The secret way to get upgraded when traveling

Getting upgraded to business or first class while traveling feels a bit like winning the lottery, you get to comfortably sit with extra legroom, sipping champagne away from screaming infants. These highly coveted seats are hard to come by without paying some hefty fares, but many travelers don’t know that airlines offer a way to get upgraded at bargain prices: by bidding for it. Many airlines get rid of unsold premium cabin space through a bidding process that can get travelers upgraded to premium economy, business or first class.

Getting Started

The bidding process is standard across the board with all airlines. Once you complete your booking:  

  1. You will receive an email letting you know you are eligible to bid for an upgrade.
  2. Go to the airline’s website to see if you are eligible to bid for an upgrade.
  3. Always contact your travel agent first and ask them to see what options you have in order to upgrade prior to check-in.


How it Works

The online auction system is run by a company named Plusgrade, which most major airlines have signed up with. Once passengers know whether their flight is eligible for upgrades, here is how it works:

  1. Enter a bid price, as well as your credit card information.
  2. Wait to learn if your offer is successful, usually about 72 hours before departure.


Pros and Cons

While this offers an affordable way to get upgraded on your next flight, there are some cons. Firstly, there is no set price to bid on, so you never know what your chances of getting upgraded are and there are no guarantees. Plusgrade offers a strength meter scale, but not much else. Additionally, you don’t find out if your bid was successful until about 72 hours before departure, with leaves you with limited options if you didn’t get your upgrade. As mentioned before, if you are using a Travel Management Company, always consult with your travel agent to maximize your chances of getting upgraded using your status or special agency promos to score free upgrades to premium classes .


Terms and conditions

 While terms and conditions vary, some standard apply:

  1. You may only place a bid after you have a ticketed reservation.
  2. Not all routes are eligible.
  3. Most airlines require your bid to be placed at least 72 hours prior to departure.
  4. You must include credit card information at the time of bidding, although your card won’t be charged unless your bid is accepted.
  5. All accepted bids are nonrefundable unless your flight is canceled.
  6. If upgraded, most programs give you all the perks and benefits of your new travel class, including lounge access and extra baggage allowance.

Airlines That Offer Bidding for Upgrades

Below are the airlines that offer bidding for upgrades, with links to their Terms and Conditions:  

Aer Lingus 


Air China 

Air Mauritius 

Air New Zealand

American Airlines 


Austrian Airlines

Brussels Airlines 

Cathay Pacific 

Copa Airlines 

Czech Airlines 

El Al 


Garuda Indonesia 





Malaysian Airlines 


Singapore Air

Sri Lankan Airlines 

TAP Portugal 

Virgin Atlantic 

Virgin Australia 

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