Reader Question: Reasonable Rates For Cabin Upgrades Through Bidding/Online Offer – How Much To Pay?

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We received a Reader Question that leaned on my recent article about cash upgrades where the reader asked how much he should be bid in order not to overpay for an upgrade.

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Upgrading a single segment or even the entire round trip “can” make sense if you know the original price of the proposed cabin (easy to figure out before your initial booking, just compare different classes of service) and you have a fix limit in mind of how much you want to pay.

Last Friday I wrote about low priced upgrades to Condor Premium Economy Class (see here).

After this we received the following message from our reader Raul last night:

Hi guys,

went through Sebastian’s piece about Condor upgrades and wondered if it’s possible to upgrade my Lufthansa flight from GRU to Frankfurt next month.

Sure enough online it offers me the upgrade option to either bid for an upgrade with confirmation roughly 48h to 24h prior at a minimum rate of 240 EURO or confirm the upgrade to Premium Economy for 319 EURO. Is it really worth it?

The minimum bid for Business Class is 740 EURO. …

The reader brings up a good point even though it’s impossible to answer this in a way that can be used as rule of thumb for everybody.

There is a reason why there are different classes of service, namely because every passenger has a price limit when booking his/her travel. In short: You know yourself how much you can afford and how much you’re willing to spend.

My personal opinion is that it depends greatly on the duration of the flight. I considered the upgrade for my own flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok and having never tried Lufthansa Premium Economy I decided to bid 220 EUR (the absolute minimum) for the FRA-BKK sector. It’s a red eye flight of roughly 10 hours and a good test run for Premium Economy Class in my opinion. On the way over (SIN-FRA) I upgraded the ticket with 2 Miles&More eVouchers to Business Class which was a good use since we were almost 13 hours in the air.

Next to the bidding option for the minimum 220 EUR there was also the fixed offer at the rate of 1711 MYR (~350 EUR – the ticket was purchased ex Malaysia). I decided to roll with the 220 EUR offer as I find that 350 EUR is too expensive for just Premium Economy, I’d rather pay double that and fly Business Class or use another upgrade instrument.

I received the confirmation email that my offer was successful about 2.5 days before the flight and immediately selected my desired seat (window) before others do the same and I’m stuck with a middle seat which the Lufthansa PE cabin features as well.

Lufthansa just like other airlines use PLUSGRADE to facilitate the upgrade offer of their customers. The big advantage of PLUSGRADE: If an offer is accepted the booking class will be changed to an applicable revenue booking class of the new cabin of service and the passenger will earn mileage credit under this new fare code (in the case of Lufthansa Premium Economy it has been changed to N).That’s why I personally consider airline offers that are run by PLUSGRADE much more compared to other competitors on the market who only upgrade the cabin but not the fare class.

I had S class before which is a low (not the lowest, it’s still upgradable to Business with LH M&M instruments) booking class that would earn only 50% with both MIles & More as well as United Mileage Plus. The new N Class will earn me 100% with Mileage Plus plus 75% Bonus as Platinum Premier member. The extra miles could be seen as a smaller (or larger) discount if this approach makes you feel better about your investment. Especially if you need the qualifying miles!

Back to the question of the reader: How much to spend and is it worth it?

My answer to this is: If you can get a low price and obviously one that is within your financial means then go for it. I think the maximum I’d pay for an upgrade to Premium Economy is 250 EUR for a long haul flight. Since I carry elite status with all alliances I’m usually able to secure a decent seat latest at the check-in and I enjoy priority benefits such as lounge access and priority check-in.

Conclusion

For someone who has no status whatsoever such upgrades to premium classes can carry a much larger benefit as they’d otherwise have to stick to the sometimes horrendous lines for Economy Class passengers. Elite passengers circumvent these anyway so the advantage is restricted to on board comfort only.

It can definitely make sense to consider such upgrades as long as you’re not getting seduced into overpaying for it. Set a limit and stick to it!

