Guest Post: The Spouse and Upgrades debate, take 2

This post is brought to you by FrequentMiler while Jason is out with two broken wrists and a microphone. Keep an eye out at MilesQuest for future guest posts by other Boarding Area bloggers.

Other Guest Posts:


In February 2011, Jason posted “The Spouse and Upgrades debate”.  In that post he recounted a flight where he received an upgrade to first class, but his wife did not.  His dilemma was whether to keep the upgrade for himself (and being a tall guy, he really could use it), or to be chivalrous and turn it over to his wife.  Read his original post to find out what he decided to do.

This age old question of what to do when a family is split up between upgrades and coach was first brought to light in several ancient Greek tragedies in which the young hero makes the wrong decision about what to do with his chariot upgrade and ultimately suffers the wrath of the Gods.  In the end of one such tale, the hero makes good by gifting elite status to his betrothed, but the hero was then fated forever-after to be last on every upgrade list.  Please don’t ask me for specific references to these ancient texts.  Once Jason is better I’m sure he’d be happy to dig them up for you.

In modern times, we no longer have the wrath of Gods to deal with.  Today’s dilemma is worse – we risk the wrath of our spouse.  I frequently travel with both my wife and my son.  When we’re all in coach, we happily take up an entire 3 person row.  Occasionally, all three of us get upgraded and we’re all even happier.  More often, though, I’m the only one in the family offered an upgrade.  My first response is always to say to my wife “you should take it”.  But she always says that she would prefer to stay with her family.  Then she says that if I want the upgrade, I should take it.  Of course, what she really means is “if you love first class more than you love your family, go ahead and take the upgrade”.  Yikes.

So, what should I do?  I really hate to give up upgrades!  I would much prefer my wife take it than give it up altogether.  If you’ve read my blog, you know that I love great deals and giving up an upgrade is like giving up a great deal.  On the other hand, since flights are almost always full these days, if I take the upgrade that means that a stranger will sit next to my wife and son.  Inevitably, this means a disastrous flight for both of them.  I don’t know why, but my wife seems to attract the worst seat-mates.  Here are just two of her experiences:

  • Recently, my wife sat next to a guy who wore dark sunglasses on the plane.  He asked her if he could drink from her water bottle (ewww!  No!) and asked her is she could tell him her address, where she worked, etc.  Luckily my wife found a different open seat to move to.
  • On another flight my wife sat next to a guy who wouldn’t stop talking.  In the conversation, he found out where she worked, and he later looked her up and emailed her to keep the conversation going!

So, the last time I was upgraded I gave my first class boarding pass to the gentleman who was already seated in coach when we boarded.  He jumped up with a big smile on his face, thanked us, and rushed to the first class cabin.  He was happy.  I got to sit with my wife and son and so we were happy too.  I guess we got a great deal after all.

So, what would you do?  I’m sure this has happened to many readers — what have you done?

Get better soon Jason!



  1. […] While Jason from MilesQuest is out with two broken wrists due to a car accident, other BoardingArea bloggers are writing guest pieces in his blog. Think of it as being like writing a giant “get well soon” on his Facebook wall. Anyway, today is my turn and today I wrote about the great upgrade debate. […]


  1. Unless the whole family is upgraded just turn it down. Flights are always more enjoyable for me if I’m sitting with my traveling partners. Not to mention the taking up the whole row thing. Just turn it down and have an enjoyable flight.

  2. If your son is old enough to enjoy first class then there you go. You get to spend some quality time with your wife with out your son around you. If that is not a choice, then enjoy the family and the happiness of giving by gifting the upgrade to some one from coach.

  3. Typically we fill a row+1 with our twin toddlers. Therefore, at best we wind up sitting across the aisle and sharing our rows with strangers. Either way I’d give an upgrade to DW since she’s never flown up front, and I don’t really care either way.

  4. I usually will accept the upgrade and then go to my girlfriend’s seat and offer whoever took my old coach seat the chance to take my first class seat instead. It would probably make the person next on the upgrade list mad if they knew I did that, but there’s no way they could find out, and it feels nice to upgrade someone who ordinarily wouldn’t have the chance to sit in F.

  5. I gave away my upgrade to an active duty soldier (CO boards them with F) and then sat with my wife.

    Also, I have Global Entry but my wife does not. I waited in line with her, too. The whole purpose of traveling together is being together (those of us who travel enough to earn even Gold status are already apart way too much) and I can’t see why I’d choose to spend time apart.

  6. My challenge is that my company flies me in business or first class. Often my wife travels with me. That lead to some big challenges. I don’t want to give up the seat and bonus miles so I don’t downgrade my ticket. My company doesn’t allow us to downgrade and get a companion ticket (some companies do and it’s a smart deal for both parties). Our solution now, we switch halfway through the flight. I get the meal (she rarely finds anything she likes on planes) and then we switch for a few hours and then I’ll go back to first for landing.

    It’s by no means ideal, because we are not sitting next to each other and she is not a happy flier. BUT, it’s the best compromise we’ve come up with. I did look for a service member on our last flight and didn’t see one. I do like that option as well.

  7. (Caveat: we don’t have children, which I think is a major factor that would definitely affect our current model)

    It’s fairly rare that one of us gets an upgrade and the other doesn’t, but for simple domestic flights, unless there is an extenuating factor (like one person needing to do work on the computer and there being power in F and not Y) we generally do rock-paper-scissors…figuring that over time, with a large enough sample size, it’ll even out and be fair. Most of the time I’m on a plane I either need to work or want to sleep as much as possible, so it’s not the end of the world if we’re not sitting together!

    We’ve only run into this situation once on a more major flight – an overnight 11 hr flight to Brazil. He was the last one to clear at the gate – I didn’t. He offered the C seat to me, but I insisted that he take it because he’d done about 95% of the legwork and planning for that trip. And the GA was very nice and didn’t move someone to fill his old seat so I had a bit more space.

    So basically, we go with the “one comfortable person is better than zero comfortable people” model for now. But we are both fairly young, and fairly short, so YMMV. 🙂

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