How to Bid on a Discounted Upgrade

With airfare prices forecast to remain high until the end of 2023, even the most basic economy class tickets will feel like (financial) ruin. But many airlines now have programs that allow passengers to bid on higher class tickets in premium economy, business or first class. Here’s what you need to know.

How to bid for an upgrade

This process differs from airline to airline, but here is a general overview of how it works:


To bet on an upgrade, you must first book a ticket. These auctions are only available to passengers with tickets.

Some airlines send emails to passengers with tickets if they auction an upgrade, but many don’t . Your best bet is to check the airline’s website to see if they’re accepting bookings for your flight. Trades usually open two to seven days before the scheduled flight.


If there is an upgrade auction for your flight, please note that it only applies to that particular leg of your trip and not to your return ticket . When it comes time to bid, the airline will set a minimum bid, which is usually a few hundred dollars , so unfortunately you can’t bid $5 and hope for the best.

Also, unlike most other auctions, you won’t know what other passengers are bidding, and you’ll be able to adjust your bid accordingly. However, you can check a website such as Expert Flyer to find out how many Business and Premium Economy seats are still available on your flight, although this does not guarantee that you will receive an upgrade at the minimum price required.

You will be asked to enter your billing information when placing a bet, but you will only be charged if your bet is accepted. If so, you will be notified by email.

Which airlines offer auction upgrades?

Unfortunately, the only U.S. airline currently auctioning upgrades is Hawaiian Airlines, but many major international carriers do so , including:

Yes, this is clearly another way for airlines to make extra money – instead of leaving upgraded seats empty or giving them away for free – but unlike many other policies, at least passengers can benefit from it.


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