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Do you dream of flying to Hawaii in style without breaking the bank? Getting a free upgrade on your Hawaiian Airlines flight is possible with some strategic planning and a little bit of luck. Keep reading to unlock the secrets that can score you a first or business class seat for the price of a basic economy ticket.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer to getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines: check in exactly 24 hours before your flight, dress nicely, and politely ask the gate agent if any complimentary upgrades are available due to overbooking or open first/business class seats. Frequent flyers and credit card holders typically get priority.

Book the Cheapest Ticket in Main Cabin

When it comes to getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, it all starts with booking the cheapest ticket in the main cabin. The main cabin is the standard economy class, and while it may not offer the same luxurious amenities as first class, it can still be a comfortable and enjoyable experience. By opting for the cheapest ticket in the main cabin, you increase your chances of being considered for an upgrade.

Why the cheapest ticket?

Choosing the cheapest ticket in the main cabin is important because airlines often prioritize upgrades for passengers who have already paid a higher fare. By selecting the cheapest ticket, you position yourself as a cost-conscious traveler who is open to potential upgrades. Airlines may be more inclined to offer a free upgrade to someone who has already demonstrated their commitment to getting the best value for their money.

Be flexible with your travel dates and times

Another strategy to consider when booking the cheapest ticket is to be flexible with your travel dates and times. Airlines often have more availability for upgrades on flights that are less busy. If you can be flexible with when you fly, you increase your chances of snagging a free upgrade. Additionally, certain days of the week or certain times of the day may have lower demand, making it easier for you to score an upgrade.

Join the airline’s loyalty program

One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines is to join their loyalty program. By becoming a member, you can earn points or miles every time you fly. These points can be used to request upgrades or even score a free upgrade as a perk of being a loyal customer. Additionally, airlines often prioritize upgrades for their loyal members, so joining the loyalty program can give you an edge.

Check for last-minute upgrade options

Finally, it’s worth checking for last-minute upgrade options. Sometimes, airlines will offer discounted or even free upgrades to fill up empty seats in premium cabins. Keep an eye out for any emails or notifications from Hawaiian Airlines offering last-minute upgrade opportunities. By being proactive and seizing these opportunities, you may be able to secure a free upgrade.

Remember, while getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines is not guaranteed, employing these strategies can significantly increase your chances. So, book the cheapest ticket in the main cabin, be flexible with your travel dates and times, join the loyalty program, and keep an eye out for last-minute upgrade options. Happy travels!

Earn Elite Status or Get a Co-Branded Credit Card

If you’re looking to score a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, there are a couple of strategies you can employ. One option is to earn elite status with the airline’s frequent flyer program, while the other is to get a co-branded credit card. Both of these approaches can increase your chances of enjoying a complimentary upgrade and enhance your overall travel experience.

Become a Hawaiian Airlines Elite Frequent Flyer

One way to increase your chances of getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines is to become an elite frequent flyer. Hawaiian Airlines offers its loyal customers the opportunity to earn elite status through its HawaiianMiles program. By accumulating a certain number of qualifying miles or segments, you can achieve elite status and unlock a range of benefits, including priority boarding, access to premium lounges, and, of course, the potential for complimentary upgrades.

As an elite frequent flyer, you’ll have a higher priority when it comes to the airline’s upgrade process. Hawaiian Airlines typically prioritizes upgrades based on a combination of factors, including elite status, fare class, and availability. So, the higher your elite status, the better your chances of securing a free upgrade.

To earn elite status, you’ll need to fly a certain number of miles or segments with Hawaiian Airlines within a calendar year. The airline offers three levels of elite status: Pualani Gold, Pualani Platinum, and Pualani Diamond. Each level comes with its own set of perks and benefits, with Pualani Diamond being the highest tier.

Get an Hawaiian Airlines Credit Card

Another way to increase your odds of getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines is to get a co-branded credit card. Hawaiian Airlines offers its own credit cards in partnership with Barclays, which can provide you with a variety of benefits and rewards.

With a Hawaiian Airlines credit card, you can earn miles for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases. These miles can then be redeemed for free flights, upgrades, and other travel perks. Some Hawaiian Airlines credit cards also come with bonus miles upon sign-up, further boosting your mileage balance.

In addition to earning miles, having a Hawaiian Airlines credit card can also grant you access to exclusive benefits, such as priority boarding, discounted companion fares, and complimentary checked bags. These perks can enhance your overall travel experience and make it more likely for you to secure a free upgrade.

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions, including any fees or interest rates, to ensure it aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle.

Check In Exactly 24 Hours Before Departure

If you want to increase your chances of getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, one of the best strategies is to check in exactly 24 hours before your scheduled departure time. This is the earliest time allowed for online check-in, and it gives you a better chance of securing an upgrade if there are any available.

Why is checking in early important?

When it comes to upgrades, airlines often prioritize passengers based on their check-in time. By checking in exactly 24 hours before your flight, you can position yourself at the front of the line for any potential upgrades. This is because airlines typically upgrade passengers in the order they checked in, with the earliest check-ins receiving preference.

