Virgin Australia trials instant 'Buy Now' business class upgrades

By Chris Chamberlin, May 16 2017

EXCLUSIVE | Passengers flying with Virgin Australia between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane can now purchase on-the-spot business class upgrades via a new UpgradeMe Buy Now trial, which sees their economy seat swapped for a business class ticket at a reduced price.

Complementing the existing UpgradeMe Premium Bid service which remains available, Buy Now removes the uncertainty of bidding or waitlisting for an upgrade on flights within the 'triangle' – that's Sydney-Brisbane, Sydney-Melbourne, Melbourne-Brisbane and vice versa – with payment instead taken immediately and a business class seat confirmed straight away.

How much you'll pay for that instant upgrade may depend on your exact route, the type of ticket you've purchased and how much you paid for it – with the Buy Now price a 'take it or leave it' offer, unlike the Premium Bid approach where travellers can nominate how much they're willing to pay and learn their fate closer to departure.

"Virgin Australia continually looks at ways to deliver a rewarding travel experience for our guests," a spokesperson for the airline told Australian Business Traveller when commenting on the Buy Now trial.

As with other all other Virgin Australia upgrades, travellers will earn frequent flyer points and status credits in line with the fare they originally purchased – not as per a business class ticket – with no additional points awarded directly by Virgin Australia on Buy Now purchases.

(Of course, using your points-earning credit card to pay for that upgrade will still deliver points on that spend in line with your bank's earn rates and T&Cs, as with any other credit card purchase.)

Guests who do upgrade will receive most of the other business class entitlements including priority check-in, lounge access, priority boarding and baggage delivery, although the baggage allowance remains as shown on your original economy ticket.

Upgrade using Buy Now and enjoy lounge access before your Virgin Australia flight
Upgrade using Buy Now and enjoy lounge access before your Virgin Australia flight

How to request a Virgin Australia Buy Now upgrade

Want to see how much a confirmed upgrade will cost before your next Virgin Australia flight?

Have you six letter booking confirmation code handy, head to the Virgin Australia website until five days before departure, and key in your details.

(If you've booked through a travel agent – including corporate travel agencies – keep your eyes peeled for 'airline confirmation' or similar, as the main booking reference shown on your ticket may be for the travel agency itself rather than Virgin Australia.)

Buy Now upgrades are available to passengers booked on all paid economy fare types including Getaway, Elevate and Freedom on flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but aren't currently available on other routes.

If your journey is eligible, you'll spy a Buy Now upgrade price which you can choose to accept and pay for immediately, or you can continue to lodge an offer via the existing Premium Bid service through the same portal, which doesn't guarantee an upgrade but may prove less pricey.

Virgin Australia Buy Now upgrades: the fine print

While Buy Now upgrades are open to passengers travelling on paid fares, they're not available to guests who booked their flight using frequent flyer points – whether through Velocity or other partner programs like Etihad Guest and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

Also, even if you do manage to secure a Buy Now upgrade, cancelling or changing that upgraded flight will lose you both the upgrade and the amount you paid for it, so if flexibility is needed, either buy a full-priced business class fare or refrain from upgrading your existing economy ticket until your travel plans are certain.

However, if you purchase a Buy Now upgrade on a flight which is later cancelled by the airline, you'll be accommodated on an alternative flight in that same upgraded travel class wherever possible, or would be eligible for a full refund on the Buy Now upgrade payment if travel can only be provided in economy.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

It's almost as if they can't sell 8 business class seats on each flight at the asking price....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 737

It seems that way. We've done a lot of triangle flying this month, all on reward seats - cabin only full once. 

24 Apr 2015

Total posts 129

Everyone is trying to upgrade & hardly anyone is paying for business class on all airlines, according to a travel agent exec was talking to. Things look grim for many airlines. Emirates & Etihad are way down. Emirates profit down 82% & Etihad have lost their investments in Alitalia & Air Berlin, which are now worthless as both will close down very soon.

23 Sep 2015

Total posts 45

My wife and I flew on VA925 on 5th May and apart from us (on a points upgrade), the only other pax  in business was an unaccompanied minor...  Between 3 of us we basically had the full attention of 2 crew. Made for a great flight home after flying SIN-SYD.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

So for my flights to Sydney and back next week (from Brisbane) it would be $219 on the way down and $200 on the way back.

The first flight is booked on an Elevate fare type and the return on a Freedom.

I think I'll be keeping my Economy seat but it's certainly better value than the old bid upgrades as $219 and $200 are both at the bottom end of the sliding option.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 544

If you haven't tried Virgin's business class before, I'd consider AUD 200 a great deal for an upgrade...

(of course this is up to you, just saying)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 253

UpgradeMe Buy Now is in addition to UpgradeMe Bid.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 303

Could be useful for some companies who will only pay for economy class fare, then you can buy your own upgrade if your bid is unsuccessful.  Probably cheaper than buying a full business class fare.  Will be interesting to see how this affects the market.  Will people stop buying business class tickets, and just wait until closer for the cheaper upgrade option?

29 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

@Chris: Can you please clarify this sentence (my bolding): "head to the Virgin Australia website until five days before departure, and key in your details."

Do you mean you can do this only up to 5 days prior to travel, or wait until there is 5 days or less before travel? Your wording has confused me!

Buy Now upgrades are available for purchase until five days before departure, at which point they're no longer sold. :)

29 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

Thanks Chris. I get it now, maybe it was my mid afternoon slump that got me!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Apr 2016

Total posts 24

I'd much rather see this on the SYD-LAX B777.....

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 11

Could be interesting if you prefer comfort over points, but if you've already added Y-x & Lounge access to Elevate or Freedom points, not worth it on a 2hr flight. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 6

I would much rather the Virgin group as a whole saw the value in occasionally upgrading their valued guests for free. Maybe it is just me though those who fly on Qantas seem to always be upgraded when i travel, those on Virgin(s) never so. Ok, make some money but you will also grab more loyalty if you recognise it.

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