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If you’ve ever looked at a regular first-class ticket price, laughed and thought, “Ha never!” well this post is for you. For most of us, sipping Champagne in the premier cabin just before take off probably seems totally out of reach, but what you may not know is that some airlines allow you to bid on those premium seats. This makes it possible for you to get an even better seat—and much better airline experience—for a fraction of the normal ticket price. With our helpful guide, you may just find yourself flying in style on your next trip in the sky!

RELATED: Just how impressive are these new luxury airline suites?

How does the bidding process work?

Each company has its own bidding process and guidelines in place but the process is usually similar. Once you buy your normal airline tickets, you’ll get your standard confirmation email. Sometime in the future, you may get a separate email asking if you’d like to bid on first- or business-class seating. It will direct you to a weblink where you can do the actual bidding. All you need to do is set your bid amount. If you’re selected for an upgrade, you’ll get a confirmation bid email and your credit card will be charged before your flight. If don’t receive this email, call your airline to ask how their program works, if they have one. It’s that easy!


Flickr CC: Dan Nevill

Which airlines offer first class bidding?

You may be wondering what airlines offer premium seat bidding. The answer is many! Here are a few airlines that you may want to bid with in the future. Be sure to check into their specific program terms to see what they offer.

  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Air China
  • COPA Airlines
  • Etihad
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Avianca
  • TAP Portugal
  • Icelandair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
Emirate Airline Business Class Seat

Flickr CC: Luke Lai

ALSO: Another great tip—join Orbitz Rewards to earn toward free hotels!

5 helpful tips to keep in mind

If you want to have a better chance at securing a great seat upgrade, here are some tips to consider:

  • Each airline will have a set minimum bid, which is calculated by flight length, destination and other factors. Sorry, but you won’t get a first class seat for $1!
  • Remember that you’re competing with other flyers—while you want to get a great deal, bidding the minimum amount may not be the best strategy. Consider bidding more than the minimum amount if it’s within your budget.
  • When bidding, look into the perks that are associated with the upgraded seat. This can help you better decide if you’ll be getting a great deal. For example, a long-haul flight that includes a comfortable seat, unlimited alcohol, and quality meals may be well worth a $300 ticket upgrade price.
  • Consider bidding on weekday flights, as there are likely fewer people on your flight compared to busier days like Saturday or Sunday. You may have a better chance at winning your bid this way!
  • Do some research online to see what has worked for other travelers. This can help you better gauge your own chances of winning an upgrade bid.

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Tagged: Feature

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Natasha Gabrielle
Natasha is a freelance writer, blogger and traveler. After spending the last 2 years living and working in South Korea, she continues to travel the world and document her adventures at
Natasha Gabrielle

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14 thoughts on “Here’s how to bid on a first class upgrade and win”

  1. Aeromexico offers bidding. We flew to Cancun in December. Wednesday flight from NYC. First Class. Only an extra $125 ticket.

  2. I just got an offer to bid for upgrade on virgin Australia…but the minimum bid was 2400.00
    That’s about 175.00 an hour extra for the flight.
    I could drink a lot of alcohol in the cheap seats for that….

  3. .The airline is gonna make a bundle off’n those unsold 1st class seats. Good for them . It’ll add a bit of spice to air travel.

  4. I am a retiree from active duty military and a retiree from the aerospace industry. The top major airlines, which comprise the majority DO NOT bid their First Class seats. Here’s the ‘down and dirty’ about First/Business Class vs coach/economy class air travel; 1) from departure to arrival, the time is virtually the same as coach/economy class; 2) delays and cancellations are the same; 3) air turbulences are the same as in coach class; 4) babies cry just as loud and incessantly as they do in coach class; 5) outside views are the same; 6) quantity and quality of food and booze is not worth the extra 1.5 grand per ticket. Booze is served in coach, too; 7) heaven forbid, air disaster affects all regardless of seating.

    1. Not having to wait 1-2 hrs to get through security, extra leg and seat room, checked baggage first off the flight, and the peace that you get from knowing that you probably won’t get a screaming kid next to you make domestic 1st class well worth it

      1. Hey Mr. Bill,
        U still r not going anywhere here until everyone gets on board/there is the possibility that a child (crying) could be very close to ya.

        I didn’t know 1st class baggage was unloaded 1st. Interesting.

    2. Exactly!!! Put that money in a college fund, upgrade your hotel room, take two more flights or a companion on your flight. The airline will do just fine and you’ll get there at the same time. Chances are you’ll sleep through the meal and the booze tastes just the same for the $10 a glass as the $1000 a few seats ahead of you.

  5. They should start bidding process in 24 hours to 48 hours rather waiting for last 4 to 6 hours; by then passenger has planned his luggage n can emotionality fit into his coach seat. Airlines wait for last hours, I have seen sometime there 20 to 40 % seats go vacant.
    In long International flights they can announce to talk to Air Hostess or staff n offer upgrade for nominal charges.
    Time is essence !

  6. Speaking of air travel, why don’t airlines offer kid-free flights? I have flown short haul and long haul flights with crying babies and toddlers which becomes a version of hell. I know kids are often uncomfortable flying (their ears, being strapped in, very close quarters), but just as frequently, their parents are doing nothing to try to alleviate the situation. Churches often have a “crying room”, why can’t airlines have flights sans kids ?

    1. I’ve thought about this, too (as the mother of a 15 month old, I’m hyper sensitive to us causing a nuisance). Or maybe they could have a “kids section”? Or why not have “family flights” where everyone has kids so nobody’s bothered. Or maybe even a kid-focused airline? That would be ideal – they could have kid entertainment, toys, games, etc. I think it would be a hit.

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