How to bid for upgrade on Air Canada – Air Canada bid upgrade

by Anshul
15 comments

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Air Canada has introduced a ‘bid for upgrade’ process which allows passengers with eligible fares to bid a price and experience the better service class. AC has partnered with Plusgrade to run the Air Canada bid upgrade process and many travelers have already reported receiving emails inviting bids for Premium Economy and Business class service.

Air Canada Bid Upgrade

Travelers can bid to upgrade from Economy – Premium Economy and from Premium Economy – Business, however, not every fare is eligible to bid for an upgrade. The system is very much in a beta phase and the upgrades are available for select destinations and select flights only.

**Edit: March 8, 2017** AC has a dedicated page setup for travelers to check if the flight is eligible for a bid upgrade. 

As things stand, AC sends an email to eligible travelers (10 days prior to travel date) with a link which takes them to the bidding page. Travelers submit their bids using a slider, enter payment details and submit their bid.

I recently got an email from Air Canada to bid for my upcoming trip to Dubai, booked in Premium Economy (booking class N). Recall, the time when premium economy fares were cheaper than economy!

Air Canada bid upgrade

 

The bidding page included all the segments of my itinerary, but only those on Air Canada were eligible for bidding. The page included a price slider and a “offer strength” display to help decide on the offer. The slider represents the min. and max. amounts for bidding on each segment. My YYZ-DXB segment had a range of $400 – $900 and I pegged my offer at $500. The bidding price is inclusive of all taxes and fees.

 

Air Canada bid upgrade

I submitted an offer of $500 CAD for YYZ-DXB leg

 

It was interesting to note that only Visa and MasterCard were the accepted forms of payment when submitting a bid. Once submitted, an email confirmation was received promptly with a link to view/modify the offer.  Submitted bid could be modified up until 96 hrs before the flight.

Air Canada bid upgrade

Submitted bid can be modified up until 96 hrs before the flight.

Air Canada would notify the successful bids by email, about 72 hours before flight departure. Unfortunately, I am a few days away from knowing if my $500 was accepted. I would be very surprised if my low-balled offer is approved.

Going forward, AC would also introduce a dedicated AC Bid Upgrade website where travelers can enter a booking reference to determine the eligibility of their booking. For now, its by email invite only.

**Edit: March 8, 2017** AC has a dedicated page setup for travelers to check if the flight is eligible for a bid upgrade. 

Things to know

  • AC would send eligible passengers an invite to bid, 10 days prior to departure. Submitted bid can be modified up until 96 hrs before the flight. Successful bids will be confirmed by email, 72 hours before departure.
  • Eligible flights and tickets are determined by Air Canada at its sole discretion and depends on a variety of factors including cabin class and seat class availability.
  • Upgrades are only available for tickets issued by Air Canada (AC issued tkts start with 014). Flights operated by Air Canada Vacations do not qualify.
  • Group bookings and booking that includes infants (under age 2) also do not qualify for the upgrade.
  • Award tickets booked using Aeroplan miles ARE ELIGIBLE for upgrades.
  • If your upgrade request is accepted, the fare conditions for the original ticket purchased shall remain in effect. Earning miles, Cancellation policy etc will be attached to the original booking fare.
  • Successful upgrades are non-transferable, non-refundable, and are valid only on the flight and date shown. Canceling or changing the ticket will forfeit the upgrade amount.
  • Upgrades to Premium Economy will be rebooked to N class and upgrades to Business class will be rebooked to R class.
  • Altitude members can request an eUpgrade and make an AC bid upgrade offer on the same flight segment. The upgrade request that confirms first, will be honored.

A full AC Bid Upgrade FAQ documentation is available here.

Take Away

The Air Canada bid upgrade process is another step towards a better revenue model for the company. However, this would limit (eliminate?) the last minute upgrade (LMU) offers at check-in and further limit the operational (complimentary) upgrades offered to elite members. Given that successful bids are notified 72 hours prior to departure, Altitude members will continue to enjoy a bigger window at upgrade seats using eUpgrade credits.  The success of the bid depends on many factors including the number of bids for that segment and the price of the bids. Since this process is in beta phase, data points available are few and far between to really ascertain a “good bid”. Best strategy would be to determine the maximum amount you were willing to pay for the upgrade right away.

Have you received an invite to bid yet? What are your thoughts on this new feature? Share with a comment below.

15 comments

LC December 29, 2016 - 2:24 am

So was your $500 bid accepted?

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Bling January 11, 2017 - 9:21 am

Sorry for the late response LC, just coming out of holiday mode. As expected my low-ball bid did not go through. Given that it was a 13.5 hour flight, I am sure others were willing to pay lot more for an upgrade.

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Jeff Fearn January 30, 2017 - 11:09 am

This is a joke. I just got a notice for a flight segment from YYC to YYZ next week. I was excited for a second through maybe I could big 200-300 and get an upgrade to business. Guess what the sliding scale has a min bid for my flight that was $650.00…….your kidding right? Who in their right mind would bid that much. I have bought LMU’s on this same schedule in the past and they were $150-250.00 who is stupid enough to fall for this.

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Bling February 1, 2017 - 3:15 pm

Wow. That is just plain stupid. A yyz-dxb min bid at $500 and yyc-yyz at $650?! The system parameters are completely out of whack, AC better streamline this offering, quick! Would love to know what amount you get for LMU at checkin…
Thanks for sharing Jeff, cheers!