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  • kevin cottrell

    Has anybody ever won one of these auctions only to find they are bumped out of their upgrade as the airline has overbooked seats? Where do you stand in the airlines priorities for this?are

    • In the case of PLUSGRADE.Upgrades your ticket is being reissued and for the airline the same as a ticket that has always been booked in Premium Class. They would treat you no different than a regular passenger and you’re also covered by EU Passenger Rights as far as compensation and re-accommodation is concerned (same with confirmed mileage upgrades).

    • Alex

      I flew on Austrian last month from ORD-VIE, my bid was about $500 (I bought the ticket for $500) It was accepted. My new fare class went from an L fare to a P fare. I was accruing on UA FF, so that yielded me 200% eqm, and they did post the next day.

  • Lukas

    Hi Sebastian. Good article. However this is a little bit more complicated. It really depends on the actual airline. Here is my experience. I recently placed a bid for upgrade from Prague to Lisbon on TAP. My original flight was about 65 Eur in lowest Economy Class that earns only 10% of miles for my TK account. The bid started at 100 Eur and I figured it was reasonable considering the flight is over 3 hours. Before I submitted the bid I asked TAP through Facebook whether the booking class would be changed if the bid was successful. I was told that the booking class does not change regardless of the bid. But according to other forums, some users have had theirs changed. I decided to go for it. I placed the bid of 105 Eur and it was accepted. The confirmation of the bid though email arrived about 3 days before the flight but there was no mention of which booking class it is. But thanks to checkmytrip website I was able to find out that the booking class has indeed been changed. But unfortunately for me it was changed to the lowest business class Z which earns no miles. This just shows that not only was I given wrong information from TAP staff but the upgrade actually screwed me over and earned me nothing. The original 10% in Economy class is not really great to begin with but still better than nothing. Some airlines clearly state the booking class it will be changed to (Austrian for example) while others are a real mess and you just need to risk it.

    • Hi Lukas, of course it all depends on the frequent flyer programs. Not every program gives miles for every fare class especially on partner carriers. As you state it’s important to know in advance what the booking class will change to. I’d probably inquire with PLUSGRADE rather than the airline to which booking class it will be changed to. These social media and customer relations teams of airlines are superficial at best and it’s impossible for them (often offshore workers) to know all details of the airlines product. Alternatively I always suggest a google search of such topics beforehand that will frequently route you to knowledgable posts on Flyertalk.

  • Len Gattsche

    Hi Sebastian, booked flight from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia econmy. Used utp, their upgrade option to premium lay flat. They chagred my cc nz735. Never got any ungrade. But refunded nz356.
    Got ripped of.
    So don’t trust AirAsia upgrade system.

  • Roger Wilco

    I used cash upgrade on MH through their online bidding system. Offered the lowest amount (ca 55€) for KUL-DPS which went through for both of us. Totally worth it. Also used cash to upgrade AS on SJC-LIH. Actually it was cheaper than the checked baggage fees. Again, 50 bucks (each) well spent.

    • That is very reasonable amount considering the length of the flight. Did they reissue the ticket on proper biz fare code?

  • Nick Hevelian

    I was desperate to put in at least a 150EUR minimum bid for an LO flight from ICN to WAW last month, after having had such a bad experience in economy on the outbound flight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t persuade my partner that it was worth it for her also (she’s petite enough to not have to worry about legroom and seat size, etc.).

    An important point to mention is that you need to ensure the booking class is one that allows upgrades – some of the cheapest classes don’t (as I’ve found on LH group airlines) and so you will be stuck with Eco with no chance of escape.

  • Liam Walshe

    Recently, I put in the minimum bid of $110 USD for a DFW-YYZ AC flight, which was booked as an Aeroplan fixed-mileage ticket (X class)

    My bid was accepted (had a feeling it would be, given it was at 6am on the last day of a long weekend), and the class was changed to R, which, notably, is AC’s upgrade class as opposed to being one of the true revenue business class codes. Of course, no miles were given.