Is Jet Airways holding on to upgrades too tight?

Like you all know from my little airline dinner post I was over to the Middle-East this past week. While a full trip report will come up soon, this one got me asking why Jet Airways is holding on too tight to their premium cabin seats.

Like I do when I travel and I need an upgrade with Jet Airways, I send them an email with the details of the travel team and voucher details. In this case, I wrote to them with the details and I was travelling KWI-BOM. The response from Jet Airways, amongst other things, included the following line:


I was looking at the tickets the night before, and Premiere tickets were available on the route, right up to 4-5, which gave me an idea that the cabin was almost empty.

The next evening, I turned up for check-in and on chatting up with the check-in agent, I was told the flight was full. I asked about buying an upgrade, and I was told by the same agent that I could buy one for Kuwaiti Dinar 42 (roughly about Rs. 8400). I was told for this amount I would get only economy class mileage, no lounge access, no excess baggage weight (not that I needed it!) but it seemed like too stripped down a proposition to buy for that price. I was in seat 10C, and though Jet Airways does not have Economy Plus seating, for me this one was like an economy+ seat and I was going to do ok for a 4-hour trip. With the trimmings (lounge access and J class mileage) maybe I would have bought in, but not without.

I was then chatting to the station manager, who asked me if I was okay for taking an op-up if the flight went full in the back of the plane. Obviously, one would usually not refuse an upgrade and I told him to go ahead if he needed my seat at the back of the plane.

At the time of boarding, looking at the mile long queue waiting to go through pre-boarding security, I knew I was going to sit upfront, but going by the tone of Jet Airways so far, they made me feel the plane was packed.

However, when I got in, there were only 2 other passengers in the Business cabin while everyone went through to the back. A colleague travelling with me was also at the back, and we tried getting him upfront but was refused. When doors closed, the J cabin was only full 3/8 (including me).

I was very surprised considering the sequence of events since the afternoon. The moral of the story for me, though not new, was that here was Jet Airways, holding on to 6 business class seats hoping they would be able to sell them to someone at the last minute in a market primarily dominated by blue-collar traffic.

Their inability to confirm upgrades T-5 hours out indicated to me they would have been full upfront, but the load was 2/8. They were perhaps not going to sell those seats, but they would still not extinguish some frequent flyer’s upgrade instruments and give him/her that seat upfront and get some brownie points for rewarding their customers.

I am not questioning policy on upgrades here, but the intent to upgrade. I’ve got the upgrades (against vouchers) 60-65% of the times except when the flights are full, but mostly at check-in, or sometimes even at the gate. I’ve even been asked to give away my vouchers sometime when they could easily have op-uped me. And I’ve been foolish sometimes after a long day at work to give them away as well.

So in this case, it is a thanks but no thanks to Jet Airways. I’m actually confused, should I thank them or not…

What have been your experiences upgrading on Jet Airways?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Yes it is true I requested for upgrade of 4 seats on 9w 546 del-Dubai but was told of no availability of seats in premiere class but when the gates were closed only 4 seats were occupied out of 12. Reasons better known to them. Again I am trying for upgrade on 9w 545 to Delhi but getting no response jet people should look into the matter

  2. I agree the upgrade system is crap. I have lost several vouchers just because they did not give me an upgrade and then the voucher expires. which eventually means that they did not mean to upgrade us formally.

  3. Jet airways Frequent Flyer programme is the worst. I have never been able to redeem my miles. Whenever I try award seats are never available. For realistic chance of using one’s JP miles for a business class ticket you may have to book at least 6 months in advance and that will be available in only for inconvenient late night / very early morning flights.
    Plus since the last many years, with the advent of Indigo one finds that inspite of trying to fly Jet Airlines they do not seem to have the best itineraries. One has no choice but to fly Indigo ( not that Indigo is bad but – in fact their aircrafts are in much better condition ). Since a very bad dip in quality of service till recently slowly one finds that JET has started improving. I hope that they do something to fix their Frequent Flyer programme.

  4. Hi, I just happened to find your blog after googling about flight upgrades. May I know what does op up stand for and what it means?

  5. Absolutely agree. Jet, by far, has one of the worst FFP programs. I just had a horrific experience from Mumbai to Singapore.

  6. Totally agree.. have been a loyal jet airways flyer and have done over 40 long haul flights from LHR to Bom. Not ONCE has my upgrade request been confirmed until check in or boarding gate. Wonder what kind of strategy they have to ensure regular flyer get pissed off with their service. Anyways, have decided to fly emirates from last few months. Hope jet airways will learn one day and hold on to their clients.

  7. I totally agree. The policy on upgrades at Jet Airways is seemingly warped. They must upgrade their regular Jet Privilege members to keep them interested in Jet’s services. I am afraid with Kingfisher out of contention, Jet has gone really complacent on their service levels, and are risking losing even their staunch clientèle to competition.

  8. You are right AJ. My two upgrade vouchers were also wasted in the last year. Even after repeated attempt to use them, I got a standard answer from Jet Airways that the flight is full. Although, I have found umpteen number of times that the seats were actually vacant.

  9. Somewhere in the last 5 years airlines in India have seem to have lost their way from the heydey of Kingfisher & Jet.
    Now they have the service levels of airlines in the US (not a compliment!), without the processes and operational discipline to match. No wonder the airline industry in India is going to the dogs.

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