Does checking in online prevent me from getting upgraded?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
Whether you’re boarding a long flight or checking into an upscale hotel, complimentary upgrades are one of the most sought-after perks in the entire travel world. There are plenty of ideas circulating on the internet about what you can do to help or hurt your chances of scoring one, but the truth is much of the process is either automatic or based on elite status. Put another way: It’s out of your control.
TPG reader Vladislav wants to know if checking in online hurts his chances …
Is it true that if you selected your seat ahead of time you’ll never be upgraded since you’re assigned to that seat, as opposed to checking in at the airport?TPG READER VLADISLAV
It’s important to note that when you buy a plane ticket, in most cases you aren’t buying a specific seat on a specific flight. Rather, you’re buying a guarantee that the airline will transport you from point A to point B, which is why they can legally change your flight schedule and even involuntarily bump you off an oversold flight. This is true even if you’ve selected a seat, whether you paid money to do so or were able to do it for free based on some combination of your fare class and elite status.
To answer Vladislav’s question, not only is it not true that selecting a seat blocks you from getting upgraded, but in some cases the opposite might be true. Depending on how you’re trying to upgrade your ticket, you may not be added to the upgrade list until you check in for your flight. Speaking from personal experience, I currently hold American Airlines Gold elite status. I select a free main cabin window seat as soon as I book my ticket, and will try to move to a main cabin extra seat at check-in if one is available. I’ve received many complimentary elite upgrades, some automatically on flights under 500 miles and others where I’ve applied my 500-mile upgrade certificates. In every case I’d pre-selected my seat through the AAdvantage app, and in most cases I’d checked in online as well.
If you’re curious about how specific airlines handle their upgrade policies, make sure to check out TPG’s guides to getting upgraded on the following airlines:
This myth that checking in online gets in the way of an upgrade tends to be more commonly applied to hotels than to airlines, but again I can confirm from my own personal experience that it’s not true. I’m a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium elite, which means I spend anywhere from 60 to 80 nights a year in Marriott hotels (after factoring in the 15 elite-night credits I receive from holding a Marriott Bonvoy credit card). I try to stay on top of the various logistical elements of all my international travel, so I check in on the Marriott app before every stay. Sometimes I receive an upgrade in the app before I arrive at the hotel, other times I’m upgraded at check-in, and often I need to gently nudge the agent at the front desk to see if the hotel has any suites available during my stay.
Checking in online doesn’t hurt my upgrade chances, and if anything it confirms to the hotel that I’m actually going to show up for my reservation. Some hotels block off premium rooms in advance for elite upgrades, and checking in online helps them prepare for my arrival and guarantee I get an upgrade if one is available. Other hotels may wait until check-in to upgrade an elite member, but since you have to stop by the desk to get your key (and provide your ID and a credit card for incidental charges) anyway, you don’t lose the ability to ask for an upgrade just by checking in early.
With upgrades getting harder and harder to come by for both airlines and hotels, the last thing you would ever want to do is inadvertently sabotage your chances of receiving a coveted golden ticket. Vladislav can rest assured that checking in online and/or preselecting a seat for an upcoming flight won’t hurt his chances of getting an upgrade. If anything, it’ll guarantee he makes it onto the list.
Featured photo of the JW Marriott Singapore by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees