Cabin Crew Share the Outfit That Will Get You Bumped Up to First Class

Emma Spedding

When I was interviewing cabin crew for a feature on how to pack a carry-on, every air hostess I spoke to told me that what you wear to the airport can influence whether you get upgraded or not. The idea of dressing up for a flight might seem terribly outdated (why should a pair of jogging bottoms stop you from turning left instead of right?), but according to these flight attendants, dressing smartly can increase your chances of getting bumped up to first.

I personally think that comfort is the main priority when travelling and see no problem with flying in trainers and tracksuits, but I was intrigued about what an "upgrade outfit" looks like. When trying to move up to business, two other factors help: travelling alone and being part of the airline's frequent-flyer programme. Apparently, so does making an effort in the fashion stakes. "It definitely helps your chances," one air hostess admitted. "When we fly, we have a strict dress code to follow. No jeans or trainers, and so I always go for tight black trousers and a blazer or a dress. For men, chinos or trousers and a shirt are worn."


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"For an upgrade, it's all about looking the part," another steward explains. "Smart but understated. You should look like your travel often. But don't be dripping in designer. It helps; someone who is potentially due to get an upgrade can be knocked back if they aren't dressed suitably."

So what is classed as suitable? I'm told to avoid wearing leggings and tracksuit bottoms to check in and board the flight if I'm on a mission to get upgraded, but am assured I can change into these when on the flight—"I always carry trackies on long-haul, and it is acceptable for us to change on board," one stewardess said. Another air hostess agrees, telling me to avoid "jeans, joggers and dirty trainers."



The Duchess of Cambridge often flies in a smart blazer.

Flying used to be an occasion that people dressed up for, and if you are inspired to dress smartly on your next trip, that doesn't mean you have to opt for uncomfortable, stiff pieces. Lean on cashmere jumpers, oversize, loose shirts and throw-on blazers.

Scroll below to shop our edit of smart buys for your next flight.

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