Online upgrade auctions that allow travellers with cheap tickets to make blind bids for unfilled business class seats are on the rise, as airlines across the world catch on to the innovative new way of making extra cash. Last week Austrian Airlines became the latest carrier to start taking bids-for-beds, following in the footsteps of Air New Zealand, El Al of Israel, Etihad of Abu Dhabi and Virgin Atlantic. In future, passengers buying cheap tickets for long-haul flights via Vienna are invited to bid for an upgrade to the business class cabin, which boasts 2 metre-long flat beds. If successful, they also get fast-track security, access to business lounges and improved catering.
As someone who frequently takes advantage of last minute premium class awards and systemwide upgrades, the potential for upgrade auctions to spread throughout the industry has me concerned. While prices aren’t disclosed, winners seem willing to bid decent amounts for these seats, which still come at huge savings to their outright purchase prices. That’s what creates the scare factor for me. Airlines will surely be able to reap a greater profit by auctioning off their remaining first and business class seats rather than providing them as last minute award tickets or complimentary upgrades. What do you think? Are the major US carriers next? Delta has had a bidding system in place for bumps for about two years now. Could Austrian Airlines parent company Deutsche Lufthansa AG be testing out the process with Austrian before rolling it out to other subsidiary carriers?
Check out the full article here for details on exactly how the upgrade auctions work.