Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

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rjbraun
Posts: 1232
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by rjbraun » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:22 am

We are flying Cathay Pacific to Vancouver later this month. Cathay offers the ability to bid on a one-class upgrade, i.e., from Economy to Premium Economy, in our case. The site shows a "dial" with price ranges, including the likelihood of receiving the upgrade ranging from "poor" to "excellent" and the "average upgrade price" (with various associated provisos).

My understanding is that you place your bid and Cathay will let you know the results at some indeterminate date prior to flight departure. If your bid is accepted you will automatically be upgraded and charged what you bid. If not, you keep your Economy seat and incur no further charges.

The process seems pretty straight forward. The only two issues I can think of would be 1) whether SO and I could be seated apart if we got the upgrade (we currently have one window and one aisle seat assigned -- there's a middle seat between us, so I suppose Cathay could say that we're not seated together to begin with) and 2) I think I read somewhere that upgrades like this might not be refundable under certain circumstances where other charges might stand to get refunded. In that regard, the most likely scenario for us to seek a refund would be due to illness, etc. in which case the Chase Sapphire Reserve we have should cover the UR refund on the underlying tickets themselves, but I suppose the bid amount paid might not be. To avoid this we could wait to bid until very close to departure date (and could try to find out when Cathay closes bidding).

I'd be interested to hear of others' experiences with bidding for seat upgrades on Cathay or other carriers. At this point, I am kind of on the fence about bidding, especially as the outbound flight may not be so crowded. In that regard, I suppose we could put in a low-ball bid "just for fun".

Note: We booked the flights using Chase Ultimate Reward points. I was amazed that the price we paid was quite a bit lower than the going rate shown on Cathay's website (at least 10% less and maybe even 15% lower). Despite that it was nice to see the flight eligible for upgrade!

MindTheGAAP
Posts: 244
Joined: Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:44 am

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by MindTheGAAP » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:46 pm

We just flew with Singapore Airlines (May 2018) and they gave us the option to do the same. We got a killer deal on the original tickets ($600 rt/pp from Houston to Bali, so about 50% off) and so the minimum cost/bid to upgrade to PE was high ($1,200 rt/pp). We passed on it and we're glad we did. Premium Economy, at least for Singapore Airlines, is 1 less seat on a row with each seat getting 1/8th of the single seat. You can recline slightly more and the screen for the entertainment system is larger (13" instead of 10" or something similar). You also got champagne on the drinks cart that you didn't get back in peasant class.

Had the offer been to upgrade to business class, we would have certainly entertained it, but I think Premium Economy is a bit of a rip-off, in my own experience and opinion. Just my $0.02, though
"One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute" - William Feather

rjbraun
Posts: 1232
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by rjbraun » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:19 pm

MindTheGAAP wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:46 pm
We just flew with Singapore Airlines (May 2018) and they gave us the option to do the same. We got a killer deal on the original tickets ($600 rt/pp from Houston to Bali, so about 50% off) and so the minimum cost/bid to upgrade to PE was high ($1,200 rt/pp). We passed on it and we're glad we did. Premium Economy, at least for Singapore Airlines, is 1 less seat on a row with each seat getting 1/8th of the single seat. You can recline slightly more and the screen for the entertainment system is larger (13" instead of 10" or something similar). You also got champagne on the drinks cart that you didn't get back in peasant class.

Had the offer been to upgrade to business class, we would have certainly entertained it, but I think Premium Economy is a bit of a rip-off, in my own experience and opinion. Just my $0.02, though
Thanks for the feedback. Interesting that Singapore Airlines seems to have imposed a minimum bid constraint. Cathay seems to let us go as low as $100, so, arguably, a minimum, I suppose, but I don't really consider it one (chances to win are understandably "poor").

For 100 bucks I would take PE, but like you my sense is that it's only marginally better. Of course, I am admittedly assuming / hoping that the middle seat will remain free, in which case two of us with an empty seat in-between doesn't make me want to spend, say, $800 round-trip per person to sit in PE. I agree, business class would be a different story.

TravelGeek
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Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:23 pm

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:29 pm

MindTheGAAP wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:46 pm
We just flew with Singapore Airlines (May 2018) and they gave us the option to do the same. We got a killer deal on the original tickets ($600 rt/pp from Houston to Bali, so about 50% off) and so the minimum cost/bid to upgrade to PE was high ($1,200 rt/pp). We passed on it and we're glad we did. Premium Economy, at least for Singapore Airlines, is 1 less seat on a row with each seat getting 1/8th of the single seat. You can recline slightly more and the screen for the entertainment system is larger (13" instead of 10" or something similar). You also got champagne on the drinks cart that you didn't get back in peasant class.
You also get significantly improved leg room with PE.

I am general a fan of PE offerings as a middle ground between bone and back crushing coach and too-luxurious-for-my-needs business class. I wouldn't have paid a $1200 upgrade fee for it, though. Somehow a really good deal makes an uncomfortable coach seat more palatable. :)

MindTheGAAP
Posts: 244
Joined: Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:44 am

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by MindTheGAAP » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:32 pm

TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:29 pm
MindTheGAAP wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:46 pm
We just flew with Singapore Airlines (May 2018) and they gave us the option to do the same. We got a killer deal on the original tickets ($600 rt/pp from Houston to Bali, so about 50% off) and so the minimum cost/bid to upgrade to PE was high ($1,200 rt/pp). We passed on it and we're glad we did. Premium Economy, at least for Singapore Airlines, is 1 less seat on a row with each seat getting 1/8th of the single seat. You can recline slightly more and the screen for the entertainment system is larger (13" instead of 10" or something similar). You also got champagne on the drinks cart that you didn't get back in peasant class.
You also get significantly improved leg room with PE.

