Air New Zealand's new 'bid for upgrades' auction system takes effect tomorrow, July 12, as the airline abandons the long-standing ability to purchase upgrades at a fixed price using Airpoints dollars -- Air NZ's version of frequent flyer points.
Under the new OneUp scheme, which the airline began trialling in November last year, travellers can bid in cash or 'Airpoints Dollars' for an Air New Zealand upgrade to premium economy or business class.
If their bid is high enough they'll get bumped up, with the lucky few "advised a couple of days before travel" according to an Air NZ spokesperson.
Even Air New Zealand's most valued Gold Elite members will find their privileges slashed (or in airline-speak, 'enhanced') from the point-based perks they currently enjoy.
While most Australians are likely to funnel Air New Zealand points towards Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer program, here's what you need to know if you're an Airpoints member.
How OneUp upgrade actions work
When you place your bid for an upgrade, a coloured status bar shows how likely you are to succeed in your bid before you click OK.
The status bar indicates the strength of the offer being made. It's green when the offer being made reaches the average level of past successful offers (although it's no guarantee that any bid will be successful).
When the bar turns red, it indicates that history shows your bid is "likely to be too low to be successful", Air NZ says.
So how many people will get an email offering a OneUp upgrade? "The number will vary, depending on expected loadings," an Air NZ's spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.
And you'll need to have booked through Air NZ itself, not Virgin Australia or any of the Kiwi airline's other partners: "Offers can only be made to those passengers that have booked an airfare directly with Air NZ and for whom we hold a valid email address".
Airpoints Status perks slashes
If you hold Airpoints Gold status you've got the option to use Recognition Upgrade e-vouchers for one leg of a trip, but only to move up one cabin – from economy to premium economy, for instance.
Gold and Gold Elite members receive two Recognition Upgrade vouchers each year, while Silver members get one.
This means you could only upgrade yourself from economy to business on one leg out of four on an Auckland-London return flight" potentially leaving you stuck in Air NZ's awful ten-abreast economy class for three out of four legs of the 26-hour flight to London.
Gold Elite members will retain a limited version of points-based upgrades but can move up only one class of travel, compared to the previous ability to upgrade two classes -- such as jumping from economy straight to business (bypassing premium economy).
Airpoints privileges: going, going, gone...
An airline spokesperson had insisted to Australian Business Traveller just three months ago that frequent flyers would not be disadvantaged: "OneUp upgrades will occur after Loyalty (Air New Zealand Airpoints) upgrades have been allowed for. Upgrades that would have occurred prior to the OneUp programme will continue to occur."
Now that the bulk of those loyalty upgrades have been cut, the only benefit for frequent flyers is a promise in an email sent out to frequent flyers that: "Your [Gold or Gold Elite] status will be taken into account when your OneUp Upgrade offer is reviewed."