But many international airlines are now offering an "upgrade auction," where fliers bid against each other for a seat in business or first class. It's already available on seven international airlines and some frequent flyers aren't too happy.
Upgrade auctions are currently available on Etihad, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, Czech Airlines, El Al, TAP Portugal and Brussels Airlines. They are powered by a platform created by the U.S.-based company PlusGrade . TAP and Air New Zealand were the first to try the program in early 2011. While no U.S. airline has yet to introduce an auction format for upgrades, it's likely only a matter of time.
It works the way you'd expect, with some minor variations between airlines. Several days before your flight is set to depart, the airline contacts you and asks if you'd like to bid for a seat in the next class of service. The airline sets either a minimum bid, or a bidding range. You put in your offer, wait a couple of days, and if yours was the winning bid, the airline notifies you to complete the transaction. If not, you're not any poorer.
The article goes on to note that, unlike upgrades, the costs and process aren't always clear. How much money will get you the seat is unknown. What minimum threshold bid is also unknown in some cases. The line may decide to toss all bids.
Not surprisingly, frequent flyers think this is a terrible idea.
Under the old system, any Airpoints member could buy an upgrade for a fixed price before a flight, provided a seat was available, and elite members had varying levels of preference depending on their tier. But under the new OneUp auction system, all AirPoints members would have to bid against each other with no guarantee of getting the upgrade. Many members complained loudly and threatened to take their business elsewhere.
The romance of travel