Everybody loves an upgrade, but not everyone has the necessary number of frequent flyer points to make the move from economy to premium economy, business or in some cases first class.
That’s where Qantas’ Bid Now Upgrades system steps in: it lets you use a combination of points and cash to place an auction-style ‘bid’ for any upgrade that becomes available.
You can choose to combine a small number of points with a larger amount of cash, or max out your points balance and use cash to make up the difference.
We’ve seen Qantas accept bids for an upgrade from economy to business class as low as 3,000 points and $40 between Sydney and Brisbane, with winning Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth bids typically around 4,000 points and $250.
On the international front, which is where those lie-flat business class beds are most welcome, Qantas has accepted Bid Now Upgrade bids of 5,000 points and $840.
So whether you’re making a quick domestic trip or jetting off on a longer overseas flights, here’s how you can fly better and fly smarter using Qantas Bid Now Upgrades.
What are Qantas Bid Now Upgrades?
Qantas Bid Now Upgrades offer eligible travellers a chance to move up from economy to premium economy or business class (depending on what the next-highest travel class is on their flight), from premium economy to business or from business to first.
Bid Now Upgrades are not offered to all passengers or on all routes, but when you receive an email inviting you to bid for an upgrade, it works just iike a ‘silent auction’.
You place a bid for the upgrade opportunity, with your bid typically consisting of a combination of Qantas Points and cash – although we’ve seen some bids with no points come out on top.
There’s no guarantee your bid will be the winning one, of course – but your bid doesn’t make the cut, there’s no points lost and nothing to pay, so the rule here is nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Point-based upgrade requests are processed before Bid Now Upgrades offers
Qantas aims its Bid Now Upgrades system at infrequent travellers and Qantas Frequent Flyer members who don’t have enough points in their account to submit an upgrade request under the traditional Classic Upgrade Rewards scheme.
On that basis, Bid Now Upgrades should be seen as a complementary upgrade mechanism compared to to conventional points-based Classic Upgrade Rewards requests, rather than a replacement to them.
In addition, Qantas confirms that Classic Upgrade Rewards always take priority over Bid Now Upgrades.
Once all Classic Upgrade Rewards have been processed, Bid Now Upgrades are then allocated based on what premium seats remain available.
Bid Now Upgrades are processed before ‘at the gate’ upgrades
Bid Now Upgrades are processed around four days before departure, and locked in 24 hours before wheels-up, which means they can reduce the availability of what Qantas labels an ‘On Departure Upgrade Award’.
This is the name given to points-based upgrade requests available to Qantas Frequent Flyer members, processed in order of status (Chairman’s Lounge, Platinum One, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze), but which are confirmed at the airport within three hours of the flight’s departure.
By that time, Qantas will have processed and confirmed seats to all successful Bid Now Upgrades.
Passengers are advised via email between 24 and 4.5 hours prior to departure whether or not their bid has been successful.
How the Qantas Bid Now Upgrades system works
As in any other auction, Bid Now Upgrades prioritises the highest bidders.
Selected flights only: Bid Now Upgrades are only available on flights where there are still spare premium economy, business or first class seats once all Classic Upgrade Reward requests have been processed.
This rules out many popular routes during peak times, as every seat is likely to be sold, but favours off-peak periods with lower demand for both business class sales and points-based upgrades.
Available as an option: If your booking is eligible for a Bid Now Upgrade, you’ll have the chance to place a bid using points or a combination of points and cash.
Passengers may check their Bid Now eligibility directly on the qantas.com Bid Now Upgrades page. Alternatively, they may receive an email invitation seven days before their flight’s departure.
Making your upgrade bid
Only Qantas Frequent Flyer members are allowed to make an offer using a combination of Qantas Points and cash, with non-members only able to place cash bids.
A minimum cash offer is required in order to make a bid, depending on the flight.
This value shifts depending on how many Qantas Points are bid, so travellers should first enter how many points they’re prepared to part with and then adjust the slider to choose the cash component of their total offer.
What’s the trick to a winning bid?
Qantas is understandably cagey about the formula behind Bid Now Upgrades, especially in terms of the split between points and cash.
What we know is that as part of the Bid Now Upgrades system, the airline assigns a set dollar value to each Qantas Point, which is added to the cash element of each bid to arrive at the total amount each bid is worth.
But would an offer of 4,000 points + $800 trump an offer of 8,000 points + $700? Only Qantas knows for sure!
You can boost your odds by boosting your bid: travellers can modify or cancel an unconfirmed bid at any time until five hours before departure.
We also know that if two people on the same flight lodge the same bid, with only one seat up for grabs, factors which decide who gets the upgrade include the type of economy fare bought (higher-priced fares beat out discounted ‘saver’ fares), each traveller’s frequent flyer status, and who put their bid in first.
Bid for business class with Points + Pay
Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific all run upgrade auctions using either money or frequent flyer points to help fill seats at the pointy end of the plane.
