-flirt wrong? But first, a few observations:

I am a happily married man, going on 14 years now. And yes, I employ the upgrade-flirt with no matrimonial guilt whatsoever. (For the record, I admit to working up an appetite in many places, but I always go home to eat.) I realize that many pax (married or unmarried, moral or immoral, Elite or non-Elite) will feel that the upgrade-flirt is shameful. And yet -- I'm willing to bet that there are just as many of you who feel that the upgrade-flirt is just fine under most circumstances.

Now, I am lucky that my lawfirm flies me in J/BusinessFirst back and forth between our Paris and Houston offices roughly 12 times per year. But for those occasions where the client disallows it, or when I am flying for personal business that my firm does not reimburse, I occasionally find myself booked in Y for a CO longhaul. And in those circumstances, I do find myself employing the upgrade-flirt with alarming regularity. Why? Because it works in many instances.

However, a major tenet must be expressed here: When checking in for a CO longhaul flight at IAH (or EWR) equipped with BizFirst, the chances of an upgrade-flirt succeeding are roughly ZERO. But my friends, I must tell you: I do NOT find that to be the case when checking in at EU airports, and particularly at Paris/CDG. To the contrary, the upgrade-flirt seems to work most often when departing the EU on CO flights back to the US. I have many theories on why this is so, but that's another post, I guess.

Moreover, when departing IAH (and EWR to a smaller degree) on CO flights to a domestic US destination, the upgrade-flirt is in full force and effect -- and it works. Of course, the reason that a domestic US upgrade-flirt works is totally different than the reason an EU - US BizFirst upgrade-flirt works, I think. Nonetheless, we're not talking about the reasons it works -- I'm just asking whether you think it is wrong ever to employ the upgrade-flirt.

I fully realize that scoring an F or J ticket, after booking and paying for a Y ticket, is a dubious enterprise. When you are upgraded because of Plat/Gold/Silver status, you EARNED it. If you are upgraded because your Y fare cost more than everyone else's, that seems fair -- even if it angers some petty Silver. If you are upgraded because CO is apologizing for a terrible earlier leg, you "earned" it another way. These, and others, are all legit upgrades.

But...

But what about this situation, which happened to me personally just days ago:

In late December, I had to fly from CDG to IAH to take care of a sudden emergency with a friend of mine in Houston. My firm would pay BizFirst for a family emergency, but this was a friend -- not blood family. Thus, I was "on my own," and no standard OnePass reward seats were available (at the 100,000 level) in BF. So, I booked a RT ticket in Q/coach, paying roughly $650. I am a Plat Elite, and a CO-Star.

Before leaving my flat in Paris for the taxi ride to CDG, I checked the load on CO 11: BizFirst seemed about two thirds full, but coach was MAXED out, and turned out to be oversold. Upon arrival at CDG, I was wishing I had sprung the 200,000 miles for the "EasyPass" seats to IAH, given the 11-hour flight ahead. I had virtually no wait in the Elite Access lanes, and I chose to check in at "Jean-Luc's" (not his real name) line because (1) he is an excellent CO check-in agent at CDG and can fix any problem immediately, and (2) The woman running the 2nd Elite Access lane is a TERRIBLE check-in agent, and I can't stand her snobbish, customer-hating attitude.

So, after approaching his desk, Jean-Luc greeted me by name (I am there WAY too often!) and made a polite joke about "getting some food before boarding" because I would not be fed on this flight in Coach as I usually am in BizFirst. I laughed and said in French, "Yeah, I know, but no big deal." As check-in proceeded, I innocently commented on a beautiful Guerlain sweater he had over his shoulders, remarking that I would love to pick one up next month upon my return. Then he said, "It would look good on you," and then I realized: I seem to recall (from past conversations) that Jean-Luc is gay, and that could mean that an upgrade-flirt may make the next 11 hours much more enjoyable!!

