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.
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.