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How To Sweet-Talk Your Airline Rep Into Almost Anything

08/05/2014 08:00 am ET
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Nothing beats the rush of scoring a flight upgrade... or of simply getting the service you want, for that matter.

Airline reps have a tough job but with the right language, you can snag that coveted first-class seat, early boarding time, or just a friendly agent on the phone (which can be hard enough ). Try these expert-vetted tactics on your next flight reservation, and watch the perks pile up.

Highlight your inconvenience.
If airline reps know they've given you cause to complain -- your card was overcharged, the system stalled, you waited hours on the phone line -- then they have an incentive to right the wrong so you won't report the issue. If there's a specific problem you had with a booking, push that issue to the center of your conversation.

Use stalling phrases.
An agent might offer you a "deal," seeing if you'll snatch it while knowing it's not the lowest price they can offer. Expressing your hesitance -- by saying, "I didn't think your 'best price' would still cost so much," or "Let me think about that" -- might be what they need to whip out their best offer.

Show off how reasonable you are.
Airline agents field dozens of outlandish, disgusting and bizarre requests every day -- so in your conversation, highlight that you're a reasonable human. Your agent will be thrilled to catch a break from the crazy, and most will be more willing to help if you're not so demanding.

Volunteer to switch before they ask.
Airlines often overbook flights, anticipating that not everyone will show up. If everyone does show up, however, the airline starts offering vouchers to passengers who volunteer to switch to a later flight. They'll start low, and then the vouchers will get more and more valuable as the need for volunteers gets more and more urgent. However, it's most lucrative to volunteer before this whole process starts, airline expert Tom Parsons told CNN. Parsons said he alerts the desk agent to call upon him if volunteers are needed but that in return, he'd like the best voucher deal of the day.

Stick around and chat.
Once the gate agent knows you want an upgrade or swap, stay in plain sight. You'll be around to make small talk -- then when the agent finally has an upgrade available, you'll be the obvious choice.

Hint at a tip.
Some may say it's sleazy, but hard-working agents can't resist the flattery, says hospitality pro Jacob Tomsky. In his years as a hotel desk agent, Tomsky noticed himself naturally giving extra consideration to guests who surprised him with a little monetary gift. "Tipping is kindness," he explains. "It's hard to express kindness in today's lightning-fast world."

Hang up and call back.
Phone reps are humans, and therefore they’re not all of the same temperament. If you’re having a hard time meshing with your first rep, hang up and dial again for another one. If you can find out from your first rep what time his or her phone shift typically ends, it may help to make your second call just before that time -- when reps are almost done for the day, they'll hurry through the process and just might grant your wishes easier.

Offer a present.
If you do it in a friendly manner without being flashy, offering an actual gift to your gate agent could be the magic key to getting what you what you want. Travel expert John "Johnny Jet" DiScala, for example, tells sources that one-pound chocolate bars score him seat swaps about half the time. Now THAT'S sweet talk.

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