So, after the "It would look good on you" comment from Jean-Luc, I responded, "Oh, thanks, but that's not really true. I don't really have the body you have to show it off with..." and kind of laughed. After a few more exchanges about beautiful clothes, gym-buff bodies to put inside those clothes, Parisian shopping, his saying that I was a terrific CO customer, and my saying that he was a terrific CO employee (which is totally sincere, he's great) -- I suddenly found myself holding a new carte d'embarquement (boarding pass) for 2D rather than 18D. You do the math.

And just for the record, I did not take advantage of him because he is gay (and I don't actually know that he is gay, really). I give this example only because it is recent and the details are clear. But 99% of my upgrade-flirt success stories are with female CO employees, so this merely makes me an equal-opportunity flirter. I was sincere in everything I said to him, and in all my responses. So -- doesn't that make a difference? I did love the sweater; I truly do plan on buying one next week upon returning, it did look particularly fetching on him with his coloring and build (and even as a straight man, I have no problem saying that he is physically a beautiful man and wears his clothes well, and I hope I can provide the same for my wife in her opinion). So, there were no lies or teases -- just a few honest and appreciative comments passed in both directions.

The bottom line is that BizFirst went out with several (perhaps 7 or 8) empty seats, yet I was upgraded for no official reason upon check-in. I did not ask for it, and I would have absolutely flown in coach as bought and ticketed. Although I am Plat and CO*, I only paid $650 roundtrip for the ticket, thus there must have been others in Coach more deserving than me of an operational-upgrade if Coach was oversold, so... I don't know.

Some of you may feel Jean-Luc should be fired for letting the precious BizFirst cabin be polluted with a pax who got there via upgrade-flirt. Was I flirt-upgraded to the detriment of another 7 or 8 pax who were willing to pay big cash or big OnePass miles for those empty BizFirst seats? Or, did Jean-Luc know that Coach was oversold and some eligible Coach pax would have to be op-up'd to BizFirst anyway, so he just gave it to me? If it's the latter, is it OK that my upgrade-flirt (even as a Plat CO*) trumped a higher-paying fare??

My wife and I have talked about the upgrade-flirt. She says that I am naturally very flirtatious, just all the time, and that it doesn't bother her. She too knows that I come home to eat, no matter where I get my appetite. And in the end, CO employees are flesh-and-blood people, just like CO's pax. So if a pax's spouse or significant other doesn't care about the pax doing an upgrade-flirt, and the pax is genuine and honest in his speech, is it wrong??

Please understand: I am NOT talking about badgering the agent, nor grotesquely speaking salaciously, nor trying to defeat another pax's earned or bought upgrade, nor demeaning someone for personal and temporary gain...none of that stuff! And, it goes without saying that offending anyone -- much less an airline employee -- is not acceptable. I am simply asking this:

Is it wrong, when checking in or visiting the gate-agent desk for legitimate reasons, to engage in polite and witty banter knowing that an upgrade-flirt could score you a seat up front?
LawFlyer is offline  
Old Dec 29, 05, 3:45 am
  #2
 
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How could a polite AND sincere conversation with an agent be wrong? It is just not that frequent to occur and gate agents recognize a friendly passenger. For them, it is a welcome change compared to all those demanding, and sometimes plaine rude passengers. On many occcasions I have been in the F/BF check-in line behind another passenger and had to make the joke to the better half: and you think I am a difficult person...

The real question should/could be: do you behave differently when flying in confirmed BF?

I myself can't answer this question any more since I now travel F/BF exclusively and think I am still the same person regarding to attitude. However, I do admit that in the past I scored many upgrades by the described "flirting". My strategy was to check-in with a male agent, speak with an accent and wear fluorescent colours. At least, the gate agent will vaguely remember you (more than the just average flyer), which worked in many, many cases. I had no status or whatsoever and was always flying the most inexpensive tickets.

So, I don't think it can possibly be wrong, but it must be a sincere conversation.
sic incognito is offline  
Old Dec 29, 05, 6:03 am
  #3
 
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Originally Posted by sic incognito
The real question should/could be: do you behave differently when flying in confirmed BF?
Bingo! I find this sort of thing works best for me when I'm not trying. Flirting is its own reward.
Syzygies is offline  
Old Dec 29, 05, 6:43 am
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My word, you lawyers are a loquacious bunch.

