Aviation

The airlines that let you bid for an upgrade

Stephanie Yip

Going, going, gone! Stop crossing your fingers and toes in the hopes of an upgrade and put down some money to “win” a first class seat instead.

Gone are the days where lady luck had to be on your side in order for you to receive an upgrade at the airport check-in counter. And no longer must you rack up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points to get a seat in first class.

Now, if you’re willing to put a little money down, you can bid for your chance to travel in the lap of luxury. And if you’re extremely lucky, you won’t even have to put down that much.

More and more airlines are joining in on the “bid to upgrade” party, and it’s not just seats you can bid for either. With the help of sites like Optiontown, certain airlines will allow you to bid for upgraded options such as gourmet meals, priority check-in, extra luggage, an empty seat beside you and airport lounge access.

For most airlines, the auction process works in a similar way. After you’ve booked your seat, you can log into your account and bid for your upgrade. Some airlines keep your competitor’s bids secret while others will give you an idea of your chances of winning.

For example, Hawaiian Airlines, which just unveiled its Bid Up program, displays a strength meter that varies from weak to strong depending on how much you’re willing to put down. Whether this is a true indication of other people’s bids is not certain, but either way, it’s a helpful gauge for how much cash you need to splash to move up a class.

If your bid is successful, you’ll be charged your nominated bid amount and your ticket will be changed. If you lose the auction, your journey and seat will remain the same and you won’t be charged.

Many airlines also let you modify or cancel your bid up until a certain point, so you can always up your bid or bail if you feel you can’t spot the cost anymore.

Feeling lucky? Here’s a list of airlines that let you bid for an upgrade:

Airlines that let you bid to upgrade

Qantas

  • What you can bid for: Upgrade to premium economy or business class
  • What you need to know: You need to be invited to bid for an upgrade. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can bid with points and money. Non-Qantas Frequent Flyer members must bid with money.
  • Bid now: Bid Now Upgrades

Virgin Australia

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to a higher cabin class
  • What you need to know: Upgrade purchases and upgrade bids are both available.
  • Bid now: UpgradeMe

Singapore Airlines

  • What you can bid for: Upgrade to premium economy class
  • What you need to know: Upgrades are by invitation only. Minimum and maximum bid values apply.
  • Bid now: mySQupgrade

Etihad

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to business or first class or a neighbour-free seat
  • What you need to know: Upgrade purchases are also available.
  • Bid now: My Upgrade

AirAsia

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to a flatbed, neighbour-free seat and more flexibility on your ticket
  • What you need to know: Upgrades are handled through Optiontown.
  • Bid now: Optiontown

SAS

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to SAS Plus or SAS Business
  • What you need to know: EuroBonus members get a booster when bidding, so their points and money bids are worth more.
  • Bid now: SAS Upgrade

Vietnam Airlines

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to premium economy or business class
  • What you need to know: Upgrades are handled through Optiontown.
  • Bid now: Upgrade Travel

Cathay Pacific

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to premium economy or business
  • What you need to know: Available on select routes only.
  • Bid now: Upgrade bid

Hawaiian Airlines

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to first class
  • What you need to know: Available on flights between Hawaii and North America only.
  • Bid now: Bid Up

Fiji Airways

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to business class
  • What you need to know: Modifications and cancellations of your bid are allowed up to 24 hours before your flight departure.
  • Bid now: Bula Bid

Air New Zealand

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to premium economy, business premier or business
  • What you need to know: Silver, Gold and Elite Airpoints members get a booster on their bids. Bids are considered by price, Airpoints status, the number of seats available and the number of passengers on your booking.
  • Bid now: OneUp

SWISS

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade to business
  • What you need to know: Available on long-haul flights only. Not available on flights to India or Brazil.
  • Bid now: SWISS Upgrade Bargain

Garuda Indonesia

  • What can you bid for: Upgrade one cabin class either from economy to business or business to first class
  • What you need to know: Unavailable on flights to Japan, flights to Jeddah and flights that codeshare with another airline.
  • Bid now: BidUpgrade

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • John McDonald

    & why is this happening ? Cos no one wants to pay for bus class anymore. Airlines are really struggling to fill seats outside of school holidays. Some big failures coming in next 12 months, especially out of the middle east airlines, even with their “free money” loans. Who will sponsor the Mel cup in future ?

  • Benjamin Ho

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