Air travel can be hard to accomplish in a comfortable manner sometimes.
A perfect flight is like time travel
While the excitement of travel comes from the rise of the unexpected, you would still care for your journey to be mundane at worst and complete relaxation bordering time travel at best.
In truth, you'd just enjoy a couple of drinks and a half-decent film or ten as a standard, long-haul flight.
But what about capturing that rare bird - the upgrade to Premium Economy, Business, or even First Class seating?
How badly do you want to sit near the front of the plane?
While upgrades do exist, many airlines choose to reward high tier loyalty members or have another means to distribute the various unoccupied seats toward the front of the plane.
Yet there is an interesting tool a minority of airlines employ for ensuring the greatest chance at increased revenues and which can be a great experience for a lucky few passengers.
But first, you'll need a ticket
There are a handful of airlines that will allow ticketed passengers to bid on upgraded seat categories in the days immediately prior to departure.
The time span varies, but the bidding commences typically in the last few days prior to departure and up to perhaps ten days to two weeks in advance. There is no industry standard.
This is when the airline can start getting a better, more rounded overall picture of how many spare seats there might be on a given flight.
If there is enough spare capacity, it may be beneficial for that airline to offer out the unoccupied seats and increase their revenues for a particular flight.
Some items to remember if you're considering trying it out
1. Such bidding is by no means universal
Only a few airlines offer it up at all. In many instances, those which do offer it will send out a notification via email to initiate the process.
I'd recommend against using the presence or absence of bidding as a determining factor in selecting a ticket or flight itinerary.
Any delay now in selection of a flight will ultimately lead to volatility in both price and availability of your seat. How badly do you want the chance to bid?
Regardless, there's no harm in asking if bidding might later be an option. You'll then be aware to look out for that email!
2. The rules can be dynamic
That means individual airlines, individual routes, and even individual flights can have their own set of terms. These terms can and do change, as does the availability of those coveted seats.
3. Be reasonable with your expectations
Don't plan your journey around the possibility of winning a bid, maybe don't even plan on being able to bid.
Think of it as a nice bonus, but that you might focus on simply enjoying your trip and being happy with your travel purchases up between now and the day you depart.
4. Be reasonable with your bid
You will likely have to reach deeper into your pockets than $50-$100, the reality is that a seat in business can go for thousands of dollars more than the economy or even premium economy seating.
You might get lucky, but you'll have a better chance if you are reasonable in your bid.
Think of it like silent haggling, if you know the business seats are $2500 and that you paid $999 for your economy, think about making your bid an increment which represents a healthy percentage or large fraction of the difference.
Do you want your savings now OR a chance at an upgrade later?
It would be fantastic if we had all that we wanted, every time we made a purchase or attempted a new feat.
At risk of getting existential, I like to describe travel as a balance. The same could be said for life, but again, a chat for another day.
Oftentimes, when adding a flight to a client travel purchase, I'll shop the flight to a consolidator or try a few of my select suppliers which I know carry the best rates.
The only issue here is that those preferable rates can come at a cost of flexibility.
By securing a better rate early, we sometimes lose the ability to make cost-effective changes between the time of purchase and the time of departure.
The balance then lies in what you value most as a traveller.
Do you want to save money on the flight now or do you want to preserve your chance at an upgrade later?
Something about a bird and some bushes comes to mind...
Let us know what your travel dreams are, we'll help you achieve them faster, with more comfort, and with better frequency.
We're here to make sure you tick items off your future travel list and experience the world in a way you might previously have considered possible.