Airport Counter Cash Upgrades, Are They Worth It Or Not? Case: Malaysia Airlines


When I checked in for my Malaysia Airlines flight from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur I noticed that they were actively advertising cash upgrades priced at US$150 for this 5 hour flight at the check in counters.

Airlines sometimes do this when the premium cabin is very empty and they want to generate some extra revenue or when the Economy Class is oversold and the airlines tries to avoid upgrading passengers for free.

Seeing a price of $150 for such a long segment is quite surprising even though Malaysia Airlines uses a Boeing 737-800 regional equipment for this route. This means that it’s a regular reclining chair, a tiny IFE screen and lukewarm service. Chef on Call isn’t available either for firm Business Class bookings.

While I was already confirmed in Business Class on a moderately priced MH ticket purchased last November and originating from Bangkok ($530) I was wondering if paying the airport upgrade price would be worth it for the folks with Economy Class tickets.

Malaysia Airlines has two ways to upgrade your Economy Class flight, upgrade bidding ahead of time which we previously wrote about here and this Flyertalk thread that has a collective list of successful bids. Then there are paid upgrades at the airport, either the check-in counter or the lounge.

The upgrade offer for TPE-KUL was exactly US$150 displayed in TWD/MYR currency and I consider that a good deal for the extra comfort on a 5 hour flight.

It isn’t always a good deal though considering the cheap premium tickets MH sells in some markets as it can be cheaper to book a business class round trips ticket outright. Especially those ex Bangkok and Phuket. You should always check the premium prices as well for Malaysia Airlines even though you intend to book Economy as they often have sales in Business that are actually cheaper than Economy tickets which is crazy.

The other big negative is that MH doesn’t upgrade the booking class of the ticket to one that would earn you miles in your respective frequent flyer program. See the line on my picture that says ‘ticket conditions apply’ ? That is usually never a good sign. The upgrade usually ends up in I class which isn’t eligible for any extra credit, in fact you’ll likely not even earn your original economy ticket without fighting it.


For people who don’t care about the miles and just want a bit of extra comfort this is certainly a good way to upgrade at an affordable rate. For myself the only reason why I even fly Malaysia Airlines are the generous credits at BA Executive Club on longer flights such as KUL-TPE/PEK/PVG/NRT/ICN and the low prices at which these roundtrips are available ex BKK.

Malaysia Airlines Economy tickets aren’t exactly cheap and often people don’t even bother looking for Business Class assuming these fares are way too expensive which is a lethal mistake nowadays. One should always compare both classes of service!

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