Travel Business, pay Economy fare

Etihad Airways introduces class-upgrade auction

Want to travel Business class while paying just a little over your Economy class ticket? It is now possible, with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways introducing an online upgrade auction that allows its passengers the opportunity to bid for an upgrade to a higher class.

“Etihad Airways is delighted to inform you about the introduction of our new online upgrade system that gives you a fantastic opportunity to upgrade to Diamond First or Pearl Business Class,” the airline said in an email promotion campaign.

What this means for Etihad’s Coral Economy passengers is that they can get an upgrade to Pearl Business class without having to bank on their Etihad Guest Miles or a cash-rich uncle.

“The online upgrade system facilitated through our partner PlusGrade enables you to experience our premium cabins and enjoy unmatched luxury and convenience for great value,” Etihad added.

If seats are vacant on a higher class, the airline will give passengers an option to quote a price for the upgrade. The highest bidder gets the upgrade. The system is similar to the one followed by some European airlines such as Virgin Atlantic.

In effect, passengers with confirmed tickets on a particular class can determine the amount they are willing to pay for an upgrade to the next higher cabin – Diamond First Class or Pearl Business Class, respectively.

“Guests will be notified on email about potential availability of seats for upgrades, following which they can make their offer. The success of an offer will depend on the amount offered for an upgrade, other competing offers as well as the guest’s status within the Etihad Guest program. As always, the higher the offer, the greater the chances. Guests will be informed by Etihad about the final status of their offer two days prior to departure,” Etihad said.

Once a passenger has made an offer, he or she will be able to see an ‘offer strength indicator’ bar, which will be a guide to whether their offer likely to succeed or not. A red bar indicates ‘poor offer: very unlikely to be upgraded’ while two yellow bars mean that the offer is below past successful offers and the passenger is unlikely to be upgraded. Three green bars, on the other hand, indicate that the offer is in the range of past successful offers and therefore there are moderate chances of it being successful. Finally, four green bars mean that it is a good offer, and that there is a high chance to be upgraded although there is no guarantee of an upgrade.

In addition, the airline says that passengers are free to change the amount they have bid for an upgrade until a final confirmation mail informing them whether their offer has been successful or not is sent out. However, once passengers cancel their upgrade offer, they won’t be allowed to enter the bid for that particular journey anymore. “Once you have cancelled your offer, the system will not allow you to make another offer,” Etihad said.

Additionally, upgraded passengers will not have the luxury to select their seating at the time of their upgrade, and will be assigned a seat only during check-in.

There are no additional charges that Etihad levies for submitting an offer to upgrade, but if there are more than one passenger booked under a single booking reference, then all of them will need to be upgraded, or none get upgraded, Etihad said.

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