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How Do Airline Bid Upgrades Work?

How Do Airline Bid Upgrades Work?

Many airlines around the world allow passengers to place a bid to upgrade to a higher class of service before a flight. Travellers benefit from a more comfortable experience, and airlines benefit by generating additional revenue on what would otherwise be unsold inventory.

While paying cash for an upgrade doesn’t necessarily offer the same appeal as getting a “free” flight by using frequent flyer or credit card points, or by using eUpgrades on Air Canada flights, bid upgrades can still help you score a surprise upgrade for an affordable fee or save money if you were going to pay cash for a premium cabin ticket anyway.

How Do Bid Upgrades Work?

Interestingly, many air, cruise, and travel companies have partnered with Montreal-based Plusgrade to generate ancillary revenue from unsold space. Plusgrade handles upgrade requests through an online portal on behalf of the organizations, so the process of bidding for an upgrade will be nearly identical for all of their partners.

While the specific details for each airline may differ slightly, bid upgrades largely follow the same sequence of events:

  1. Book your flight
  2. Sign in to your booking and look for a “Bid Upgrade” option
  3. Enter your bid before the specified cut-off time
  4. Wait for notification that your bid has been accepted or declined, usually within 48 hours of departure

Though the process itself is relatively straightforward, there are some nuances about bid upgrades at each step along the way. Airlines don’t openly publish criteria for bid upgrades, but we can observe some tendencies about the process.

Not all fares are eligible for bid upgrades. Airlines reserve the right to modify the list of flights for which a bid upgrades are eligible. Most mention that bid upgrade eligibility depends on a variety of factors, including cabin class and seat availability.

In practice, this usually means that the lowest, most restrictive fare (“Basic” on Air Canada and WestJet) will not be eligible for a bid upgrade. This makes sense, as airlines would be able to generate more revenue from a higher fare with a bid upgrade or from a premium ticket in the first place.

Further, the range of prices for a bid upgrade depends on the original fare booked. Generally speaking, if you’ve selected a higher fare class, your range of bids is likely to be lower than if you selected a lower fare. 

If your flight is eligible for a bid, after you…

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