How to Upgrade Your Economy Seat for Cheap

It’s a good time to fly, as lower oil prices are leading to airlines reducing their ticket costs. Now, there’s even more incentive to fly, as sites like Plusgrade or Seatboost are allowing users to upgrade to a higher seat class at a fraction of the cost.

What is it?

Airlines the around the world are launching auctions where passengers bid for seat upgrades, either to business class, to premium economy class or for the chance to have an empty seat beside you in coach. This allows travellers who can’t afford the more expensive classes the chance to get a better and more comfortable experience on their flight.

More than 70 airlines have signed on, including Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, in an attempt to increase their profits from flights. Who the upgrades are offered to varies by carrier, as some will prioritise frequent fliers while others might pick passengers travelling alone.


How does it work?

How it works is simple. You buy a ticket with one of the participating airlines in economy class. If you or the flight you’re on is eligible for an upgrade, you will receive an email with a link to allow you to bid. Sometimes, it will be a notification on the airline website and not an email. From there, you select the price you’re willing to pay (there’s a minimum and maximum bet that varies from carrier to carrier), and then you wait. You will be notified 24 hours before your flight if your bid was successful.

Upgrade Tips

There are a few strategies to improve your chances of getting the successful bid.

  1. One of them is to bid slightly above the minimum, since most people will choose the lowest amount to try and get the best deals.
  2. What the business class tickets cost also comes into play. For a successful bid, find out the cost of the upgraded seat, subtract what you paid for the economy ticket and aim to pay around 20% to 40% of the remaining price.
  3. Check how full the flight is. If business class is empty, your chances of an upgrade improve. Use ExpertFlyer or a similar tool to see how many premium class seats are still available on your flight. If economy is full, your odds improve as well, since airlines will sometimes overbook flights, requiring them to free up economy.

The bottom line

While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to get yourself a seat in business at a huge discount, the chance to bid does improve your chances. It also allows travellers who can’t afford business class the opportunity to travel in comfort. This, when coupled with the falling fuel prices, mean that now is a great time to book a flight overseas. Who knows? You might just be able to fly in absolute comfort.