People ask whether they can sneak into business or first, it's virtually impossible.

But what about sneaking into Premium Economy Class?

What if I stand at the end of the boarding line, and just sit in an empty Premium seat (that I know is empty because everyone else boarded)? If they ask for boarding pass, I'll just say I threw it out after passing gate.

They don't keep a name-list or seat-list Premium Economy right?

  • 22
    The simple answer is, for at least 15, 20 years, no not a chance. Zero chance. In the old days, sure.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 6:59
  • 24
    Yes, they keep exact lists and if the count is off they quickly find the "shoplifter"! It's impossible these days.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 7:00
  • 25
    Not only do they keep an exact name list and often have an app for this, some of them also try to sell upgrades during boarding or even after take off, so they tend to be fiercely protective of open premium seats
    – Hilmar
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 13:11
  • 5
    @Cloud It seems like you're implying that isn't the case currently; which I would think is very untrue. What's more likely is that the employees responsible for those critical items would never be the same as the employees who check on seating issues. Flight attendants, passengers, and the airlines themselves are also likely more concerned about those things as well. The thing is, not every employee would be helpful for checking those issues. I would be more concerned if the flight attendants were checking the wings for ice than if they were checking that seating arrangements were correct.
    – JMac
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 14:31
  • 6
    @JMac Actually, the flight attendants have a long list of things to check directly related to the operation of the aircraft (such as cabin pressure). If you think that all they do is serve drinks, you might want to head over to Aviation SE.
    – Cloud
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 14:43

5 Answers 5


Airlines certainly keep a passenger manifest (it looks something like this) that lists everyone on board and where they are supposed to be seated. These are either paper printouts or viewed on handheld devices carried by the cabin crew. They will not be fooled by your claim that you threw out your boarding pass. And they know you have ID with you, so they can always find out where you're supposed to be based on your name.

On some airlines, such as American, the crew is instructed to verify that passengers haven't upgraded themselves to premium economy by checking the manifest. They'd see that you're sitting in a seat that's supposed to be unoccupied. Some airlines may even allow you to purchase the seat on-board.

It may be possible on some airlines if enforcement isn't strict, but if the seat comes with more than just extra legroom (food, drinks, etc...), it's even more likely that you'll be caught.

You could also find that the seat isn't really empty, as others may still board after you even if you're at the end of the boarding line, including standby passengers. You'll be asked for your boarding pass if someone else shows up to claim their seat. With industry-wide load factors at high levels, there's a good chance that seat may belong to someone else, and you won't know until the aircraft door is closed.

  • 2
    And there's also the manual passenger count in each class. If a class is missing a passenger, and a class has an extra pax, uh oh.
    – user67108
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 6:18
  • 10
    Hmm.. those were 26 damn lucky people ("No shows - 23", plus 3 no-show infants)
    – Doc
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 6:41
  • Link seems dead for me, here's a archive version
    – André
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 8:37
  • They obviously also need to know to which seats special meal requests (vegan, kosher, etc. etc.) need to go to - as one example.
    – frIT
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:35
  • What about using "premium" bathrooms? - either bathrooms in premium, business or first. Will they also stop you? Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 15:00

I've been contracting for a major Australian airline. I've seen the app the crew uses. It has a manifest of every passenger in every class, names and notes. They most certainly know which seats are supposed to be empty, sorry ;)

(also it might cause a note to go against your name once they spot you)

  • 5
    In support of your answer, major U.S. airlines have these apps, too.
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 8:45

It may be possible if your are lucky, but don't count on it.

As already answered by Zach, airlines very well do know who should sit where. The question is if they always check, and in which detail.

Case in point: A budget airline I travelled with recently has different "classes" even within economy. Specifically, bringing checked baggage and getting a snack are extra. We booked late and got seats in different rows. After boarding was complete, I noticed the seat next to my wife was empty, so apparently the person who had booked it didn't show up. I changed to there in order to sit next to my partner. 20 minutes later, stewardesses go through the cabin with a paper and hand out snacks to selected passengers. We booked without (weekend trip, hand luggage was enough), but I received a snack, most likely because I was sitting in a seat that had booked the higher package. They didn't check boarding passes or anything, just seat numbers.

So if you manage to sneak into a seat that was book but ends up empty, you may have a reasonable chance of not being noticed. The crew will see the seat is booked, see that someone is sitting there, and if the gender matches, will probably not question you.

  • This only works when it's the same class of travel (as described above), any additional benefits like included food notwithstanding. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 22:38

They don't keep a name-list or seat-list Premium Economy right?


It's worth watching what the cabin staff does and talks about during the boarding and take-off preparation. One of the things that you can't overlook when you sit in front of a (smaller) plane is passing the passenger manifest by the ground staff to the on-board crew. This is pre-requisite to complete boarding. It might be handled through apps in some airlines these days but it has to be passed and confirmed for the plane to close its doors.

Then the crew discuss what kind of "special" passengers do they have and how many of them. Usually premium is handled by a different part of a crew, so they'll be fully aware which seats should be empty. I remember overhearing a discussion like "we have two infants, 5 premium and 3 business on-board today" when I was sitting in the back of a plane.

Finally, the premium economy usually has some kind of complimentary meals even on a short-haul flights. On long-haul the meal offered is of a better kind than that served in Economy. Those are also carefully counted so it will be obvious that something is wrong.

I have also personally witnessed once a person to be pushed from a premium to economy seat (she was evidently trying to "upgrade" her flight the way you describe) and once a person being requested to get back to theirs seat within Economy. So apparently crews are cautious about such things.

All the flights I'm referring here happened within Europe, on-board of different airlines though.


Several years ago on United, I asked a flight attendant if I could move from my full row to the empty middle row behind me. Apologetically, she said the crew tries to keep that row for themselves, but I could move forward to a less-full row (she specified which one). It was only after I was seated in that new row that I realized it was a minor upgrade.

A different flight attendant "caught" me in the row, made me move out of it, and was rather nasty to me for the rest of the flight.

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