And live to tell the tale! From a Qatar Airways frequent-flying family
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the Globetrotters blog today Emma, a family travel blogger and fellow Middle East expat Mum from Wanderlust and Wet Wipes.
She has kindly agreed to chat with us today on that elusive question, can families actually get upgraded?
Based in Doha, Qatar, Emma shares with us her tried and tested tips and tricks for getting an upgrade with Qatar Airways. Renowned as one of the most luxurious airlines in the world, who wouldn’t want to sit up front in a QSuite – or on the top deck of their A380’s!
This post is part of our detailed series on Flying with kids – we have everything from airline reviews to practical advice and product reviews
I know you’re expecting this to be a post about how you shouldn’t wear jeans to check-in, put on your best, most polite voice and how, miraculously, you’ll find yourself in what we call in our family, the big seats. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but I don’t know what airline that would work for these days.
My husband is a Platinum Qatar Airways Executive Club member and if anyone would be most likely to get a spontaneous upgrade, believe me, it’s him. And yet, even when he’s travelling on a full-priced ticket, in economy – and most importantly, on his own – he doesn’t “just get an upgrade”. And yet we have been upgraded no fewer than 5 times.
So how does this happen?
How NOT to get upgraded with Qatar
As far as I can work out, there are 3 main ways to get upgraded. There used to be 5 ways but the fourth way – the mysterious, unicorn-like existence of the spontaneous upgrade seems to have been relegated to a thing of fairytales.
And the fifth way was to be friends with a Qatar Airways employee but this has now been taken away and is valid for family only. With no family members of my own at Qatar Airways, it looks like that avenue is also closed to us….
Related Reading: How to travel business class with kids (the right way)
Qatar Airways Upgrade Method 1 – Book and upgrade
Almost a year ago we were booking flights for our ski holiday. We wanted to maximise time on the slopes but minimise the impact on school days and holiday days etc, as well as cost.
We started looking into getting the whole trip paid for in economy but quickly realised that an overnight flight back to the Middle East would be unbearable with 2 small kids in tow.
We called Qatar Airways (back in the day when they had a call centre that would answer into all hours of the day or night). Somehow the lady on the other end of the phone (you can only imagine how the computer handled such a request) was able to charge us for 3 return economy tickets between the four of us AND upgrade us for the return (overnight) leg.
The only annoying part was that it was a 5.5-hour flight which is NOT enough time for a family of 4 who is overexcited about being in the big seats to take advantage of all the good bits about business class and still get a good night’s sleep.
But you know… first world problems and all that.
Qatar Airways Upgrade Method 2 – chance it and upgrade at the airport
Now I’ll give you fair warning, I have friends who have tried this and 100% of them have been unsuccessful 100% of the time.
For reasons best known to themselves, QA blacked out our summer dates for the book and upgrade option but they did say we could try our luck when we arrived at the airport.
We were hoping to use Q Credits (which are similar but different to Q Miles) but knowing our friends had tried and failed to use theirs, I wasn’t holding out any hope at all.
Check-in was heaving so my hopes fell even further…. But we got it! We had to use a combination of Q Credits and Q Miles as they really didn’t want to give us more than 2 upgrades.
The icing on the top? We were travelling on a plane that has the new Q Suites seats. The configuration means that we could sit as a 4 with the dividers between us open and the doors around us shut! It was amazing and the flight ended all too quickly for my liking!
Qatar Airways Upgrade Method 3 – travel without kids and hope for the pre-check-in e-mail
Now, this has only ever happened to us if we are travelling on our own. A couple of days before check-in, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an email from Qatar Airways offering you the chance to upgrade your ticket for a fee.
You won’t get any other bonuses like earning extra points as it’s a discounted one-off rate. Sometimes it won’t make sense. Like the time they offered me to upgrade for QAR 5,000 (almost £1,000) for a 5.5-hour flight to London. I politely ignored that offer.
Or like the times when Mr Wanderlust flies with us but we have booked his ticket separately for some reason so he gets the email but we don’t. That offer is also ignored (much to his sadness lol).
But then you get the time when you’re offered to upgrade for QAR 1,000 (around £200) from Miami to Doha. After a crazy weekend involving a big family reunion, a rehearsal dinner, a big wedding and 48 out of 111 hours out of the country spent travelling.
And that, my friends, is when you can’t click ‘confirm upgrade’ quick enough. Probably the best £200 I spent last year lol.
Thanks so much to Emma for sharing her experiences up the pointy end (and the top) of the aircraft!
Upgrades on other airlines
Oh and about the unicorn upgrades – they DO EXIST!
Maybe not on Qatar Airways, but on several occasions, Mr Globetrotter and I have had that mythical upgrade ticket passed to us at the check-in counter flying Etihad (where we are both Gold Guests). We once managed to be upgraded from an Economy points flight to FIRST!!!
When the Globetrotters are travelling with us – who are Silver Etihad Guest members too, mind you – NEVER!!! Many airlines also offer bidding for upgrades (including Etihad) in the week before your flight.
Whilst it doesn’t give you certainty as it depends how much other flyers are bidding, DOES give you the chance to move up the pointy end for a fraction of the cost of actually booking a business class ticket.
Further Reading on Qatar & Qatar Airways
- Our flying experiences with Qatar Airways Doha to Cape Town
- Family-friendly review of Qatar Airways
- Learn more about visiting Qatar with Kids
- How to do a DOH layover
- Expat life – bringing up a baby in Doha
- Re-live that moment we thought we’d try flying 16 hours with 3 under 5 and a 20-hour Doha stopover – yes, really!!
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About the Blogger
Emma’s a pushing 40, travel-mad mum to 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4) and a crazy dog. Originally from the UK, she’s lived in 10 cities across 5 continents all over the world. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar. Emma started blogging about her family travels in 2017 when she had an epiphany about how to have successful adventurous family holidays. You can follow Emma at:
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