I bought a round-trip (6 flights) in economy. A couple of hours later, when the confirmed itinerary was sent to my e-mail, I noticed that 2 out of the 6 flights were first class!

I freaked out thinking they may have taken way more money out of my account. They didn't. They took exactly what was quoted on the website when I booked.

I wonder if this was a mistake from the customer service person or something else. Like there were no more economy seats and had to put me on first.

Of course I don't want to contact the website and risk losing it, but I am curious about this and also want to make sure that once I check in, they are actually going to put me in first :)

Anyone with a similar experience?

  • 1
    Same airline in both flights; Avianca. It was through a website (I guess you can call that an agent). It doesn't show price for each flight, just the total of the round trip. However, it shows which class for each flight and those two show First Class. Now, Avianca may not have the best First Class in the world of airlines (I don't know), but surely is better than economy :)
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 2:35
  • 1
    Thanks pnuts. As @Greg Hewgill said below, worst case, I will fly Economy as I booked.
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 4:19
  • @Ana As an American, the one (round-trip) time I flew with Avianca, they easily surpassed my expectations from American airlines. The food, in particular, was far better than I've ever had on a domestic flight.
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 17:56
  • @Ana How did this turn out?
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 15:04

5 Answers 5


Congratulations, I wouldn't complain! Airlines are pretty good these days at managing their passenger load, but sometimes they might overbook a flight or make some mistake and move people around between classes.

Worst case, they made a mistake (and notice) and you'll fly economy just like you booked. Best case, you'll enjoy bigger seats and fancier food.

  • 4
    I definitely don't complain! Fingers crossed they won't notice :)
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 0:56
  • 1
    @Ana better hope they don't come and visit this question!
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 17:24
  • 10
    The whole point of overbooking is making sure the airplane is full in spite of last-minutes cancellation. There is no point in upgrading people in advance if they are overbooked.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 19:55
  • @yuritsuki There is no identifying information in OP.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 15:04

It is perfectly possible that there is no Business/First class cabin on the plane - you don't say how long the flight is. For example, British Airways flights within the UK are sometimes booked as "C" class tickets (Business), even though there is no business class - it simply means you have an expensive, flexible ticket with benefits (e.g. lounge entry). That might show up on some websites as Business class, even if it really isn't once you actually get on to the plane.

So don't get your hopes up too much!

  • the tragic likely outcome! :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 13:44
  • @AndrewFerrier One flight is around 3 hours, the other around 6.
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 1:44
  • 1
    @JoeBlow Mmm...I wouldn't use the word tragic! #justsayin' ;)
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 1:45
  • Actually, that's a good point, on BA short-haul there is typically a business cabin (or not, in this case); not first. I was probably thinking of US airlines here, which normally brand the non-economy cabin as First. But I think the general point is still true. Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 20:26
  • @Ana remember to make full use of your lounge access! It makes the pre-flight experience much more pleasant I find :)
    – Muzer
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 15:50

In addition to the scenario identified by Andrew Ferrier, where the cabin displayed is an artifact of the fare class and not the actual existence of those seats on the aircraft, there are several other scenarios where an economy fare can yield a premium seat, though admittedly I do not think any would apply to Avianca.

-UP Fares

In the domestic U.S., various airlines deliberately publish[ed?] fares which book into a higher cabin. These fares were given economy fare classes, often in conjunction with "UP," giving rise to them being known as QUP, KUP, BUP, YUP fares (and so on); the fare codes might look like QUP8V or YRUPMZ. These usually carry restrictions that would not be applicable to a full F/P/A/J/C/D/etc. fare.

The idea is that an airline would prefer to fill a premium seat with someone paying a higher than average fare, rather than upgrading a frequent flyer who might be traveling on a cheap ticket. With the airline mega-mergers of the last decade and subsequent reductions in capacity, the airlines have less incentive to publish such fares, but they may still exist for some markets.

Automatic upgrades for full fare tickets

Some airlines will grant an automatic cabin upgrade for passengers traveling on full fares, regardless of the fare code. For example, United Airlines automatically upgrades all Premier members at the time of booking on certain domestic Y or B fares, regardless of tier considerations.

Automatic upgrades for frequent flyers

If you are an "elite" frequent flyer, it is possible that you were given the upgrades as part of your tier benefits. The Big 3 international U.S. carriers, for example, start to grant confirmed upgrades on domestic flights up to 120 hours before departure for their top-tier frequent flyers.


I fly regularly with the same few airlines for business (even though I always purchase standard tickets) and have noticed that maybe one in every 8-10 flights, I am upgraded in some way, whether its 'first class' on a short haul flight (larger seats) or invited to the first class lounge on longer flights without much notice. They don't directly tell me this information, I notice when I receive the boarding cards, or check my account, that I have been upgraded free of charge.

I always presumed that this was loyalty in some way. I appreciate it, and don't ever question it. It makes me think highly of them and likely to recommend them to colleagues about the positive experiences that I receive when flying with them.

Further Information: I believe this is more likely to happen if flying solo than in a pair or a family. In my experience it has only happened when flying on my own.

  • 1
    Yes, lots of airlines do this for frequent fliers when they have open seats in higher classes, but, from the question, it doesn't sound like that's what happened here. Also, these usually wouldn't show up on the original itinerary unless it was booked very shortly before departure. The upgrades wouldn't normally be granted until relatively close to departure time in order to allow the chance that someone will actually purchase the higher-class seat at full price.
    – reirab
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 18:57
  • @reirab A 6 flight round trip may come under frequent flyer with that particular airline. The question also does not state when the flights are. The airline could, like you suggest, grant upgrades because the flights are so soon.
    – medina
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 21:00
  • @reirab The trip is mid-Dec till mid-Jan. The flights in questions are the two first ones on my way back. So that is mid-Jan next year. I really doubt they are overbooked by now!
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 1:49
  • @Ana Yes, I agree that that seems unlikely. That also pretty much rules out the possibility of them being upgrades due to status, as those won't usually be confirmed until, at earliest, a few days before departure (and, more often, a few minutes before departure.)
    – reirab
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 4:57
  • 1
    I don't know for sure if it happens on flights, but I have certainly seen it happen on UK trains that the cheapeast available fare was a first class one because the discounted standard class fares had sold out but the discounted first class ones had not. It wouldn't at all surprise me if the same thing happens on flights occasionally. Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 14:56

Recently I was shopping on Expedia for a KUL<>LBU ticket with a hotel reservation together. The total price was a bit high, but not that much. On the days that worked for me, the return flight was in Business class, even though I asked for economy. Turns out economy was full, and Expedia just fulfilled my request by selecting a seat in the next available class. It was clearly indicated, but I could have missed it had I clicked clicked clicked through the options and just purchased the package (which I did anyway as I needed to go).

Maybe that's what happened during your booking.

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