The Spouse and Upgrades debate

When it comes to my travel, I like to plan a lot ahead. I like to pick the best seats, the best hotels, the best flights, the best restaurants, and the best places to see while traveling.

I’m also a hoarder of miles and points and to some extent pretty selfish about it. I always make sure that all the promotions, deals, and credit card bonuses are credited to my account. It wasn’t until just recently that I started to do the same for the rest of my family (thank you for making this task VERY easy).

This past fall, I applied for the Platinum American Express card and credited the 25000 MQMs and 50000 Skymiles to my account.
For this trip, I used my wife’s Skymiles to book her ticket and paid for my ticket so that I could get the miles and MQMs. As I said – I’m pretty selfish in that regard.

As I logged in to my Skymiles account yesterday, I saw that my first class upgrade had cleared on both legs. My wife wasn’t eligible for upgrades because she was traveling on an award ticket. Uh-oh. A moral dilemma – should I as the person who earned the upgrade sit up front or allow my wife to?

My wife is so supportive of my travel. As I’m dining at fantastic restaurants and sleeping at fantastic hotels in exotic places, she’s having Spongebob Macaroni and Cheese and Dino Nuggets with our kids. In fact, during one trip, I was upgraded to business class coming back from Hungary and slept the whole way and arrived pretty well rested. She was scheduled to arrive six hours earlier from California but due to some mechanical issues her 1 1/2 hour flight turned into a 7 hour marathon with two crying kids. As I approached her at the baggage pickup, I was confused as to why everyone looked so disheveled. I felt completely refreshed – she looked like she wanted to run away.

I’m also a pretty tall guy so I NEED the extra leg room. Our economy reservation was for two exit row seats side by side but foolishly I booked her in the middle and myself on the aisle. So we’re left with a first class seat and a middle exit row seat.

As we approached the gate in Miami, I wasn’t sure what to do. What is the protocol for traveling with your spouse? Who should benefit from the upgrade? I decided to go ahead and let her take the shorter leg up in first class to Cincinnati. I thought that I was a pretty unselfish guy for giving up MY first class upgrade to her.

As we were boarding the four hour flight to Cincinnati, I looked at her again. I could see in her eyes that she knew it was MY upgrade and she wasn’t going to say anything but she desperately wanted to sit up in first again if but for a moment to forget about all the months of watching our children, the late nights, the dirty diapers, and everything that she has done for us while I traveled.

As we boarded the plane, I handed her my first class ticket, kissed her on the forehead, and headed back to the dreaded middle seat. I keep looking up towards first class thinking that she’ll turn around and acknowledge me back here. But there hasn’t been a single glance. She must be swept up in having a comfortable seat, plenty of leg room, and actual meal, and reading her book without someone asking her for anything.

So – to my wife sitting up in seat 3C right now – thank you for all that you have done on my behalf to help my career. Thank you for all the times you have sacrificed and not complained about it. Thank you for allowing me to take advantage of all of the bonus offers to get me higher status. Enjoy the upgrades – you deserve it. Now I’ve got to get back to fighting for armrest room with my two seat mates in economy.



  1. Very surprised that you didn’t follow the very basic rule of a couple traveling together, especially with a chance for an upgrade. NEVER BOOK A MIDDLE SEAT! Get the window and aisle. If you don’t get the upgrade, you can always trade with the person sitting between the two of you.

  2. Guess the lesson learned is about seat selection in the original coach booking, eh?

    Sounds like you already know the real right/wrong answers for your relationship – good for you! 🙂

  3. You should have bought your wife’s ticket, got the miles and did not have to face this problem:)

  4. Very nice piece. Behind every happily married mileage runner/travel junkie there is a very supportive wife/husband/partner that understand our obsession. They deserve the upgrades when only one comes along.

  5. There is never any debate in our household.

    Only one upgrade? My wife gets it.

    She has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in international Business Class without the butt-in-seat miles to earn the privilege.

    Marriage is a trade-off.

    She accepted my weeks traveling to Singapore or Buenos Aires or Paris to earn status miles without complaint once she realized my solo trips earned her upgrades.

  6. @Chris – Yes it was very foolish to book the middle seat!

    @Colleen – absolutely, I was kicking myself for the selection!

    @Andy – very good point, but the ticket was $700 and I’m cheap! 🙂

    @JamesORD – absolutely, she deserves it all including our upcoming trip to Maldives

    @Ric – very nice outlook on the situation. I guess it shouldn’t have been such a decision after all!

  7. I agree with your analysis. And a happy marriage is worth far more than a short flight in Delta F!

  8. Offer to let whomever sits in coach have their sexual fantasies/requests filled that evening without the expectation of reciprocation. Everyone wins!

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