Monthly Archives: December 2012

The upgrade

An upgrade is both a blessing and a curse. You can never go back. Correction – you will go back, whether you like it or not, but you won’t like it. Not one bit. And your expectations get higher and higher each time. And the disappointment more bitter each time.

‘Before’… my view between the lacy curtains
at the Cathedral Gate Hotel
My first taste of an upgrade was during a visit to the historic town of Canterbury in my naive early 20s. I was staying right next to Canterbury Cathedral in a hotel that had been a place of accommodation for 600 years. The corridors sloped alarmingly and the bathroom had a bath and a plastic container to help you throw water over your head. No, it was not the late middle ages, it was the late 1990s. So I shuffled into the tiny front office with my trusty backpack and was told that my single room was not available, did I mind taking a double at no extra cost? Did I mind? I thought I’d won the lottery! I was all a-giggle when I threw my backpack down on to the floral bedspread and gazed out the window and on to a small town square. Utterly content and smug.

Upgrades were few and far between for the next decade. When taking flights, I was told, by people allegedly in the know, that I should dress nicely, ask nicely whether the plane is full and suggest, nicely, that I would be amenable to an upgrade should one become available.

That never worked.

On a flight between Hong Kong and Beijing my friend and I tried to buy our own darn upgrade and failed at that too! The ground staff told us it was really too expensive to consider (um… $250 each) and anyway, there was really only one seat available. This sounded suspiciously vague to us….

The breakthrough came when I travelled with two frequent, Qantas Club members and our flight was delayed. Someone summoned us via loudspeaker to the front desk. There we were solemnly handed our new boarding passes. Lovely blue ones. Business Class. BUSINESS CLASS. All the way to Hong Kong.

That flight was one of the most enjoyable of my life. I still think fondly about the fine asparagus and gruyere soup, of the champagne on arrival, and of the stewardess who kindly enquired whether there was anything else that could possibly be done for me. I played with that adjustable chair for hours, trying every horizontal, vertical and semi-horizontal/vertical position available (truth be told the cushion was a little thin and the mechanics underneath a little lumpy) but I could not sleep for a moment. What? And miss being in Business Class? No way!

Every economy flight after that has been particularly galling and depressing. On the way back from that same Business Class trip, we were upgraded again but only to Premium Economy. I remember the three of us sniffing our noses with slight disappointment. Premium Economy, eh? If we must I suppose.

The best upgrade I’ve ever experienced, however, was on a recent trip to Singapore. I was checking into the Marina Bay Sands resort and unbeknown to me, a friend of mine had spoken to her friend at the Marina Bay and asked if anything special could be arranged for me. I was travelling by myself.

Well. I sauntered up to the front office on my birthday and handed over my voucher for a room I felt sure would be in the basement. ‘Happy birthday’, the receptionist smiled. She tapped and fiddled away and then said, ‘Sorry I’ll just be a minute, I’m printing your Club Privileges letter’.

‘After’….the view from my king size bed at the
Marina Bay Sands Resort
Che? ‘I’m pretty sure that’s not the room I booked’, I told her. She glanced at my quizzically and then smiled, ‘Oh, you’ve been upgraded’. I positively beamed.
I was at my bumpkin best when I threw open the door to my 52nd Floor Suite and couldn’t help shouting ‘Oh my God, someone else has to see this!! Oh. My. God’. Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Bay. Two lounge rooms. A dressing room. A bathroom bigger than my last hotel room. And a king size bed. All to myself. My friend had also organised flowers, a cake and a bottle of wine. Heavenly. Apart from the fact that I was terrified at the prospect of approaching the window (the dizzying heights!), I was unbearably happy.

I could never stay there again of course – I couldn’t bear staying in the bargain basement room next time round and the chances of my being so spectacularly upgraded again are slim. Hence the blessing and the curse.

Does anyone else have a good upgrade story?

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