How to check in early

To check in exactly 24 hours before your Hawaiian Airlines flight, set a reminder on your phone or computer so that you don’t forget. As soon as the clock hits the 24-hour mark, go to the Hawaiian Airlines website or use their mobile app to complete your check-in process. By doing this, you’ll be ahead of many other passengers who may not have checked in yet, giving you an advantage when it comes to upgrade opportunities.

Other tips for increasing your chances of a free upgrade

  • Join Hawaiian Airlines’ loyalty program, HawaiianMiles, which offers its members various perks, including the possibility of complimentary upgrades.
  • Consider flying during off-peak times when the flights are less crowded, increasing the likelihood of available upgrades.
  • Be polite and friendly to the airline staff when checking in or boarding. A positive attitude can sometimes go a long way in securing an upgrade.

Remember, getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines is never guaranteed, but by following these tips and checking in exactly 24 hours before departure, you increase your chances of enjoying a more comfortable and luxurious flight experience.

Dress to Impress at the Airport

First Impressions Matter

When it comes to getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, dressing to impress can make a big difference. Airlines often prioritize passengers who appear well-dressed and put-together. So, leave those sweatpants and flip-flops at home and opt for a more polished look. A neat and professional appearance can increase your chances of catching the attention of airline staff and potentially scoring that coveted upgrade.

Dress Comfortably yet Stylishly

While dressing to impress is important, it’s also essential to prioritize comfort. Long flights can be tiring, and you want to ensure that you are comfortable throughout the journey. Choose clothing made of breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen, that allow your skin to breathe. Opt for layers, so you can adjust your clothing according to temperature changes on the plane. Remember, you can still look stylish while being comfortable!

Accessorize Smartly

In addition to your clothing, paying attention to your accessories can also make a difference. Avoid excessive jewelry or accessories that may set off alarms during security checks. Opt for a stylish yet functional bag that can hold all your essentials without being too bulky. A well-chosen accessory can complete your outfit and add a touch of sophistication.

Research the Airline’s Dress Code

Different airlines may have different dress codes or expectations for passengers. It’s a good idea to research Hawaiian Airlines’ dress code policy before your flight. While there may not be strict guidelines, understanding the airline’s standards can help you make informed choices about your attire. Additionally, if you have any elite status with the airline or are a frequent flyer, be sure to mention it during check-in or at the gate. This information may increase your chances of being considered for an upgrade.

Remember, It’s Not Guaranteed

While dressing to impress can certainly improve your chances of getting a free upgrade, it’s important to remember that it is not guaranteed. Airlines have their own criteria for selecting passengers for upgrades, and dressing well is just one factor among many. However, by putting effort into your appearance and following these tips, you may increase your chances of enjoying a more comfortable and luxurious flight experience. So, next time you fly with Hawaiian Airlines, put on your best outfit and who knows, you might just find yourself in first class!

Politely Ask at the Gate About Upgrades

When it comes to getting a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines, one of the simplest and most effective strategies is to politely ask at the gate. While there are no guarantees, gate agents have the power to upgrade passengers based on availability and various other factors. Here are a few tips to enhance your chances of securing that coveted upgrade:

Arrive Early

Arriving early at the gate not only gives you more time to approach the gate agent, but it also allows you to observe the boarding process and get a sense of how full the flight is. If you notice empty seats or a relatively low number of passengers in a particular class, it may be a good time to make your request.

Dress Appropriately

First impressions matter, even when it comes to asking for a free upgrade. Dressing appropriately can help convey a sense of professionalism and respect. While you don’t need to be in formal attire, opting for smart casual attire can make a positive impression on the gate agent and increase your chances of a successful upgrade request.

Be Polite and Friendly

Approach the gate agent with a smile and a friendly demeanor. Being polite and respectful can go a long way in creating a positive impression. Remember, gate agents deal with numerous passengers throughout their day, so a little kindness can make your request stand out.

Mention Special Occasions

If you’re celebrating a special occasion such as a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday, don’t hesitate to mention it to the gate agent. While it’s not a guaranteed ticket to an upgrade, it might increase your chances, as airlines sometimes prioritize special occasions when considering upgrades.

Join Frequent Flyer Programs

Being a member of Hawaiian Airlines’ frequent flyer program, HawaiianMiles, can significantly increase your chances of getting a free upgrade. Elite members of the program often receive priority for upgrades, so it’s worth considering if you frequently fly with the airline.

Remember, while it’s always worth asking at the gate, it’s important to remain understanding and gracious if your request is not granted. Airlines have various policies and procedures in place for upgrades, and they are not obligated to provide them for free. However, by following these tips, you can increase your chances of enjoying a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines.


While there’s no guarantee you’ll get that free first class seat to the Hawaiian Islands, following these tips maximizes your chances. With a bit of planning and charm, you could be sipping mai tais at 35,000 feet for the price of a basic ticket. The key is flexibility – if the upgrade doesn’t come on your outbound flight, don’t give up hope for the trip home. Happy travels and fly in style to paradise!

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