Frequent fliers who have earned elite status traditionally have been awarded with complimentary upgrades. But this year, upgrades might be more difficult to come by as fewer first-class seats are available because of capacity cuts and more people have earned elite status through nonflight activities. "Over the next two years, unless you're at the midtier elite level and upwards, you're probably never going to be able to get any upgrades," said Randy Petersen, founder of FlyerTalk.com.

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