Is the Mile High Club a real thing? It most certainly is according to Paul Alpant Reavey, aka Mr Plane Guy, who spent 15 years as cabin crew.
He’s shared his expertise with Mega Casino to lift the lid on the secrets of the skies and answered all the burning questions passengers no doubt have.
According to Paul, there is also no quick and easy way to get a free upgrade - despite what people may see on social media - the different classes are ‘worlds apart’, and guests in Premium Economy are the most demanding.
Are there any tricks and tips to getting a seat upgrade on a flight?
I’m afraid not, you have about a 0.1% chance of using any tip or trick onboard to get a seat upgrade! In 15 years I was only able to upgrade 2 or 3 people, and that was due to medical emergencies. I upgraded a doctor that helped out with a medical situation, another time was a lady travelling to New York on a bucket list holiday as she had a terminal illness, we had around 15 empty upper class seats so I upgraded the family of three. Apart from that then the crew member would be risking their job and I’m sorry I wouldn’t risk my job for a box of Ferrero Rocher, so don’t think by bringing on a packet of sweets or chocolates is going to get you a £2000 seat upgrade just because you’ve seen a TikTok about it.
So what can you do to get an upgrade?
Make sure you sign up for the airlines loyalty scheme, ask at check in if they have any offers on. Pay for the flight or holiday using the airline's loyalty credit card. You can usually buy miles and points with different airlines and usually one of them is having a sale or bonus offer and if they are a partner airline you can transfer them over to the airline you are travelling with. If you are savvy with points and miles then before you know it you can easily get a free upgrade.
Then if you don’t get an upgrade, or if business class is full, why don’t you bring business class to economy - buy an extra leg room seat, buy some champagne, get a lounge before your flight, buy some nice duty free pamper products for the flight and a decent pillow!
Is there an ideal time to ask about an upgrade?
Definitely not onboard, it’s really too late, check the loading of the flight around two weeks before. Most airlines allow you to pre-book seats, so check out how full the flight is using the seat map, if business class is quite empty it is likely they could send you an offer to upgrade or they may try to sell them cheaper at check in. Once I flew to Bangkok with Qatar and around two weeks before the flight I was sent an email and offered an upgrade to business for £246.
I once had a bride get on a flight from London to Cape Town in her actual wedding dress, not the best attire for economy. So I’ve seen every little tactic and ways people have asked like the influencers “excuse me I have a very large social media following can I get an upgrade?” Or a couple on a flight to Antigua “could you consider upgrading us while we are on our honeymoon” (50% of economy were on honeymoon!)
Did you have any particularly memorable experiences with guests in first and business class, is there a big difference between the types of passengers?
Working between the two classes was worlds apart. I would work on a flight from New York to London in Upper Class and have rock and roll bands (I remember one particular lead singer who got onboard with roller boots! He was crazy and so much fun, asking the crew to come back to his flat in London, to party!)
I would give out a few glasses of champagne, tuck people into upper class beds, then the next flight a few days later I would be working in a full economy on a 747 to Orlando, surrounded by over 450 families with kids running around! I would hear Frozen’s “Let It Go” from the kids watching the inflight movies, on repeat for nine hours.
So the difference in working with the different classes was quite surreal. By far the most challenging customers were Premium Economy, who usually had very high expectations and wanted value for money.
Another memorable customer would be the ex wife of a famous Hollywood actor, she was a regular and on one flight to LA she insisted on a driver collecting the crew from our hotel and taking us to her house for lunch! So this was quite something, I would get to know so many other famous celebrity actors and singers that were regulars on this route.
Is the Mile High Club really a thing, according to your experience?
Oh yes and let me tell you the business class passengers were by far the worst, normally if a crew member noticed 2 people slip into a lav then we would all gather outside then give them a round of applause when they came out.
Wasn’t so common in economy, probably as toilets are a lot smaller, with lots of passengers around and wee on the toilet floor, eugh.
Did you have any favourite long haul flight layovers?
I was obsessed with LA, I loved the way of life in LA, hiking around the Hollywood hills, drinks in WEHO, a day people watching in Venice beach, lunch with a famous actor’s ex wife! I just loved LA, then I would go home back to the UK and be walking around Tesco doing my shopping and giggling to myself thinking yesterday I was having lunch in Beverly Hills and now I’m in Tesco in Burgess Hill.
Cape Town is really quite an epic place and of course I always enjoyed going to Las Vegas. There was always so much to do there and Hong Kong was always such a party vibe kind of trip.
What is the best hotel you've ever stayed in?
The 5 star Grand Hyatt hotel in Dubai was quite something. Huge beds which were super comfy with big roll top baths. It was so decadent and luxurious I would just feel so pampered and spoiled then my next trip would be something like the Holiday Inn at Glasgow Airport (before a Glasgow to Orlando trip) and it would be a huge reality check.
Was Vegas a place you visited often, what was that like/having layovers there as cabin crew?
Yes I used to go Vegas around once a month for over 15 years, so I watched the place really transform. I loved Vegas trips, they were usually at least 48 hours in Sin City and we would cram lots of partying in. Most of us would have huge hangovers flying back to London! My first ever trip was to Las Vegas in 1998 and at the time the airline flew there once a week so we had a full week trip there. It was crazy.
The last 10 years or so since the airline flew there daily it became a 2 night trip, we would arrive around 4pm, we would literally be given spending money, around $280 dollars in an envelope, this later changed to a company debit card that had dollars uploaded on to it. We would go and have a disco nap then meet for drinks usually between 8-10pm in a crew members room then someone would have contacts and would have arranged free entry for a top club that night. The next day would be a pool party, dinner, casinos and shopping, maybe another club on night two. Then our flight home would be the next afternoon.
Vegas is just crazy, you can walk down the street and watch a pirate ship sink, people watch in Fremont Street, go on a rollercoaster wrapped around a hotel. So many amazing casinos and you get free drinks when playing! It's just amazing.
One of my hardest trips was having a broken aircraft in Las Vegas so a 5 hour delay on the aircraft with very fed up hungover and skint passengers. Whilst an aircraft part was flown in from LA and then fitted to our jet and eventually fixed. We eventually took off for a 10 hour flight home, by the time I had landed I had been in my uniform for over 20 hours and felt horrific.
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