If it works for you, I say do it. I wish I were half as charming - and I suppose speaking the language helps, too - but I have never tried this. I flirt pretty naturally in most situations but haven't really thought to try it with a GA.

Maybe next time.
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Old Dec 29, 05, 7:09 am
  #5
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It's not wrong, it's just pathetic
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Old Dec 29, 05, 7:16 am
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Originally Posted by chasbondy
It's not wrong, it's just pathetic
NOT being nice and sincere to a GA is pathetic.
sic incognito is offline  
Old Dec 29, 05, 7:36 am
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Tough crowd over here at the CO forum.

Myself I think that any sincere chit chat which causes the GA to consider you as a person rather than just a record is fair. Over on the UA forum we call this "The Speach".

If your story is true, a dozen trips to the continent a year, ofter enough to be recognized on sight by the staff. . . one would hope an occasional op-up on a less than full full flight would require neither over the line flirting or much of a speach.

Look at it another way, if Y was oversold, SOMEBODY was going to get op-uped. Why not you? Good things come to those who ask - not as the old saying goes to those who wait!

Lihu'e 1k
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Old Dec 29, 05, 7:46 am
  #8
 
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Woody Allen once observed that being bisexual doubled his "chances". Of course now that you're "buddies" it'll cost you more the next time he's at the gate. Good luck with that.
mdc57 is offline  
Old Dec 29, 05, 7:55 am
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Originally Posted by lihue1k
Tough crowd over here at the CO forum.

Myself I think that any sincere chit chat which causes the GA to consider you as a person rather than just a record is fair. Over on the UA forum we call this "The Speach".

If your story is true, a dozen trips to the continent a year, ofter enough to be recognized on sight by the staff. . . one would hope an occasional op-up on a less than full full flight would require neither over the line flirting or much of a speach.

Look at it another way, if Y was oversold, SOMEBODY was going to get op-uped. Why not you? Good things come to those who ask - not as the old saying goes to those who wait!

Lihu'e 1k
I believe it was Lincoln that said something like "Good things may come to those who wait, but usually what is left over from those who hustle."
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Old Dec 29, 05, 9:08 am
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Originally Posted by mdc57
Woody Allen once observed that being bisexual doubled his "chances". Of course now that you're "buddies" it'll cost you more the next time he's at the gate. Good luck with that.
The OP said CDG, not SFO
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Old Dec 29, 05, 9:12 am
  #11
 
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I have to believe that most of us on this forum have utilized this approach more times than they will ever admit. We all know a nice smile and positive attitude will get you much further in life, so IMHO LawFlyer very nicely summarized a very common event. Us FTers simply fly more and pay attention to such details for, let's say, free drinks in Y, better seat assignments, upgrades, flight changes without penalty, and the like.

Well done LawFlyer! And I think you actually deserved the OpUp given your typical flying patterns on CO,
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Old Dec 29, 05, 9:34 am
  #12
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All's fair in love, war, and avoiding those hideous CO coach seats. I have flirted with man, woman, and beast.

No, that's not a veiled reference to EWR GAs.
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Old Dec 29, 05, 9:37 am
  #13
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LawFlyer, this is an honest question and forgive me if I missed something that may have answered it, but do you feel the upgrade-flirt works more often than not for you is because you are a CO-star?
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Old Dec 29, 05, 9:48 am
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Hmmm, I guess you could say you're sticking it to the man?

Most FTers would sell their soul on ebay if it meant an upgrade.
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Old Dec 29, 05, 10:23 am
  #15
 
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I find the term funny.

I had that happen to me when I was in FLL going to CLE in high school. The GA was cleary GAy and even asked my buddy and I about clubs in a notoriously gay neighborhood in CLE. We both agreed that enduring the chit-chat was clearly worth the upgrade from our super-saver coach fares to F.
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