Singapore Airlines Now Lets You Bid On Upgrades

Airlines are doing everything they can to monetize their premium cabins, so we’ve increasingly seen airlines offer the ability to bid on an upgrade after booking. In these instances, passengers are invited to place a bid within a preset range, and then within a few days of departure they’ll be informed as to whether or not they’re eligible. I shared my experience doing a paid upgrade on SriLankan last year.

SriLankan-Upgrade-4

Singapore Airlines has long “protected the integrity” of their premium cabins, as they might describe it. They don’t make most premium cabin award space available to partner airlines, and historically they’ve never offered any sort of bidding system for upgrades. It seems they did that more out of pride than anything, given that the airline has been losing money on virtually all of their longhaul flights for years.

Well, Singapore Airlines is now introducing mySQupgrade, which is a program that lets you bid on an upgrade.

Singapore-Airlines-Upgrade-Bid

Under this program:

  • If you’re eligible, you may receive an email invitation to bid 7 days before departure. Bids must be in $, and lie within a preset range.
  • You can make, change, or cancel your bid for an upgrade any time before 50 hours to departure.
  • If your bid is successful, expect an email notification 48 hours before departure. Only successful bids will be charged.

Singapore-Upgrades

Per the email that KrisFlyer is sending out to eligible passengers:

We would like to introduce mySQupgrade, a new invitation-only bidding system to allow customers to make an online bid for a one-cabin upgrade.

mySQupgrade will initially allow invited customers booked to travel in Economy Class, the opportunity to make a bid for a seat in Premium Economy Class. This functionality will be gradually introduced across the network, and provide customers another option to upgrade their class of travel, and enjoy greater levels of comfort when they fly.

For our KrisFlyer members, we would like to assure you that your membership continues to be important to us. Redemption booking confirmations will receive priority over upgrade bids through mySQupgrade.

It’s interesting to note that this is initially only available for upgrades from economy to premium economy, though may be rolled out to other types of upgrades as well. I suspect this means that Singapore Airlines doesn’t have great load factors in premium economy at the moment, given that they only recently introduced it.

In many cases the premium for premium economy is minimal. For example, take a look at a New York to Frankfurt flight, where economy is ~$900:

Singapore-Airlines-1

Meanwhile premium economy is ~$1,270:

Singapore-Airlines-2

The fare difference is only ~$350 to begin with, and keep in mind that if you bid for an upgrade, you’ll only be awarded miles based on your original class of service, and not based on your upgraded class of service.

Bottom line

It’s great to see Singapore Airlines introduce a paid upgrade program, and I’m actually sort of surprised it took them so long. It’s initially only available for economy to premium economy upgrades, which suggests they’re probably not achieving their projected load factors for the cabin. Here’s to hoping they expand this for upgrades to business and first class soon as well.

Have you ever bid for an upgrade on an airline?

(Tip of the hat to Hans Mast)

Comments

  1. I’m guessing next they’ll try it out on short haul business, as that’s where people rarely want to pay a big premium and try to use miles. Perhaps in a year they’ll do it for long-haul business. That’ll be interesting to watch. Facing a nearly empty business cabin, do they upgrade 20-30 people for $400-500 each from coach? It’s a lot of money to give up, on the other hand it’ll mean few will ever think of paying full price.

  2. I just submitted a bid on Sri Lanka Air from Colombo to Singapore. I determined what I was willing to bid based on the fact that the bid price is effectively a price tacked onto the original price paid for my Economy ticket. I then went to Sri Lanka Air and checked the price for a one-way Business ticket to Singapore on my original travel dates and looked at the difference between that price and the price I paid for my Economy ticket. Then, looking at the lowest acceptable bid on Sri Lanka’s upgrade request site, I figured that the difference between the full price Business ticket and my original Economy ticket price plus the lowest acceptable bid price would amount to ~ $28. In other words, if the bid I submitted is accepted, I will save ~$28 compared to if I had just paid full price for Business Class. Granted, I’m bidding 3 months prior to travel, but it seems to me that it would be easy for people to get caught up in a bidding frenzy and instead of finding a bargain, find that they’ve overpaid…much like the standard auction-goer…..

  3. I just placed a bid with Sri Lanka Air for a Business upgrade to my Economy ticket from Colombo to Singapore in October. If I understand correctly, the bid price is essentially a cost tacked onto the original Economy Class ticket purchase price. I started by going to Sri Lanka Air’s website and looked up the price for a one-way Colombo->Singapore Business Class ticket on my travel dates. Then looking on the Sri Lanka Air upgrade request page, I found that the lowest acceptable bid + my original Economy ticket price was ~$28 lower than a full-price Business Class ticket…if my bid is accepted, I will have saved ~$28 over the full purchase price. Granted, I’m requesting 3 months in advance, but it seems to me that people run the risk of succumbing to bidding frenzy, only to find that they’ve overpaid…much like the standard auction-goer….

  4. SAS has also introduced this. Ben, perhaps you should read about it and include it in your post when you blog about your upcoming SAS flights. It’s quite annoying actually. The amount of points we used to need to spend to go from economy to business on long haul flights was 40k. Now the minimum bid is 40k, and it will show up as poor at that bid.

  5. @atx
    I think they should do upgrades from Y+ only. Perhaps 1.5k for SIN-US o/w upgrade?

  6. Sorry for the hijack: What method do you use in China to get email / text access to USA ? I will be using my IPhone.

  7. last week i bid USD296 for an upgrade on SQ from LAX to SIN, which was at the very low end of “fair.” i did it just as a lark, but to my surprise it came through. it would have cost USD900 more than economy if i’d purchased premium economy outright. the cabin was half empty — everybody had an empty seat next to them except for two couples.

  8. forgot to add that i earned 110% miles, which is what i’d have earned if i’d purchased premium economy outright … that was odd.

  9. Update on my bid with Sri Lanka Air…it was accepted, even given that it was at the lowest acceptable bid. Given that, I would suggest bidding at the lowest acceptable bid.

  10. I wanted to see if this was worth trying but ultimately the load factors for SFO-MNL (via SIN) seem to be terrible in PEY, with the lowest Y fare being around USD 900~ and the PEY fare being USD 1,200~ RT. Considering this is a transpacific flight that’s really a steal so I just booked PEY outright. Maybe when SQ introduces this for Y/PEY > J upgrades it would be worth looking into more.

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