Reader Question: How To Request Individual Cash Upgrades On Etihad Airways And Does It Make Sense?

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As part of our Reader Question series today we’d like to feature one request that reached us yesterday asking if it makes sense to pay for Etihad Airways cash upgrades.

Remember that you can always email us, send a message via Facebook or use Twitter and include photos too. We’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

You can access Etihad’s web page for upgrade options here.

We have written about cash upgrades, upgrade bidding and respective pricing for several airlines before and try to keep this information current as reference for our readers so I’m quite thankful when readers occasionally remind us that it’s time to write about it again.

Here is the email we received from our reader:

Hi John & Sebastian,

thanks for your recent article about Thai Airways upgrades.

In the coming weeks I’ll fly on Etihad Airways from Beijing to London via Abu Dhabi on a one way ticket as I’ll be moving to the UK. I’ll have at least three pieces of baggage and was wondering if it makes sense to upgrade at least one segment to Business Class for extra baggage allowance.

What would be the best way to upgrade my ticket?


Cash upgrades have been popular ever since as they offer people the opportunity to fly Business Class on at least individual segments without the large upfront cost for a full Business Class ticket. It doesn’t always make sense though as prices for these upgrade have somewhat gone up over the years while the actual ticket prices for premium tickets went down.

Etihad actually offers a variety of different upgrade options for passengers that are interested in using such cash upgrades.

The options are

  • Select Upgrade through the Plusgrade Online Bidding System
  • Push Upgrade through the Call Center
  • Instant Upgrade at the Airport Counter

Out of these I’d say the online bidding option is probably the lowest priced variety of them all as you can often get away with the minimum bid available.

John wrote a detailed article about the Etihad Select Upgrades a while back (see here).

I replied to our reader that Etihad puts some restrictions on the availability of the Select Upgrades:

Who is eligible for the Etihad Select Upgrade service?

If you are flying with Etihad Airways, holding a confirmed ticket document number that starts with 607, and are not under the categories mentioned below, then you are eligible for the Etihad Select Upgrade service (subjected to seats availability).

Categories not eligible for Etihad Select Upgrade:

  • Tickets booked as ‘Breaking Deals’ fares  (booked in classes T, E for Economy Class and Z for Business Class)
  • Tickets booked through Guest Seat rewards
  • Redemption tickets
  • Free tickets
  • Tickets already upgraded using miles
  • Multi-flyer tickets
  • Group bookings
  • Ticket with infant

What are the benefits for an upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class?

  • On the segment of the flight that you have been upgraded to, you are eligible for Business class baggage allowance.
  • You can carry additional baggage based on your tier within the Etihad Guest programme.
  • You are entitled to priority boarding and check-in and have access to our Business Class lounges.
  • Etihad chauffeur services will not be available for upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class.

What irks me in this description is that it refers to baggage allowance based on your Etihad Guest status, not the upgraded class of service. It’s not clear if someone who upgrades one segment to Business Class would actually profit from Business Class baggage allowance. I doubt there would be an issue, but you never know so be aware of that.


One thing to consider is that if you have status with Etihad maybe they would have upgraded you regardless due to Economy and/or Business being oversold.

The tier and award miles that Etihad posts for these upgraded flights are based on the upgraded fare class as Plusgrade results in reissuing the tickets. I’d imagine that this is the case for partner programs as well.

Of course the question always is that if you choose to bid, how high or low of a bid to place? I would imagine that Plusgrade processed these bids from high to low. If there are more seats available in the upgraded cabin than bids placed, all of them get accepted.

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  • James67

    I tested all of these in the summer of 2015 on an EDI-AUH-BKK return economy ticket booked on a breaking deal. If my experience was typical then/now then it would have been more cost effectivd simply to buy a cheap business class ticket at the outset, none of the cash upgrade options worked for me. I did upgrade the return sectors with EG miles which was excellent value as I could also take advantage of the transfer. However, this was prior to the huge EG devaluation.

    • Yes. If from economy to business, the better value is to buy the biz outright unless fares astronomical. Business to first can make more sense (considering the price difference between cabins), although business usually is good enough anyway.

  • Juan

    I did the low bid ($1200 each way) which was accepted. I didn’t need the extra luggage or lounge benefits, so I can’t say if the extra comfort was worth the money as I have never tried their economy class.

  • Chih

    I used the bidding system online and bid the minimum for a single segment from Abu Dhabi to Seoul. It cost me 2520 dinars (around $680). I was able to use a $300 cc airline credit to cover a part of that.

    The experience was very good, and it’s worth $380. I arrived in Seoul perfectly refreshed. Whether it’s worth $680 to me is a different story.