Since I am an Abu Dhabi based frequent traveler with Etihad Airways. I would like to share with you a few tips and hints on:
How to get upgraded on Etihad?
There are many ways to get upgraded on Etihad flight. The most common wayis to redeem your miles and get a confirmed seat before hand or at check-in. But this cost your hard earned miles...
Another way to get upgraded is leverage on your status and hope you will get a complimentary upgrade at check-in or boarding.
If you're Etihad Guest Platinum, Gold or Silver, the chance to get an upgrade is higher depends on how full is your flight. You can calculate it and it works for me on 90% of my flights with them. The upgrade is called Operation Upgrade (Op Up) and it is given out to the elite frequent flyers on oversold flights.
Use a pay website such as www.ExpertFlyer.com to check flight availability in advance.
For example flight from Bombay to Abu Dhabi is showing very full in economy class on EY205 and EY203 and completely sold on EY213.
An Op Up depends on how full the premium class and how full economy class is. It also depends on how many stand by passengers are. (staff travel sub-load passengers)
On my recent flight from Bombay, i booked Economy Class using Etihad Guest Miles. It cost 11,200 miles and 70 USD tax/fee in Coach. It cost 22,400 miles and 120 USD in tax/fee in Business Class.
Knowing Economy is almost fully booked and many seat available in Business on Expertflyer. This is the scenario you are hoping for and you can save half the miles and cash and still earn yourself sitting in Business Class!
This works extremely well if you're flying to/from most Indian sub-continent and Asia as the flight always get oversold including sub-load waitlist passengers. With your Etihad Guest elite status, you will be among the first to be upgraded.
I once was the only paid passenger in Business Class while 15 out of 16 were upgraded from Delhi to Abu Dhabi, it sucks to know!
Flight to Europe are under strict EU law which airline have to compensate passenger heavily if they overbook to such an extent passenger are denied to travel as per their ticket.
The key here is knowing the load and have a status with Etihad Guest.
Update: as of Dec 2016, Etihad don't show OS code on their boarding pass anymore.
On your boarding pass top right corner, if it shows a code OS3, OS4 or OS7, congratulations, you're the upgrade candidate!
OS stand for oversell, 3 stands for Platinum which has the highest seniority to be upgraded, 4 stands for Gold and 7 stands for Silver.
Recently I flew from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco, the flight was full in both Business and Economy Class. So I've got upgraded to First Class at check-in. If you're travelling with a companion, if he/she is ticketed together on the same booking and there are enough seats available, they will also be upgraded with you!
Recently I've got another upgrade from Bombay to Abu Dhabi, this time the upgrade is done at boarding gate. You will hear a "Magic Beep" and red color on the boarding scanner. That means you've been upgraded and the agent just cross out your old seat and write the new seat on the same boarding pass.
The only downside of an Op Up is you may not get the most preferred window/aisle seat choices and there is no extra baggage allowance and limousine transfer. But consider you didn't pay extra, it is still a bonus.
I've lost count on how many times I've got upgraded. With the right status, you can as well!
I use Momondo to search extensively across the best airfare before buying it. Have a look at this post to see how it is working for getting a cheaper ticket! Momondo definitely features the best First and Business Class deals of any Flight Search Engine out there. I have put together many useful travel tips and airfare promotions in my Smart Travel section to guide you travel in more luxury with lower price!