Want to upgrade to Business class on your next flight? Upgrading with frequent flyer points could be an option, but what if you don’t have enough of them? Or perhaps you’ve bought a non-upgradeable fare?
Bidding is another way to secure a flight upgrade. Many airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand let you bid for an upgrade in an online “auction” for spare Business class seats. You can name your own price – within a minimum and maximum bid range – and won’t pay anything unless your upgrade is confirmed. You’ll be notified of the outcome a few days before the flight. If there are still empty seats in Business class, the upgrade will be yours!
Some airlines only offer the opportunity to bid for an upgrade on an “invitation-only” basis. Others, such as Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, let anyone place a bid.
So, how much does it cost to bid for an upgrade? Well, each airline sets its own minimum and maximum bid prices. These amounts vary by route, and may also depend on how full the flight is. As an example, minimum bids on short-haul domestic flights are typically around $100-$130. On a trans-Tasman flight, you can expect to pay at least $200 for the upgrade… but they can be even cheaper. In fact, Virgin has previously offered discounts on the minimum bid price. And if you’ve paid more for a flexible ticket, expect the minimum bid price to be lower.
When choosing an amount to bid, it’s often a good idea to bump-up your offer slightly above the minimum bid. You won’t know how many other people have placed a bid, nor how much they’re prepared to pay. But many people simply bid the minimum amount and hope for the best. Increasing your bid – even by $5 above the minimum – will increase your chances of success.
When upgrading you’ll typically receive most of the benefits associated with a Business class ticket, including lounge access. But some airlines won’t give you a higher baggage allowance. You’ll still earn the points and status credits for your originally-booked Economy fare.
Here’s how it works on these airlines…
Qantas Bid Now Upgrades
Qantas Bid Now upgrades require a combination of money and frequent flyer points. For domestic flights you’ll need to bid at least 3,000 Qantas points, or 5,000 points for international flights. In addition, Qantas sets a minimum cash bid amount. You can increase the number of points used to decrease the cash component – but we don’t suggest doing this as the value is poor.
Frequent flyers upgrading with points receive priority over Bid Now upgrades, so it’s generally better to submit a Classic Flight Upgrade request. But bidding could be a good option if you’ve booked a non-upgradeable fare or don’t have enough points.
There’s no guarantee you’ll receive an offer to submit a bid on every Qantas flight. They’re invitation-only with Qantas. If you receive an offer, bidding closes 24 hours before departure. You’ll be notified of the outcome of your request shortly thereafter.
You can discuss Qantas Bid Now upgrades on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Successful QF ‘Bid Now Upgrades’ data thread
Virgin Australia UpgradeMe Premium Bids
All Virgin Australia passengers can bid for an upgrade any time from booking until 48 hours before departure. Bids are typically well-priced and Virgin often accepts minimum bid amounts.
If you’ve already paid extra for an Economy X seat and your upgrade offer is accepted, you are entitled to a refund of the Economy X seat selection fee.
You can discuss Virgin Australia UpgradeMe Premium Bids on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: UpgradeMe pricing and success
Air New Zealand OneUp Upgrades
Air New Zealand offers everyone the chance to bid for an upgrade on its flights. OneUp upgrades can be paid for using money or Airpoints Dollars. Upgrades are allocated to the highest bidders first, although frequent flyers with Air New Zealand status have their bids “up-weighted”. Bidding closes 7 days before the flight.
As the name suggests, upgrades are one-class only. So you cannot upgrade from Economy to Business class if there is a Premium Economy cabin on the aircraft.
You can discuss Air New Zealand OneUp upgrades on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: AIR NZ One Up success
Bid for an upgrade on other airlines
Other airlines have similar systems. This includes Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Fiji Airways, LATAM Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, South African Airways and many others.
Almost every airline with upgrade auctions uses the Plusgrade system. See the Plusgrade website for a list of participating airlines.