Airline Upgrades Explained – Load Factor Based Upgrades




What is a Load Factor Based Upgrade?

In simplistic terms, A Load Factor Based Upgrade (LFBU) also known as a Paid Upgrade or Day-of-Departure Upgrade in some circles is when the airline discounts a seat in a more premium cabin prior to check in to entice a passenger to upgrade.

An airline will offer this form of an upgrade because either:

  1. the upgrade cabin in question is undersold and in order to increase the “load” of the flight and cabin, they will discount the price of that premium seat; or
  2. the cabin you are in is oversold and they are conspicuously seeing if people will pay to move up before having to provide an operational upgrade.

North American Airlines predominantly use LFBU (and promote this quite heavily in their domestic market) while Airlines such as British Airways are a little bit more covert with its approach and offering LFBU from time-to-time to meet their revenue model.

How to Get A Load Factor Based Upgrade

In American Airlines’ case They’re offered during online check in, kiosks and at the counter if AA thinks they won’t sell the seat otherwise.

Another point to note is that LFBU, whether flying on American, British Airways, or Qatar Airways are conducted on a per segment basis – meaning if you fly London Heathrow > Doha International > Hong Kong International you will be paying for a LFBU on either the London to Doha segment or Doha to Hong Kong Segment when you are offered it.

What is not a Load Factor Based Upgrade

As airlines get more sophisticated and complex revenue management programming becomes the norm, opportunities to “upgrades” become more apparent when they are not actually LFBU’s. Take for instance upgrade opportunities given upon booking – these are merely “upfaring” tactics.

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