Cathay Pacific Now Offers Upgrade Bidding To Premium Economy & Business Class On Select Routes


Cathay Pacific has now jumped on the bandwagon of airlines that offer upgrades to premium.cabins through an online bidding process until 50 hours prior to departure.

The Cathay Pacific version of the bidding tool comes with a huge downside however as the change in travel class will not earn any additional miles and tier points.

Online bidding for premium cabin upgrades has become increasingly popular in the last years as airlines seek to generate extra revenue with their unsold premium seats at the last minute and at the same time attempt to limit complimentary upgrades.

You can also access the Cathay Pacific Upgrade page here.

Cathay Pacific has sent out an email to Marco Polo Club members this morning announcing the new feature.

… We are pleased to introduce a new bidding system that puts some of our premium seats up for auction.

Starting today, 17 July 2017, customers who have purchased Premium Economy or Economy Class tickets1 on selected routes2 have the opportunity to upgrade to the next cabin class via Upgrade Bid. …

The email outlines the framework of the new system:

The benefit of club membership
Because you’re a Marco Polo Club member, your bid will carry additional weight, which will increase your chances of securing an upgraded seat.

Things to note

  • Only certain flights, based on route and seat availability, are eligible for Upgrade Bid. Additional routes will be introduced in the coming months.
  • Lounge access and check-in and boarding priorities will be based on the upgraded cabin.
  • Club points and Asia Miles earned and baggage allowance will be based on the original fare class.
  • Bookable Upgrades and redemptions will not be affected, as they will be confirmed beforehand.
  • Other special upgrades will be protected and will continue to be awarded.

I somehow doubt the validity of some of these claims Cathay Pacific makes, based on simple logic and experience on other airlines.

Especially the last two points are something that caught my eye. Cathay claims that waitlisted upgrades will be cleared before the paid upgrade bids are processed but will that really be the case?

At the same time Cathay Pacific customer relations is known for giving out paper upgrade coupons for issues during a flight which can only be used at the time of check-in. I had two of these and it was a nightmare to use them for two years in a row due to availability issues. With the bids now being processed 48 hours prior to departure it now becomes even more difficult to properly use these coupons.

The routes currently available are on flights between Hong Kong and:

Adelaide, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Brisbane, Cebu, Chiang Mai, Chicago, Colombo, Denpasar (Bali), Dubai, Kathmandu, Rome and Seoul.

Cathay will likely add additional routes in the future. They also announced that tickets bought in Mainland China and India are not eligible for bidding due to ‘technical issues’. Even though there are currently no routes to either of these countries on the list of eligible routes, I interpret it in a way that as long as the ticket is sold outside of these countries, for example through an OTA of your choice such as Expedia USA would then be eligible to use the bidding option.

Now let’s come to the drawback. Many other airlines that use the Plusgrade system (right now we don’t have confirmation yet if Cathay does or doesn’t use this interface) are having the ticket reissued into a higher booking class to then earn miles and tier credits for the new premium class code. Cathay Pacific explicitly states that this will not be the case for their upgrades through the new bidding system.

You can access this and other questions under the related FAQ Section.

For me, earning no tier credits after paying for an upgrade is a no go and unless the upgrade is really cheap I wouldn’t consider it especially when the passenger already has oneworld status to access priority check-in, lounge etc.


It can make sense to upgrade to premium class using this new system if one is only after the better seat and additional priority services and doesn’t care about the miles and tier credit.

Before considering this I’d check for the Business Class price for the ticket to be purchased and compare it to the Economy fare. I often found that on the regional flights there is sometimes only a small difference in price if Business Saver fares are available and it would earn full tier credit.

Over the years I’ve gotten a few good operational upgrades on Cathay Pacific as oneWorld Emerald with British Airways but I fear this will become less now once they start to sell these upgrades and the system becomes popular.

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  • NYCBK123

    Awesome. I had great experience with bidding on upgrades with Air New Zealand. I hope Cathay’s experience will be similar.

  • btschang

    Hey @Sebastian, your article seems to be somewhat inaccurate. You claimed that Cathay Pacific doesn’t use Plusgrade, but it does. You also said that Cathay Pacific doesn’t operate routes to Mainland China and India, which is quite far from the truth. I’ve flown a number of their flights in and out of those two countries both on Cathay Pacific metal and Cathay Dragon metal (which I interpret as both being eligible for Upgrade Bid so long as the point of sale is not from either of those countries). There are also a number of Plusgrade customers that don’t reissue the ticket to the higher cabin class and do not offer the higher baggage allowance, miles and tier credits. SQ’s mySQupgrade is one example where the KrisFlyer miles and Elite miles are based on original ticket.

    • Hi thanks for your comment. I think the way I worded it was a bit confusing. At the moment none of the *routes published as available for upgrade bidding* is going to either China or India. Of course they still fly to multiple destinations in both countries.

      I looged into the system today with a friends booking reference and Plusgrade is nowhere mentioned compared to all the other airlines where I previously used this system (which also all have been upgraded afterwards to an earning booking class in the higher cabin). Good to know SQ handles it in a similar way (not surprised about that at all actually, stingy as they are).

      But I’ll definitely change the wording a little to make it more clear.


      • Andrea

        Hi Sebastian and thanks for your article. I would say it’s very likely that they use Plusgrade, CX is even listed as a customer on their website.