Why you’re not going to get upgraded to first class for free….

(Leonardo Navarro interviewed me about airline upgrades in his column Hodge-Podge for the Wharton Journal)

No tradition is as quintessentially part of the MBA as is travel with erstwhile productive members of society. And no sport is as representative of this tradition as the competition to procure business class upgrades, preferably at the expense of one’s friends. Any semblance of mutual care is tossed to the curb, as former friends and lovers fight with the weapons that are the vestigial miles, points, and status levels afforded by former employers.

Victory is bittersweet. After the coup’s consummation, while champion devotes self fully to decide what is to be done with the coveted real estate, remaining travel companions in steerage are left to plot their vanquisher’s downfall within the ephemeral social order of traveling friends.

How can a Whartonite best excel in this sport? Flight attendant and blogger Heather Poole authors “Galley Gossip,” a column covering items of interest mandatory to all MBAs, such as “5 reasons flight attendants don’t serve first class pre-departure beverages”. Poole advises us on how to achieve upgrade triumph.

First and foremost, one must adopt the right attitude. “I don’t have to look at the list to tell who’s who. Flight attendants can spot a true frequent-flier a mile away just by the way they board. Most are confident, orderly and efficient.”

Next, one has to optimally invest one’s energy. “Asking a flight attendant for an upgrade is useless. It’s the gate agent who has the power.”

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Photo courtesy of Richard Moross