I am general a fan of PE offerings as a middle ground between bone and back crushing coach and too-luxurious-for-my-needs business class. I wouldn't have paid a $1200 upgrade fee for it, though. Somehow a really good deal makes an uncomfortable coach seat more palatable. :)
At the right price ($100 is certainly a good price) then I'd likely do it for sure. It just wasn't worth 2x our original cost (minimum) to get it for our trip - even with 26 hours of flight time! :shock:
"One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute" - William Feather

TravelGeek
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Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:23 pm

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:31 pm

MindTheGAAP wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:32 pm

At the right price ($100 is certainly a good price) then I'd likely do it for sure. It just wasn't worth 2x our original cost (minimum) to get it for our trip - even with 26 hours of flight time! :shock:
$100 is also highly unlikely unless you’re base economy fare is in a very high (expensive) fare class. The real estate taken up by the PE seat and other ancillary costs (food, bag allowance, perhaps higher mileage earnings) would not be covered by a $100 surcharge on a $600 fare from the US to Bali. Even Economy Plus style products (just extra leg room) typically cost more. :)

GMan82
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Location: Georgia

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by GMan82 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:43 pm

I’ve done it on Virgin Australia (Econ—>Business) domestically and on Singapore Air (Econ—>Business, no PE Class in this aircraft) from Perth to Singapore. I thought it was worth it because they were lie flat seats on flights > 4 hours.

I paid about $650 for the international flight (5.5 hours) and about $400 for the domestic flight upgrade (4 hours).

rj49
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:22 am

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by rj49 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:33 pm

I won an upgrade to premium on Norwegian Air a few weeks ago, Seattle to London. I bid the minimum, $230, which was actually more expensive than the original ticket ($160), but in came with a better meal, free booze and other drinks, and of course plenty of room to recline in comfort and not have to rub elbows with a stranger. I would think it completely worth it for a cross-ocean flight, especially if you compare it to the full-price cost of such a ticket. On my return flight I didn't get my offer accepted, and although I had a bulkhead row with plenty of legroom, I also had a buiky Swede next to me shoving his elbows into my space and fidgeting and bumping me for 9 hours, so to me extra space and comfort and being treated well is worth it.

If you don't want to upgrade, you could also simply play the seating game to try to get seats with empty ones around them, or move to an empty row after the doors close--I've claimed empty rows before and have sometimes been able to lay down, albeit uncomfortably.

For some reason many people fixate on airline ticket price over comfort, whereas most people won't choose the cheapest possible car or stay in the cheapest possible lodging or buy the cheapest available house, but to me the treat and surprise aspects of an airline upgrade really improve a vacation, especially since flights have gotten more stressful and uncomfortable. It will get a vacation started on a more positive note, and if it allows more sleep before arriving, it also will help enjoyment when you do arrive, since you'll be better rested.

Another worthwhile upgrade to improve your experience is to get Global Entry--when I arrived in Seatac yesterday there was a line of hundreds waiting at immigration, but I skipped ahead of all of them and was through immigration and customs in 5 minutes. My Nexus card gives me Global Entry and TSA Pre-check, well worth avoiding waits and stresses. Some foreign airports offer an equivalent--I noticed Gatwick has a priority immigration line if you pre-pay a reservation line for $10 or so, avoiding another nightmarish line of hundreds of people being cleared by 3-4 agents. I prefer to spend money on things like that which improve my vacation experience and save me time, and at the same time I'll recoup the expense easily by eating cheaply for some meals (pizza and kebabs in Europe or great bread and cheeses) or choosing public transportation over taxis.

xb7
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Location: WA State, USA

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by xb7 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:42 pm

I think that the value of premium economy varies a lot by airline, and perhaps by whether you're flying domestic or internationally, at least in some cases. On Icelandair, I found PE to be worth a fair bit, whereas on Delta Air, I found PE to be of (low) marginal value (I've only flown PE on Delta on domestic flights). If I were a longer-legged person, I might find Delta's version a little more attractive --- you still have to pay for checked baggage, they don't feed you, and the row width is the same, which is typically a bigger deal for me than the front-to-back distance. On Icelandair the block off the middle seat in a 3-seat row, which is a big deal, you get to use their lounge, also very nice in Reykjavik, and they feed you.

I also flew PE on Iberia (on a flight to Spain, of course), and it was also quite nice --- unlike the Delta experience, noticeably better..

I have bid for upgrades on Icelandair; more often than not I've lost the bid but did win one-leg of a two-leg flight upgrade once. And another time my wife and I were just moved into unused business class seats from premium economy; my sense was that was a one-off, rarely- or never-to-be-repeated experience, but it was nice!

Hillview
Posts: 311
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:27 am

Re: Bidding for airline flight class upgrade

Post by Hillview » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:56 pm

flyertalk.com will have a lot of detail on this if you are interested in more info

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