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The 5 AvGeek Love Languages: 'Suite' Gestures From Frequent Flyers

Feb. 13, 2019
8 min read
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Score! Hours before your flight departs, you get the long-awaited message: You've received a complimentary upgrade on your upcoming transcontinental flight. You look up from your phone screen ... into the eyes of your sweetheart, waiting to share your joy.


What do you do when you score an upgrade, but your travel companion doesn't? Who sits in first class when only one upgrade clears? Are you willing to sit in the middle seat in order to stay close to the person who makes your heart soar?

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, TPG readers chimed in to share their thoughts on the sweetest things they do — or don't — for their loved ones.

Give up the Upgrade

At what point in the relationship is it time to share points and miles perks with a significant other, family member or best friend? TPG Lounge member Mati P. said it's, "When it doesn’t occur to you to think twice about it."

Aimee P. agreed that the right time is, "When you want to have them with you! Traveling is great solo but better with a partner. It’s also a good test on the relationship. If we can’t travel together, then we can’t be together."

For TPG Lounge member Nicholas C., forgoing an upgrade simply isn't an option. "I always say one of us is going to take it if we get first class." But, Nicholas said, he will "always offer it to her first, of course."

Whether it's letting your partner take a break from the kids to sit in first class, or having them relax in a lounge while you wait outside with the kids, bestowing your upgrade on the person you love is the epitome of self-sacrificial love. But there are other factors to consider, too. A number of travelers said that the taller person in the relationship, the pregnant one or the one who had the harder week gets the additional legroom by default.

Some parents in the TPG Family Facebook group said whichever parent has the lap baby goes up front — a move that makes a lot of logistical sense.

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TPG Lounge member Stephanie P. said her husband appreciated the gesture, but told her to keep her upgraded seat. "Hubby said I work hard to fly those miles to get the upgrades in the first place!" Fortunately, Stephanie's husband was just one row behind in American's Main Cabin Extra, so she said, "It felt like we were sitting together anyway!"

What if you're the one being offered the seat? It totally depends on your relationship, but couples report varying responses. Some say it's the thought that counts, but urge their partners to keep their hard-earned upgrades. Others gratefully accept with a sincere thank you.

And in some cases, chivalry isn't dead. "My boyfriend always gets upgraded, and always gives me the upgrade," said TPG reader Caroline N. Find you someone who says what Khurrum K. said of his partner: "By default, she sits in first [or] business class regardless of who got upgraded."

Of course, not everyone agrees. "Don’t you know that it’s a TSA rule that the person who gets upgraded must be the one who sits in that seat?" said Greg W. "The rule does not allow you to give it to anyone else. At least, that is what my wife believes!"

Caiaimage/Agnieszka Olek/Getty Images.
Photo by Caiaimage/Agnieszka Olek via Getty Images.

Upgrade Them, Too 

As TPG senior writer Darren Murph sagely said, "Baby, I'd burn an upgrade certificate on you!"

Don't fall prey to the false dichotomy that only one of you can sit up front. If you've been stockpiling your 500-mile upgrade certificates, or your regional or global premier upgrades, use one of them on your travel buddy.

TPG reader Paul L. said that he saves his airline perks for when his significant other has been traveling for trade shows, "And [his] points can get her an upgrade back home."

Despite your best intentions, airline rules apply here: Your companion's spot in the upgrade priority queue often depends on their airline status, not yours — so no matter how much you may want them to sit next to you in first, it just might not happen.

Seasoned travelers have good advice to offer in these situations. "[Upgrade scenarios] should be discussed prior to arriving at the airport," said TPG reader Darcy E. "Depending on the situation, my husband and I either decide he will take the upgrade if offered; take it, but we will split time in the upgraded seat if it is a really long international and upgrade is lie flat; or he will not take it if we think it would just be more comfortable if we stayed together like in a two-seat setting."

Sounds like Darcy's saying that, as with all aspects of a good relationship, communication is key.

Make a Compassionate Compromise 

While snuggling up side-by-side almost makes up for the misery of sitting in a middle-seat human sandwich for hours, many couples have figured out ways to stay close without sacrificing comfort — even in economy.

TPG reader Frank Patrick told The Points Guy, "We usually book opposite aisle seats to accommodate her claustrophobia and my prostate."

Like Darcy and her husband, other couples have figured out ways to share a single upgraded seat. "We trade off [during the flight]," TPG Lounge member Sue R. said. "I have status, but he holds down the home when I travel so I feel like he deserves some of the perks."

Stay Together 

Neither Romeo nor Juliet ever said, "Family, family, wherefore art thou, family?" But they might have if they'd had airline status.

As Mommy Points has discussed in the past, there are a number of logistics to consider when traveling together as a family on a single reservation. From an airline technology and policy perspective, your entire family may be bypassed for upgrades unless multiple travelers on the itinerary are upgrade-eligible.

Most passengers with status are capped at complimentary upgrades for themselves and at most one companion, so it's likely no one will be invited up front if the reservation is for more than two travelers. For this reason, United's system asks the elite traveler at check-in if they want to split the reservation and become upgrade eligible, with up to one companion. The system will not auto-upgrade the elite traveler at more than 24 hours out if more than two people are on the reservation, even if elite status meant the traveler was otherwise eligible for upgrades days earlier.

But splitting a flight reservation has real complications, especially on outbound flights or for families with young children, so there's a lot to consider before you ever get to the point where you have to decide who gets the sweet, swanky seat.

For this very reason, many travelers in the TPG Family Facebook group say their most common solution to the “not enough upgrades to go around" problem is that everyone sticks it out in coach. This keeps the whole family together for a group trip, eliminates those inevitable squabbles and allows parents to more easily split the caregiving while traveling.

TPG readers shared one clever and thoughtful way to work around the complimentary upgrade situation: "If you cannot decide on who gets the upgrade, then ask the gate agent if there are any uniformed military personnel on the flight and let them have the upgrade," said TPG reader Steve S.

If you do decide to let someone else be the beneficiary of your commitment to sitting with your love, be sure that you — not the gate agent — are the one to offer your upgraded seat, cautioned TPG Lounge member Brandon D. "If you refuse the upgrade, then it goes to next on the [upgrade waitlist] board. If you take it and then swap seats with a soldier, then that's OK."

Most airlines are reasonably flexible here, as long as there's a butt in each assigned seat, and nobody complains about the outcome.

Photo by izusek/ Getty Images.
Photo by izusek / Getty Images.

Teach Them Your Ways

Give your love an upgrade, and they will fly in first class for a day. But if you teach your love to earn upgrades, they'll live in luxury for a lifetime.

TPG Lounge member Tavo R. said, "Why use [points and miles] on him or her when you can initiate them into the amazing world of travel rewards and get referral bonuses? My fiancée has joined the dark side and she is loving it."

There's a time and place for gifting upgrades, free trips and sharing incredible overwater villas — but the couples that obsess over points and miles together, stay together (at least until the award points redemption is over). At the end of the day, the real end goal is what TPG reader Matt S. said: "We don’t keep score. We use points and vouchers for one another all the time."

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