Qantas is auctioning off last-minute business class seats to its best frequent flyers

Qantas. Photo: Getty Images

Qantas will invite selected customers to bid for empty business class seats using a mix of frequent flyer points and cash.

The airline described it as a chance “to unlock revenue opportunities, including a significant increase in aircraft utilisation”.

While Qantas says the program is “designed for Frequent Flyers who don’t have a balance high enough to request an upgrade using points alone”, the airline plans to target key customers by sending out an invitation-only email a week before the flight, offering the chance to bid on an upgrade. The new system ranks below the airline’s “Classic Upgrade Rewards” in terms of priority and value, an bid upgrades will be allocated after the classic points-only upgrades.

Winning bidders would be notified a day before their flight.

“This new initiative will in no way impact the chances of members securing a Classic Upgrade Reward,” Qantas Loyalty CEO Lesley Grant said. “These will always be confirmed first regardless of their Frequent Flyer tier and they remain the best value option.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Customers invited to participate in Bid Now Upgrades will receive an email, seven days before departure, enabling them to make an offer for an upgrade within a set range of points and money.
  2. Minimums are from 3,000 Qantas Points for a domestic upgrade and from 5,000 Qantas Points for an international upgrade. A minimum dollar amount will also be required.
  3. Customers’ Bid Now Upgrades offer can be modified or cancelled at any time up until 24 hours before departure, but customers don’t see each other’s offers.
  4. Customers will be notified via email approximately one day before departure if their offer has been successful or not.
  5. If a customer is not successful, they pay nothing and keep their current seat.

Image: Qantas Airways.

While the Bid Now initiative will provide increased flexibility for some passengers, the system is likely to reduce the availability of ‘upgrade at the gate’ offers, given the system locks in upgraded fares around 24 hours prior departure.

Points-based ‘upgrade at the gate’ offers are only available on domestic services to Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers and Qantas Club members within three hours of departure.

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