Upgrade auctions: Cathay Pacific lets you bid for a better seat

By David Flynn, July 17 2017
Upgrade auctions: Cathay Pacific lets you bid for a better seat

Cathay Pacific will now let travellers bid cash for an upgrade to premium economy and business class – but not first class – under the airline's new Upgrade Bid program.

The initiative is intended to help the airline fill its premium cabins on selected flights where seats remain empty even after frequent flyer points-based upgrades have been allocated, the airline says.

The first routes on the Upgrade Bid roster include "selected flights" between Hong Kong and Adelaide, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Brisbane, Cebu, Chiang Mai, Chicago, Colombo, Denpasar (Bali), Dubai, Kathmandu, Rome and Seoul.

Cathay Dragon flights on those routes are also eligible for an Upgrade Bid bump, with other routes to be added in the coming months.

An Upgrade Bid "eligibility notification" will appear on the booking confirmation page for flights booked through the Cathay Pacific website, with the option to place a cash bid and then change or cancel that bid up to 50 hours before the flight departs.

Successful bids will be acknowledged via email two to three days before the flight.

Factors which feed into making a successful bid include not only the amount offered but also your original fare class (a cheaper ticket will require a higher cash bid to make the cut ), the number of passengers in the same booking (solo flyers will have an edge over Brady Bunch-sized bookings) and even your Marco Polo Club status.

Cathay Pacific maintains that "Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles members will have an advantage on their original bid, prioritised by tier in recognition of their loyalty and support."

The Oneworld airline previously trialled the cash-for-upgrades concept in 2014 under the Enhance brand.


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.

24 Apr 2015

Total posts 128

all airlines have to do something. Very few are paying to fly business at present.

I have no problem with this, as long as it doesn't mean that as a Marco Polo Diamond I have less chance of getting a reward seat.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

I think this is exactly what will happens. It may be hope that they put upgrade by points base on status first (IMHO unlikely) but you pretty much should forget about free upgrade. As least on AUS-HKG route.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 214

This has none of the characteristics of an auction! This is more like a tender process whereby you place a bid in the hope it will be accepted.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Oct 2016

Total posts 71

That's pretty much what it is. 

I can't speak for VA, but I know with NZ it's the same. You even get a little thermometer indicator showing how likely it is to get your upgrade. 

Will be interesting to see. Maybe for my trip to Hong Kong with the other half I'll book PE, and then Bid to upgrade. 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

I think it either useless because plenty of eligible for upgrade pax exists with plenty of points (on my last trip both flight MEL-HKG and HKG-MEL was full). Or they stop upgrade by points in favor upgrade by money. This or that way it means that there will be no "surprise" upgrade anymore when carrier voluntary shift pax to higher cabin.
Different story on regional routes like HKG-BKK for example - during last trip there was like 30% load.

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