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Jerry December 19, 2018 - 3:50 am

I jusr got upgraded my flight from Hong Kong to Toronto AC16. It’s a 15 hours red eye flight so I decided to treat myself for this Christmas (flight date is around Christmas). I booked one way ticket thru Aeroplan for 37500 miles in economy. And about 10 days before my flight I got an email from air Canada telling me that I can upgrade my flight to business class. The lowest amont was 1100 and highest is 2000 and I opted for 1300 and today I got an email from air canes telling me that I got upgraded. I checked air Canada website for cash ticket, one way businsss class one the day of my departure is over 6000+ so I think 1300 bid upgrade fee is reasonable for a 15 hours flight? Taking into account 37500 Aeroplan Miles to book Econ at first, it would probably worth about 750 (a modest aeroplan value at 2 cents per mile). Then in total I just paid 2100 (750+50tax and fees+1300) Any thoughts? Thanks everyone!

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Points Miles and Bling December 19, 2018 - 7:47 am

$2100 o/w is steep imo. The comfort level on a 15 hr flight is well worth it though. Hope you enjoy your ride, AC pods are really nice!

For HKG-YYZ sector, I prefer to be on Cathay to be honest, on points (with Alaska). Even if you start at zero balance, with Alaska promotion you can fly from North America to Asia in business class (60K miles, on Cathay for example) for $1182 or in First Class (70K miles) for $1292. Read more here – https://travelupdate.com/last-call-on-alaska-50-bonus-promo/

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Jerry December 20, 2018 - 9:50 am

Hi Anshul, thanks for your prompt reply. I fly Air Canada only because I’m a Air Canada aeroplan member to accumulate miles and it’s easy to redeem for flights in Canada. I like cathay pacific too but I don’t like thir asia miles program. I found it’s very hard to book a flight, maybe that’s just me.
For alaska mileage plan, I agree with you that it’s a great value to use miles to book for Cathay Pacific flight in between Canada and Asia in Business & First class. I am currenly earning miles through their co-branded mastercard. For buying miles, I know it’s 50% more miles bonus promotion as of now, but for Canadians, it’s the poor exchange rate to USD with also Alaska charges Canadian PST GST HST on top of the US tax which makes the 50% bonus miles much less appealing to Canadians. Correct me anything if I am wrong and thanks:)

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Points Miles and Bling December 20, 2018 - 10:11 am

Hi Jerry,
That’s a fair argument but comparing apples to apples, buying AS points with 50% promo to fly HKG-YYZ (for example) would cost $1182 for 60K (assuming you are starting at zero balance), which is ~$1670 CAD after tax and conversion. Still such a good deal. If you collect AS miles already, even more compelling to top up just enough to get on CX business class. I wouldn’t bother with Asia miles tbh, better off booking CX using AS miles.
Also, fyi, the bidding upgrade gets you in the cabin but you don’t earn J level mileage.
Cheers!

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Jerry December 21, 2018 - 2:48 am

Hi Anshul, thanks for the useful info and it’s very helpful. I will dig into Alaska mileage plan more and hopefully to get better value out of it. Happy holidays & cheers:)

Maxine December 21, 2018 - 11:19 pm

We love the Alaska program and agree with you but it’s not always easy to find availability on your selected dates, especially on Cathay, which is something that was not mentioned in this advice.

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Points Miles and Bling December 22, 2018 - 2:38 pm

Absolute fact. CX avail on Mileage Plan has been hit or miss lately. In my exp, t-10 is best and works under current setup too.

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Richard August 7, 2019 - 10:00 am

Travelling from YYZ to EZE in September and I have already checked to see and I am eligible to bid for upgrade. when I check for a Premium Economy upgrade, while the scale shows the minimum bid to maximum bid the system displays a price already in the Even Better range. The range is from $480-$750 and the default when entering the Bid Upgrade displays $580. I am assuming but not sure that this would likely be set by the airline as a suggested minimum bid as opposed to the scale starting at $480.

I don’t want to make a lowball bid but wonder if you have an opinion on how this initial default value is set?

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Points Miles and Bling August 7, 2019 - 10:24 am

Hi Richard, that default bid must represent the avg bid for that segment, fare bucket. To be honest, the successful bid depends heavily on the flt load/avail/priority etc. I have seen enough data points of min. bid going through and also with higher bids not being successful. I don’t think the airline is setting the min. bid, it must be an algorithm that sets the min/max based on prev bids from those fare buckets.

Good luck!

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Richard August 7, 2019 - 3:01 pm

I’ve been following on expert flyer and there is still a number of seats unallocated in Premium economy. As it is a 14 hour flight I am inclined to wait until a little closer to departure date before sending in a bid. I still have a month to departure and the tickets were obtained through Aeroplan Miles. Thanks for your input.

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Liam July 29, 2020 - 1:24 am

I used this once back in 2017 and got an amazing value out of it.

DFW-YYZ E75 on an Aeroplan (X) ticket – first time I looked about T-14 days the minimum bid was a not so great $220 USD. Went back T-9 days and the minimum bid dropped to $110 USD. At that point I felt it was totally worth an attempt at the minimum given J was completely empty at that point and Y was maybe at around 80%. I would have been fine with my original seat in row 12 (that I scored for free thanks to the medical desk) but lo and behold around T minus 52 hours I got an email informing me that my bid had been accepted!

X class became R class of course.

With how awful and crowded DFW was that morning, I was happy to be able to get in to the United lounge and escape the madness, and the extra space on board was certainly welcome given the fact that I was really tired from my really early wake-up call

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