1. Fly enough to become silver status. It's a rather low barrier to entry. You might even be able to do it by getting a credit card.
  2. Buy a coach ticket.
  3. 12 hours before departure, exactly, call the 1-800 number and request your complimentary upgrade to main cabin select.
  4. Once you're given that, stay on the line.
  5. Request an upgrade from main cabin select to first class. It's about $240.
  6. Now you have a coast-to-coast first class trip for about $700.