Business trips are always stressful, and sitting in a cramped seat in coach just adds to your misery. Unfortunately, fewer airlines are offering upgrades to passengers, which makes getting first class airfare even more difficult than before. Unless you work for a company that offers first class tickets as a business perk — unlikely — you’ll have to find other ways to upgrade to first class airfare on business trips.

Have Your Boss Book the Flight

If you’re new to the world of business trips, you might ask your boss or an experienced administrative assistant to handle your travel booking. Often, when you work on the go for many years, you pick up tools of the trade that can get you first class airfare on business trips without batting an eye. This is especially true if your boss or a secretary has book flights with the same airlines for many years. They’re likely on a first-name basis with the personnel and will be more likely to be offered a free (or discounted) upgrade.

Ask About Company Discounts

Many companies — particularly oil and gas corporations — have business deals with various service providers. For example, Weatherford International Ltd., an oil service company, can get its employees discounts on airfare, rental cars, computers and tons of other products and services. Make sure you check with your human resources department to find out whether it would be cheaper to book your flights through the company or on your own.

Ask Specifically for Heavily Discounted Tickets

When you call the airline with which you want to book your business trip, be careful about how you word your inquiries. Asking for the lowest discounted airfare for first class will likely get you a much lower price than asking for airfare on its own. Rather than waiting to see if you’ll be bumped just before the flight, try to get a deal when you book your travel arrangements. This allows you to prepare for first class airfare rather than finding out at the last minute that you qualify for an upgrade. You should also be careful about bargaining away your miles — save that for a last resort.

Use the Smaller Airlines

Getting an upgrade to first class airfare on Continental or Delta might be a monumental feat, but if you use one of the smaller airlines, you’ll be more likely to get the upgrade you desire. This is especially true if you use the same small airline over and over again; they’re more appreciative of repeat business and will recognize your loyalty. Make sure to mention how often you fly when you ask about free upgrades, and don’t be afraid to try a different airline if your current one isn’t giving you the perks you deserve.

Take Advantage of a Long Business Trip

Many of the international airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, offer a middle ground that might be appealing on those long business trip flights. Rather than attempting to upgrade to first class airfare, consider taking the premium economy seats. This half-step between coach and first class offers roomier seats and more leg room to stretch out. It costs between four hundred and five hundred dollars more, but it’s worth it on a twenty-hour flight.