THE BLOG
08/05/2014 06:41 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2014

How to Upgrade to Business Class for Free... Through Kindness

On my recent trip to Europe (in depth posts to follow, check my Instagram feed for some visual highlights) I was upgraded to business class for free, along with two of my travel companions.

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I had never flown business class internationally before. A few years ago, I was magically upgraded on a domestic flight from New York to California, which was extremely surprising as I had booked the flight on points. But the world of upgrades, platinum cards, and lie down beds was not one I had ever participated in. Sure I've traveled a lot and I've flown many thousands of miles, but by always choosing the most affordable tickets my points are pretty spread out among carriers. I wanted to share my recent flight experience, if only to document it and make it that much more real.

I was traveling home to New York from Germany after attending a close friends wedding. Two mutual friends were flying with me as well. We had no illusions about the flight back and were already talking about loading up on magazines and snacks in the airport to offset the typical boredom and bad plane fare of an eight hour flight. We waited our turns patiently in line to check our bags and get our boarding passes when a German family approached one of my friends. Their 16-year-old daughter had won a two-week scholarship to New York to improve her English and she was nervous about flying alone. Would we mind accompanying her to the gate and making sure she got on board safely? My initial reaction was annoyance. I had enough to worry about without adding babysitting to the list. This girl was 16... Wasn't that old enough to fly alone? But my friend Stephanie spoke up before I had a chance to voice my concerns and quickly and enthusiastically agreed. We choose our friends by many different factors, but one of my favorite things about my friends is that they encourage me to be a better person every day, gently putting me in my place when I need it and applauding my efforts when I get it right. Stephanie has taught me many things over our friendship, but her joy at helping and fostering others really stands out.

We quickly collected our boarding passes and with our new charge in tow headed towards our gate. As the four of us made a detour in the food court, loading up on hard to find Fisherman Friends and British magazines we heard our three names being called over the loudspeaker, asking us to come to the gate. Confused, we followed instructions and walked towards the gate, fearing for news of a flight delay or overbooking issues. Instead, there was the same man who had helped us check in! He smiled shyly and handed us three new boarding passes, which a quick glance revealed to be seats in row 3.

That could only mean one thing. WE HAD JUST BEEN UPGRADED TO BUSINESS CLASS. FOR FREE.

Not wanting to ask too many questions lest our guardian angel get in trouble, we murmured discreet thank yous and exchanged our tickets. He looked at the three of us and simply said, "You were just such nice people." He had witnessed our interaction with the German family and it had apparently touched him. I couldn't believe it. I had been so quick to annoyance, and because of my friend's kindness I was about to have eight hours of fun, excitement, and sleep aboard my flight home.

Permanent note to self: Doing the right thing pays off.

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