Malaysia Airlines launches upgrade auctions to business, first class

By David Flynn, November 5 2014
Malaysia Airlines launches upgrade auctions to business, first class

Malaysia Airlines has joined the growing ranks of airlines relying on online auctions to fill empty seats at the pointy end of their planes.

The airline says it will forecast seat availability in business and first class for all flights and then email eligible customers, based on their ticket class, offering a chance to bid for that lie-flat bed.

Travellers can also visit the Malaysia Airlines website and enter their booking reference number and last name to check if they can bid for a better seat on their upcoming flight.

Passengers will be emailed 48 hours before departure to advise if their bid was a winner.

"This is a great opportunity for guests to get an upgrade to a premium cabin class" said Dr Hugh Dunleavy, Malaysia Airlines' Director of Commercial.

"There will be no introductory cost and unsuccessful upgrades will not be charged."

Until 2011 Malaysia Airlines worked with upgrade specialist Optiontown offering upgrades for a flat fee, although this was also on a 'space availability' basis.

More recently the airline has been offering fixed-fee upgrades upon checkin at the airport.

For example, passengers travelling in economy from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur can pay $480 to upgrade to business class on flights with plenty of spare seats at the pointy end, or $840 if the flight is more heavily booked up front.

Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways and Airberlin already rely on upgrade auctions to turn unsold business class seats into cash, with Qantas also considering adopting a similar system.

Read: Qantas considers ‘points + pay’ auction for upgrades

David Flynn is visiting Kuala Lumpur as a guest of Malaysia Airlines.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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