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How To Bid For An Airline Upgrade With Confidence

Kim Wonderley
October 20, 2018 - 8:30 am

Bidding for an upgraded seat is a fairly recent change in international travel. But how does it work? KCBS Radio's Kim Wonderley took a closer look at the service in this week's Road Report. 

Travelers on Norwegian Air, Quantas or Luftansa may have been exposed to the high-stakes world of seat bidding. Many other international carriers have similar features, and, domestically, Hawaiian Air has introduced the scramble for an upgrade. 

It gives those of us in the cheap seats to travel like a member of the one percent, while airlines can make money off unsold space in the premium classes. 

Many airlines present the opportunity with an email saying that flyers can bid now for an upgrade. There's often a minimum bid required and a sliding scale that indicates the strength of your offer. Most airlines use a platform called Plusgrade and don't allow you to see what the competition is bidding. 

The bidding typically takes place one to three days before the flight. 

The popular equation for successful bidding is to subtract what you paid for your original ticket from what it costs to travel in the next level, such as business class, and then bid 20 to 40 percent of the difference.

If you win, you're required to pay up. 

Popular business routes are tougher to win than flights to strictly vacation destinations. 

One last tip: check to see how many empty seats are in the upgraded section of the cabin before bidding.