How To Bid For An Airline Upgrade

Swiss A330 Business Class

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Buying a premium airline ticket does not come cheap, especially for long haul flights. If you are planning a trip over 6 hours a business class ticket can typically be on the lowest end $2,000 – $10,000 round trip. Compared to the average price of economy that’s sometimes a bit too much cash to stomach.

We know why as airline premium seats can be some of the most luxury ways to travel.

Now getting upgraded on an airline even with top tier status is becoming incredibly rare. Air travel is at its peak and loyalty programs have certainly been shrinking their benefits to travelers.

Now not all hope is lost since there are certainly a number of ways to get upgraded to business class on the likes of Air France, United Airlines, or even Swiss Airlines. However, these processes typically have a set fee that you need to pay and there is no predicting how much it’ll be.

Then comes airlines that offer a “bid to upgrade process”.

This process basically allows you to input an amount you would be willing to pay in order to be upgraded. Typically about 24 hours before departure, the airline will upgrade those that bid the highest for the amount of available seats they have.

The process is usually pretty straight forward but we will break down exactly how to bid, what airlines offer the program, and how to increase the chances your bid is accepted.

How to bid to upgrade

When an airline offers a bid to upgrade program you will typically see it on the Manage Booking screen. We will walk you through our example from a Swiss Airlines flight on an A330 from Newark to Zurich then onwards to Dubai.

Once you click through the Bid for upgrade you will be brought to a screen to see your options. You will notice that depending on your flights not everyone will be eligible but in this case we were booking in business class so were offered a bid for first class.

There will be multiple options to bid with typically a minimum and a maximum range. This means you can’t just place an extremely low offer as the minimum when I saw was about $600 to go from business to first class. Going from economy to business may be more but it sounds in line with what you can expect.

How to successfully enter your bid is as follows:

  1. Enter your bid per route, and follow the further instructions on the website. As soon as your bid is received, you will get a email confirmation.
  2. You can change or withdraw your bid at any time up to 132 hours before the planned departure.
  3. Between 132 and 48 hours before the planned departure time we will inform you by email whether your bid has been successful or not.

The above is specific to Swiss Airlines but its very similar to all others.

Airlines that offer bid to upgrade

There are a number of different airlines around the world that offer biddable programs for upgrades. Some of them that offer that ability include:

AegeanEtihad Airways
Aer LingusFiji Airways
AeroMexicoHawaiian Airlines
Air CanadaIcelandair
AirEuropaKenya Airways
Air IndiaLATAM
Air MauritiusLufthansa
Air New ZealandQantas
All Nippon AirwaysRoyal Jordanian
AviancaScandinavian Airlines
Brussels AirlinesSingapore Airlines
Cathay PacificSriLankan Airlines
Copa AirlinesSwiss Airlines
Czech AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
EdelweissVirgin Atlantic
Ethiopian AirlinesVirgin Australia

How to increase the odds of winning a bid

So now that you are able to bid for an upgrade – should you and will you be successful?

Of course, this depends.

For me, going from business to first class is not a big enough difference to spend this amount of money. Maybe on a special trip or if I really want to experience a certain airline first class product but outside of that the business class bed is what I’m after.

Now going from economy to business can certainly be worth it so I would highly consider doing it in that instance.

Typically when bidding you can get a business class seat for cheaper than the fare difference but not always on the ultra cheap.

The best way to ensure you are successful with your bid would be to:

  • Use a tool like ExpertFlyer to see how many premium class seats are available on your flight.
  • Typically you should aim to pay about 30% of the difference in a business class fare and the economy fare you already paid.
  • Always bid a little bit above the minimum, since most people will choose the minimum amount.

If you are successful with your bid you will be notified 24 – 48 hours prior to your flight. The good news about getting upgraded that early instead of before boarding is you can experience the full benefits of a business class ticket including lounge access prior.

Summary & Takeaways

Flying in business and first class can be out of reach for many but being able to bid for an upgrade makes that process just a bit easier. If you are on an airline that has the offering make sure to check your manage booking section to see if you are eligible for an offer.

When placing a bid, unless you are towards the top of the asking price, I wouldn’t always count on it clearing but there is a decent chance.

If you’ve been successful in winning a bid upgrade let us know how you did it in the comments.

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