With so many ways to upgrade to business class aboard Air New Zealand, there’s no reason you should be down the back in economy on your next trip across the pond and beyond.
It’s possible to bid real money for a business class upgrade via Air NZ’s ‘OneUp’ scheme, and to use points or miles from other Star Alliance airlines such as Singapore Airlines and United to upgrade on Air NZ flights, regardless of your frequent flyer status with Air NZ.
Air New Zealand Airpoints Silver, Gold and Elite members also receive complimentary ‘recognition upgrades’ each year, while top-tier Elite cardholders get a further short-haul upgrade and can use Airpoints Dollars to upgrade to business class as well.
Whether you’re at the top of bottom of Air NZ’s frequent flyer food chain, here’s what you need to know about upgrading to business class with the Kiwi carrier.
Air NZ business class upgrades: the basics
Most importantly, upgrades are only possible on tickets booked with Air New Zealand under its own ‘NZ’ flight number.
Booking a Virgin Australia (VA) codeshare flight on Air New Zealand, for example, means you won’t be able to upgrade. You also can’t upgrade on Air New Zealand using Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points, regardless of the flight number you book on.
Upgrades are also subject to availability and aren’t guaranteed.
Air New Zealand decides how many seats are given over to upgrading passengers on each flight – and in some cases that could be no seats at all, even if business class tickets are still being sold on the same flight.
Finally, if you are upgraded you’ll continue to earn Airpoints Dollars and Status Points as per the fare you originally bought. Users of other frequent flyer programs will also receive points, miles, status credits or tier miles (as applicable) as per the original fare also.
Bidding for an Air NZ business class upgrade
You don’t need any frequent flyer points for a business class upgrade – you can bid for that upgrade with real money instead, courtesy of NZ’s ‘OneUp’ system.
These upgrades are all one-class, so if you’re on a flight that offers economy, premium economy and business class, you’ll need to pay for a premium economy ticket in order to bid for a business class upgrade.
Similarly, if your flight offers only business class and economy, you’re clear to upgrade straight from cattle class to business class.
Bids are accepted from the moment your booking is made until seven days before each flight’s departure, with the outcome advised between seven and three days before your flight.
Frequent Air NZ travellers will also have their bid amounts bolstered to help improve their chances at success. Silver members get a 10% boost, Gold flyers a 30% bonus weight and Elite members a 50% increase.
For example, when an Elite member makes a $700 bid, the system treats that as a $1,050 bid, yet the passenger will only be charged $700.
Winning bidders are determined based on a number of factors including the value of the offer and how it compares to offers made on the same flight, any elite Airpoints member status, the number of seats available in business class and the number of passengers in the booking.
Bids aren’t accepted from passengers who book an economy Skycouch; those on the most heavily discounted ‘grabaseat greenlight’ fares; passengers on group tickets; where the original flight was booked using frequent flyer points or on flights from Japan.
Air NZ complimentary ‘recognition upgrades’
Every membership year, Airpoints Silver members pocket one ‘recognition upgrade’ while Gold and Elite members get two. Elite members also get a ‘short haul recognition upgrade’ each year in addition to their other upgrades.
It works like this: on shorter flights such as between Australia’s east coast and New Zealand, one regular recognition upgrade gets you bumped from economy straight to business class, even if premium economy is offered on that flight.
That’s also what happens with the extra short haul recognition upgrades given to Elite flyers – and while you can certainly use them to move from premium economy to business class, you’ll get the best value by booking a mere economy ticket and scooting yourself to the front row.
On longer flights aboard Air NZ’s Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft such as between Perth and Auckland or Auckland and Los Angeles, one regular recognition upgrade gets you a one-class bump: that’s from economy to premium economy or from premium economy to business class.
However, you can pair two recognition upgrades on the one flight to skip from economy to premium economy and then from premium economy to business class.
Elite-level frequent flyers have ‘first dibs’ when using recognition upgrades with requests able to be confirmed and locked in from the moment a booking has been made until seven days prior to departure, subject to availability. If an upgrade isn’t available, you can also join a ‘waitlist’.
Recognition upgrades for Gold and Silver members are processed roughly six days before wheels-up, with Gold members given priority after any waitlisted Elite upgrades have been considered.
Upgrading to business class using Airpoints Dollars
Exclusively for Air New Zealand’s Elite frequent flyers, business class upgrades are also possible by using Airpoints Dollars: the Air NZ equivalent of frequent flyer points.
On flights between east coast Australia and New Zealand, Aussie travellers need A$220 Airpoints Dollars for a one-way bump up from economy to business class or a lower $130 Airpoints Dollars to move from premium economy to business.
(Even if your flight has a premium economy cabin, you’re still free to upgrade from economy to business class on shorter flights.)
Longer routes like Perth-Auckland get more complex: where the aircraft serving the route only has economy and business class, it’s $390 Airpoints Dollars for an upgrade – but when premium economy is sold, upgrades are instead only one-class.
That means you’d need to book a premium economy fare to be in with a shot at a business class seat, with that upgrade costing you $330 Airpoints Dollars in addition to your original fare.
Take a trip between New Zealand and the USA or Canada and you’re looking at $430 Airpoints Dollars to upgrade from premium economy, while an Auckland-Los Angeles-London journey costs $860 all up, as upgrades are processed and charged flight-by-flight.
Air NZ upgrades using Star Alliance miles
Using frequent flyer points of other Star Alliance airlines to upgrade to Air NZ business class is a great option also, and you don’t need to hold Star Alliance Gold (or Silver) status to request an upgrade.
For example, United MileagePlus members can use United miles to upgrade from economy and premium economy to business class on all Air NZ routes, subject to availability, when having booked a Y or B flexible economy fare or an E, O or U premium economy ticket.
On all flights between Australia and New Zealand – including that longer Perth-Auckland journey – it’s only 10,000 United miles for an upgrade, although to be in with a shot you’d have paid a pretty penny for those higher-priced tickets.
The number of frequent flyer points or miles needed to upgrade with Air New Zealand varies between Star Alliance frequent flyer programs, but remember that as Virgin Australia isn’t a Star Alliance member, you can’t use Velocity points for business class upgrades on Air New Zealand.
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