The End Of Free Business Class Upgrades? I’m Excited!

Envoy Suite Configuration

Sharron Livingston, of Travel Magazine, wrote a piece this week outlining why the end of business class upgrades may be a thing of the past. I have to admit, the headline caught my attention! 

Austrian, Air New Zealand, El Al, Ethihad and Virgin Atlantic have all signed up to be part of a new blind bidding process that will auction off the open seats in business class.

Not all passengers will be eligible. Selected passengers will be  chosen by technology developed by software developer Plusgrade. In order to be eligible for the upgrade, you will have already had to buy an economy ticket and meet other undefined criteria. 

The company’s chief executive Ken Harris said:”The concept came from the fact that if a flight leaves from London to New York right now and no-one is sitting in seat 2A, that seat would be lost forever”.

Plusgrade is working on a project with El Al where you can bid for an extra seat next to you – so you have no seatmate.

How it works:  When you complete the purchase of an economy ticket on a participating airline, you may receive an invitation to upgrade. If you qualify, you will be directed to another page where you can bid for an upgrade to a business class.

If you have the winning bid, you will be notified via email. If not, you won’t be charged.

There is a huge risk that customers who would normally pay for business class might opt for this option if they know how to game the system.  That is why there is so much secrecy around how the software selects passengers to send an upgrade invitation to.

The other risk is that those airlines alienate their frequent flyers who would otherwise have been upgraded potentially.  Personally, it’s great for someone like me who has status with an airline like US Airways but flies Star Alliance partners regularly.  I never get upgraded overseas and this would allow me to bid for upgrades.  I’m all for it and it might change the way I fly. Heck, it will change the way I fly.

7 Comments on "The End Of Free Business Class Upgrades? I’m Excited!"

  1. I just booked a very cheap eco return on Etihad (AMS-BKK-DUS for EUR 400) and got the invitation to bid for C upgrade on all flights. Minimum bid however was EUR 300/400 per segment, so not a great deal.

    Placed one bid for the AUH-BKK leg, let’s see what happens.

  2. Lufthansa Flyer | May 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

    For Austrian, All passengers and all economy fare class purchases are eligible for the biz class bid process.

  3. @LF Flyer – well, I may be flying with Austrian a lot more 🙂

  4. @Gerard, I’d probably have done the same. Bid on the long legs.

  5. I just got the confirmation that the upgrade was accepted….. will see how their C class is.
    It’s “just” a 6 hour 25 minute flight so not that great a deal for almost €50 an hour :-). But it’s a night flight so I just might get some sleep….

  6. @Gerard, you should have a great flight! Its supposed to be very nice. 50 Euro, that’s a deal for C on any flight of 6 hours plus.

  7. It’s €50 an hour spend on the flight (I offered €310 for a 6,5 hour flight, the minimum amount that was allowed).

    They have quite a decent system set up where you can use sliders to set the amount for all legs of your flight.
    The surprising thing was that they stated they would accept the offers “no later than 24hours before departure” but I got the confirmation more than 3 days before departure.

    Flight must be really empty in C or overbooked in Y.

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