Should Your Boss Get The Upgrade Instead of You?

Years ago during one business trip when I worked for a company and held the highest level of elite status with Continental Airlines, I was upgraded to a seat in the premium class cabin; while the person to whom I reported did not — and as I watched him walk the “walk of shame” down the aisle towards the seat to which he was assigned in the economy class cabin, I simply smiled at him from the comfort of my seat while sipping on my pre-departure beverage.

In response, he sneered at me while mumbling a few expletives under his breath.

We had a great relationship where we joked around with each other all of the time. He never acted like he was my superior. We worked very well together, laughed a lot and had a great time on the job. We were quite productive as well. I still miss that interaction which we had — but I also never let him forget about that upgrade.

Do not feel bad for him: he never let me forget a lot of things either — and that was just fine with me. I could take it just as well as I dished it out…

…but more often than not, many people unfortunately do not seem to have that kind of relationship with their bosses. That can lead to some awkward scenarios — such as when you get an upgrade and your boss does not.

What do you do if you find yourself in that situation?

Should Your Boss Get The Upgrade Instead of You?

Apparently little has changed since I first asked the question “You are Upgraded. Your Boss is Not. What Do You Do?” here at The Gate greater than nine years ago. First, let us start with an excerpt from a discussion which I highlighted in that article:

“So a bunch of us that work together that FLY everywhere were talking at dinner last night”, recalled FlyerTalk member iCorpRoadie. “We recounted a story when we all worked at the same company and FLEW EVERYWHERE for work. Once the CEO of the company was going to fly with us, well we were all upgraded to First and he wasn’t. At the time one of the co-workes and the CEO were not on good terms and told his supervisor that if anything was said about us all being in first and the CEO being back in coach, he would quit his job (at the time we were all at a point where we wanted to quit).

“Sure enough, as we all preboarded and sat there in first drinking and such, the rest of the cabin began to fill in, the CEO of our company at the time boarded and well as he walked past under his breath he said ‘you f***ers’. Needless to say the one that threatened to quit did that week. Over the course of two years we all were either fired or quit that were on that flight and we all formed a sorta co-op of working together and are WAY better off now than ever before.”

Would you have given up your upgrade to the chief executive officer?

What if you had a higher elite status than the person to whom you report at the company where you are employed? “This doesn’t feel right — I have higher status than my boss…and my boss is a very senior SVP”, posted FlyerTalk member ButIsItArt. “It doesn’t seem like it should be this way in the great order of things. Help me, follow FTers feel not so bad about this…”

Matters are only worsened if you are unfortunate enough to report to a person who is simply jealous. “My boss is Silver and I am gold and always get the Exec Level and many times a suite,” explained FlyerTalk member jmplatinum. “He gets neither. So, today he is deciding where we should stay and notes that I would absolutely prefer the Hilton and picks Wyndham. It should be noted that I will be there an entire week while everyone else will be there for 1 night.”

What if you were outright ordered to give up your upgrade to your boss? “This happened to me today, and I was happy to oblige”, justified FlyerTalk member zcat18. “I do understand executive privilege and optics. However, it still struck me as a bit over the top.”

If I were the boss and a subordinate secured an upgrade where I had not, it would be of no issue to me at all, as that person most likely earned the upgrade. Likewise, if I were faced with being forced to relinquish my upgrade to a superior, I would most likely quit that job.

My Rationale — As Naïve as It May Be

You should enjoy working for a living — whether you are employed at a company or operate your own business. You should not have to deal with politics and allow a hierarchy to dictate your happiness — or lack thereof. You earned that upgrade by traveling on your own time for company business — even if the company paid for your travel.

There are those who are of the mindset that because the company paid for your travel, they get to dictate how you travel. That is true to a point: I can understand why a company would purchase a seat in the economy class cabin instead of the premium class cabin to save money; although there are companies which will approve the purchase of a seat in the premium class cabin when minimum standards of its travel policies are met in order to ensure that the value of the productivity of employees exceeds the cost of the upgraded travel. That concept is known as a return on investment.

However, if you earned elite level status as a result of the frequency of travel to which you had already committed and endured — and that upgrade did not cost a penny to the company — then you should not be denied that upgrade, in my opinion. If your boss wants that upgrade so badly, he or she can pay for it out of his or her pocket if the company will not approve the expense.

How many times have you traveled on your own time for company business? Can you count the number of times company business took precedence over your own personal business which would be considered important to you? Think of all of the times you traveled in discomfort due to allergies or illness; experienced the irregular operations you have endured due to weather or mechanical issues or labor disputes; suffered from the kid who kicked your seat from behind dozens of times as the baby next to you cried during the entire flight; sat in the middle seat where you had to wrestle for an armrest; had the back of the seat in your face when the passenger in front of you decided to recline his or her seat; or when you argued with someone who poached the seat you reserved months ago.

Yeah. You earned that upgrade, my friend.


If you are at your job because you need the money but are unhappy, I would suggest as a certified managerial coach that you should consider rethinking your priorities and set goals to get you from where you are now to a position where you feel like you are stealing money because you enjoy the work that you do so much. A boss should be supportive of you — not jealous or vindictive…

…but we all know that that is the ideal situation and not always the way it works, unfortunately.

Work should be fun. You should wake up in the morning raring to go — not dreading the day which lies ahead for you. For some people, travel — and its perks, which seem to be more difficult to earn and enjoy these days — is part of that fun when working. You should not have to worry about someone taking your fun and what you enjoy away from you.

Am I wrong here? Is there something which I am missing?