Etihad's new "PlusGrade" bid-for-upgrade system: how it works

By John Walton, June 12 2012

Virgin Australia partner airline Etihad is the latest airline to move into online budding for upgrades, with a new system called PlusGrade emailing out upgrade offers five days before your flight.

Depending on your bid, your upgrade will be confirmed or denied two days before your flight.

Upgrades are available from economy to business or business to first -- no double-hop from the back of the plane to the very front.

It sounds somewhat similar to the Air New Zealand bid-for-upgrade system, which isn't entirely surprising given that the two airlines are close allies.

How it works

Only some passengers are offered the chance at an upgrade. You'll need to have:

  • Booked your flight 5 days prior to departure
  • Booked your flight directly with Etihad either on etihad.com, through Etihad call centers or Etihad Shops
  • You should have a confirmed Pearl Business Class or Coral Economy Class ticket
  • Preference is given to those guests who have booked a higher fare in Pearl Business Class or Coral Economy Class

You'll receive an email five days before your departure. Simply click on the Upgrade Now link and figure out how much you want to pay.

What's your take on how much you'd pay to jump from business to first class?
What's your take on how much you'd pay to jump from business to first class?

When you put in your bid, the Etihad website will give you some generic feedback based on prior experience. You'll see one of:

  • 1 Red bar – poor offer: very unlikely to be upgraded
  • 2 Yellow bars – offer below past successful offers: unlikely to be upgraded
  • 3 Green bars – offer is in the range of past successful offers: moderate chances!
  • 4 Green bars – good offer: high chance to be upgraded – no guarantee!

It's all still a little bit opaque, although that's not unusual for bidding upgrades -- the airline wants to leave itself some wiggle room for last-minute buyers.

Etihad states: "The success of an offer depends on a combination of factors such as the amount offered for the upgrade, competing offers, the original fare at which the ticket has been purchased, your status within Etihad Guest programme and the number of seats available for an upgrade."

You're ineligible if any of the following apply to you:

  • Booked using promotional fares
  • Guest seat rewards
  • Redemption ticket
  • Free tickets
  • Booking already upgraded using miles
  • Travelling with infants

Bear in mind that if you have a connecting flight you may not be able to upgrade -- or, indeed, successful in upgrading -- both parts of the journey. You'll need to bid separately for each part.

You're also only theoretically entitled to the extra baggage on the upgraded legs of your journey, although that does seem slightly tricky to enforce.

The alternative: a long flight in economy. How much would you bid for business class?
The alternative: a long flight in economy. How much would you bid for business class?

Earning miles or points on the upgrade

But you won't earn the full upgraded class Etihad Guest miles. Instead, you'll earn a 10 percent bonus on the base miles.

So let's say you upgrade from economy to business between Abu Dhabi and London (3409 miles). You'll get the base miles for economy (3409 miles) plus a 10 percent bonus for upgrading (341 miles).

Similarly, upgrading from business to first on the same route: you'd get 3409 base miles, plus 1704 miles as the regular fifty percent business class miles multiplier. You'd also get the ten percent miles multiplier for upgrading (341 miles), for a total of 5454 miles.

What's your take? How much would you bid for, say, Sydney to Abu Dhabi, or Sydney-Abu Dhabi-London, from economy to business or business to first? Share your thoughts with your fellow AusBT readers in a comment below!

For the very latest in business travel news, reviews and information, follow @AusBT on Twitter.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2011

Total posts 9

I paid to upgarde on the way back to BNE from SIN in Feb. I asked at the counter how much to upgrade and was only charged SGD$200. Max i would pay would be $500 for the same rouye

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

Thanks Tom! That's a really interesting data point. Was that from economy to business?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2011

Total posts 9

John, it was from Economy to Business! 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2011

Total posts 9

John, it was from Economy to Business! 

Skywards Gold

21 Apr 2011

Total posts 54

I paid GBP770 for a SYD-LHR upgrade on EK last year. This was a normal upgrade, not a promo. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Aug 2012

Total posts 11

Hi, has anyone been sucessful with this? and if so, how much to go from Economy to Business Melbourne or Sydney to Abu Dubai? I spoke to Eitihad and was advised $800 AUS for the leg. Some special on at this time.

thanks Peter

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 168

Has anyone had any luck with this in 2013? I was reading the Etihad website in regards to this and it doesn't say anywhere it has to be directly with Etihad. From the website...

4. An Offer, when submitted by you in association with a booking made with Etihad, whether made directly with Etihad or indirectly through other means(do you think this includes codeshare partner like VA or it just means a booking with Etihad, but could be via Flight Centre for eg?), and presented to Etihad, shall entitle the person or persons named on the Offer, subject to these Terms and Conditions, to be considered for an Upgrade.


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