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Free Business Class Upgrades Are Coming to an End, Seats Now Going to Auction

end of free upgrade

Photo Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic
Many people buy economy plane tickets in hopes that once they get to the departure gate they can upgrade for free into an unclaimed business class seat. This possibility looks to be on the decline though thanks to various airlines around the world which are now launching online upgrade auctions, enabling economy fliers to engage in a blind bid for business class seats days before their flight. Not only does this move make the airlines some extra cash, it opens up business class seats to a much wider array of people, basically eliminating the possibility of a lucky free upgrade at the gate.
end of free upgrade
Photo Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic


According to The Independent, last week Austrian Airlines became the latest company (following Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, El Al of Israel, and Etihad of Abu Dhabi) to get in on the online action. More airlines may be following suite because Plusgrade, the software developer behind the technology, has claimed it's talking with many other brands about possibly offering the bidding service as well. Ken Harris, Plusgrade's chief executive, told The Independent, "Everybody loves an upgrade. At this very moment there are many smiling passengers in the sky, criss-crossing the world."

How does it work? Well, if you buy a ticket for a flight that is expected to have extra business class seats unclaimed, you'll get an invite to bid for an upgrade. If you win, you'll be alerted at least three days before the flight. It's safe to assume that the winning bid average is cheaper than buying the business ticket outright because the airlines are keeping the average a secret, not wanting existing business-class passengers to switch over. end of free upgrade
Photo Courtesy of Austrian Airlines


While the airlines' goal is to fill empty seats and get as much money out of fliers as possible by making them bid online for seats they used to get for free, not all passengers will apparently be eligible to bid. According to Plusgrade, the bidding software is designed to make sure that "each passenger targeted for the opportunity and selected for an upgrade meets a host of internally prioritized goals." The new system is also upsetting to many customers who stick to one airline, previously used to get the occasional free upgrade for their brand loyalty.

Mila Pantovich

Mila Pantovich lives in San Diego, CA with her cat and two rats. She graduated from California State San Marcos with a degree in Literature and Writing and a minor in Film Studies. She has written for several publications, including San Diego City News and North Park News, and in her spare time writes film reviews for various online publications. A self-prescribed film/book obsessive, she's curren...(Read More)

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