Virgin Australia is extending its ‘UpgradeMe Premium Bid’ system to bookings made through travel agents, allowing passengers to make offers in a cash auction for upgrades to business class.
Similar to the upgrade auction systems are already offered by Etihad and Air New Zealand – both of which are Virgin Australia partners and financial stakeholders – UpgradeMe Premium Bid asks travellers to make a cash bid for business class and international premium economy seats.
Those upgrades were previously restricted to flights booked directly with Virgin Australia. Tickets issued by corporate travel agents were specifically excluded, which meant that many business travellers were unable to bid at all.
But as of today that all changes, with any traveller eligible to bid the upgrade auction.
“We’ve received great feedback on the (existing) system and have decided to extend the UpgradeMe Premium Bid to customers who have purchased (flights) through trade partners,” a Virgin Australia spokesman told Australian Business Traveller.
Upgrades are priced and made available on a sector-by-sector basis using a range of criteria for both domestic and international flights, although the airline remains tight-lipped on how the minimum bidding prices are calculated.
On international flights to Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles, the upgrades are limited to the next cabin only – economy passengers can only bid for an upgrade to Virgin Australia premium economy, while guests with confirmed premium economy tickets are free to bid for a seat in business class.
How to bid for a Virgin Australia upgrade
To see if your booking is now eligible, simply enter the reservation details of your domestic or international flight on Virgin Australia’s upgrade page.
(For a travel agent booking, use the airline reference number or ‘PNR’ on your itinerary rather than the travel agent’s own booking reference number, which may differ.)
If you're deemed eligible for an upgrade, you’ll see something this:
On this booking, the minimum bid for business class from Brisbane to Melbourne is $250, yet could be had for just $200 on the return.
We’re advised that minimum bid amounts can vary based on a multitude of factors, although in this case, the minimum bid price likely reflects the differing amounts paid for the flights – Brisbane-Melbourne was booked as a Saver Lite fare, while Melbourne-Brisbane was booked in the slightly more expensive Saver category.
Bids are accepted until 72 hours prior to departure, with upgrades awarded at the 24 hour window. As the upgrades are confirmed before arriving at the airport, passengers are ‘catering assured’, which means that you won’t be stuck without a meal after spending your hard-earned to sit at the pointy end.
Any flight changes can be made as per the original fare conditions, although any existing upgrades requests will be cancelled.
Of course, you can make a bid on your new flight(s) up to three days prior to travel, but the minimum prices may be different on your new flight and fare.
Closer to departure, if you’ve been granted an upgrade but subsequently change flights, your upgrade and bid payment are both forfeited, so it’s best not to use the system unless you plan to travel on your original flight.
In the case of an airline cancellation, a Virgin Australia spokesman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that passengers travelling in business class on UpgradeMe Premium Bid fares would receive the same treatment as those who had purchased an outright commercial ticket.
As such, passengers would be moved onto another suitable Virgin Australia flight in the business cabin, although if business class is full and the customer is willing to take an economy seat, the amount paid for the cash upgrade would be refunded.
(We’d recommend holding onto your boarding class with your economy seat assignment until you’ve received that refund.)
While you’ll only earn points and status credits as applicable to the fare you’d originally purchased, it’s not a bad way to snag a better seat!
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