Qantas says its approach is unique because travellers can bid for an upgrade using a combination of points plus cash.
Qantas Bid Now Upgrades to premium economy
On selected international flights – specifically on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 – Qantas passengers in economy can bid for upgrades to premium economy.
The process is the same as for business class upgrades – if your booking is eligible, you’ll receive an email from Qantas roughly seven days before departure, inviting you to submit a bid.
However, bids for a premium economy upgrade can only be submitted in conjunction with a business class upgrade bid on the same flight, making it more of a ‘back-up plan’ should your business class upgrade be unsuccessful.
At the time of writing, Qantas offers premium economy on flights to Singapore, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and Vancouver.
Success strategies for Qantas Bid Now Upgrade auctions
How much cash or how many points should you offer to win a Qantas Bid Now Upgrade auction without going overboard?
Ultimately, there’s no black and white rule: we’ve received many reports from travellers who slid through by bidding the absolute minimum, while a number of flyers weren’t so lucky and had to increase their bids on future flights before successfully getting upgraded.
The minimum amount Qantas will allow you to bid – and the minimum Qantas will actually accept – varies from flight to flight: but as a guide, here’s what you should budget for a number of domestic and international routes.
Winning upgrade bids on shorter Qantas flights
As a guideline, upgrades on shorter flights can generally be achieved with fewer points and less cash than on longer routes, but remember that bidding for business class is never ‘a sure thing’.
We’ve compiled the lowest bids that we’ve seen Qantas accept – so if you’re travelling on one of these routes, consider offering the same or higher to maximise your chances.
- Townsville – Brisbane: 3,000 points + $75
- Brisbane – Townsville: 0 points + $230
- Melbourne – Adelaide: 3,000 points + $80
- Adelaide – Melbourne: 3,000 points + $100
- Melbourne – Sydney: 0 points + $140
- Sydney – Brisbane: 3,000 points + $40
- Brisbane – Sydney: 3,000 points + $50
- Sydney – Adelaide: 3,000 points + $180
- Melbourne – Brisbane: 3,000 points + $100
- Brisbane – Melbourne: 3,000 points + $150
- Sydney – Cairns: 6,000 points + $180
- Brisbane – Darwin: 12,000 points + $200
- Melbourne – Gold Coast: 3,000 points + $250
- Cairns – Brisbane: 3,000 points + $260
That’s not to say Qantas won’t accept your bid if it’s lower, but if securing an upgrade is important to you, do consider laying a little extra cash on the table.
Winning upgrade bids on longer Qantas flights
On trans-continental treks and when jetting overseas, the number of points and cash you need for your bid to be successful increases.
Wherever you’re headed, these are the lowest bids we’ve known Qantas to accept on a selection of those routes:
- Sydney – Perth: 4,000 points + $90 (but often $230+)
- Sydney – Darwin: 0 points + $500
- Melbourne – Perth: 4,000 points + $120 (often $250+)
- Melbourne – Alice Springs: 0 points + $210
- Brisbane – Perth: 4,000 points + $105 (often $210+)
- Melbourne – Auckland: 4,000 points + $185
- Sydney – Singapore: 5,000 points + $840
- Sydney – Los Angeles: 0 points + $1,910
- Brisbane – Los Angeles: 5,000 points + $1,135 (economy to business)
Consider also that the minimum amount you can offer may sometimes be greater than what’s above, so use this as a guide and bid accordingly.
Qantas Bid Now Upgrades – FAQs
How can I know if I’m eligible to bid using Qantas Bid Now Upgrades?
Eligible passengers will receive a confirmation email seven days before their flight. Alternatively, you can check your eligibility by filling in your flight information on Qantas’ Bid Now website.
Is it possible to make a Bid Now Upgrade request for an upgrade into first class?
Yes, however, only those already holding business class tickets on international flights will be eligible to bid for an upgrade to First.
Can I use the Qantas lounges if my Bid Now Upgrade offer is accepted?
Yes, successful bids can access the relevant Qantas lounge for the flight on which they’ve been upgraded.
Can I make a second Qantas Bid Now Upgrade offer if the first one was unsuccessful?
No. Travellers are only allowed to place one bid per flight.
Can I withdraw my Bid Now Upgrade offer?
Up until five hours before your scheduled flight departure, you can modify or withdraw an unconfirmed Bid Now upgrade request via the Qantas app or the Bid Now page on qantas.com. However, if you cancel a confirmed upgrade, you will lose the amount paid plus your original seat if booked by someone else in the meantime.
How do I make a Bid Now Upgrade offer in the Qantas app?
In the Qantas app, look out for the option that says ‘Bid to Upgrade’. This will only appear if you are eligible. Once you click on this, follow the steps to request the upgrade.
What is the age limit to make a Qantas Bid Now Upgrades offer?
Eligible customers must be at least 18 years of age to make an upgrade offer.
Have you successfully bid for a Qantas business class upgrade, and if so, how many points and how much money did you part with? Share your successes in the comment box below!