Aching for a business-class upgrade? Qantas now has a new option called Bid Now Upgrades that give you a second chance at a better seat — but it will cost you both points and money. Here is how it works.
As a rule, Road Worrier favours using frequent flyer points for flights or flight upgrades over most other uses. The price difference between a business class and economy seat means that using points gives you the most bang for your buck.
Bid Now Upgrades isn't a replacement for the existing Classic Upgrade Rewards, which let you use your points to apply for an upgrade on a seat you have already paid for. That tends to require a lot of points: as many as 96,000 to upgrade on a single sector like Sydney-LA from economy to business.
The big benefit of Bid Now Upgrades is that they use fewer points. The first downside is that they aren't an option you can automatically access; it's invitation only. If a seat is potentially available, Qantas will send you an email inviting you to bid for a Bid Now Upgrade, probably around 7 days before the flight. Qantas hasn't offered detailed guidelines on who might qualify, but it seems reasonable to assume that high-status flyers and people who have booked full-fare tickets will be at the front of the queue. If you receive an email, you can make an offer for a Bid Now Upgrade up to 24 hours before the flight (and can also withdraw an offer if you change your mind).
The second downside is that you have to bid both points and cash. The minimum amount of points required for a domestic upgrade will be 3000; for international it's 5000. There will also be a minimum amount of money you have to spend, though Qantas hasn't said what it is. In reality, it's likely to vary for every flight. You can choose to bid more than the minimum amount, but that means you may be outbid by other flyers.
The decision on whether you'll receive an upgrade will be made between 12 and 24 hours before the flight. That means Qantas can still hope to sell a few more business class seats. Qantas also says it will only process Bid Now offers after it has assigned any requested Classic Upgrade Reward seats. If your bid isn't successful, no points are used and no money is spent.
So does it make sense to take part? It really depends on how many spare points you have lying around, what the bid range is, and if going business class is worth the hassle. For Australia, I'd suggest the only routes which ever justify that level of expenditure are East Coast to Perth, or Far North Queensland to the southern states.
Internationally, it's more appealing for everywhere apart from New Zealand, but also more unlikely. If you do get an offer, weigh up the pricing carefully, and work out if you could spend the same amount of points with better value by purchasing another flight on a different occasion. For more tips, check out our general advice on how to score flight upgrades.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman suspects he'll keep his points for actual flights. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears regularly on Lifehacker.