No, saying “revenue management” won’t get you upgraded

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Yesterday, I ranted on Twitter and on the MilesTalk Facebook group about an article on Bloomberg titled The Two Words That Will Help Get an Airline Upgrade Over the Phone

Now, sitting in the Alaska lounge at LAX, I have a moment to tell you how I really feel.

British writer Tilly Bagshawe claims that she has “never bought an upper class seat” for her jaunts across the pond.

She says, and I quote, “Say to the agent: ‘Have revenue management released any first-class seats for miles upgrades yet?”

Here’s the thing. That isn’t how it works. At all.

Revenue management is indeed a real department at airlines. They are the ones working behind the scenes to make sure that every last dollar, or pound in her case, is squeezed out of you. They determine if seats are available for award bookings or upgrades, among more sophisticated things liek optimizing what fare bucket inventory is available.

But can you or I actually get upgraded by mentioning those words? In a nutshell, no. In fact, at almost all airlines, the phone agents don’t even have a way to call over to revenue management. Sometimes, they can send a message over to that team, who may or may not respond timely, but here’s the most important note: Even if they can get in touch with RM, RM isn’t upgrading you just because you asked.

I can think of a very few exceptions where agents can get in touch with them, like Singapore Ailrines, but even in those cases it’s a longshot. American Airlines used to be able to ping Revenue Management for elites, and in fact I was once able to pull that off – about 7 years ago. AA AAgents no longer have any way to contact Revenue Management. As of 2014, FlyerTalkers have offically marked the tool as dead. Have a read if you’re curious about how it used to be.

Back to the “hot tip” at hand. Asking a phone agent to “contact revenue management” will not get you anywhere. It will make you look like a fool though.

Lastly, one has to wonder why this woman truly believes her magic words get her upgraded. I have a theory which is that, because she flies more than 100,000 miles a year, she has top tier status and gets special treatment. There is almost certainly much more to her conversations with Virgin Atlantic than “can you ask revenue management?” and they clearly take care of her. But those two words are not why.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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