For the last couple of years, Air Canada has introduced a new program, the AC Bid Upgrade. Passengers who purchase tickets or redeem points for a flight can place a monetary bid to hopefully obtain a seat in a higher class of service; bids can be placed on seats in premium economy, Premium Rouge, and Business Class. Not only does the AC Bid Upgrade help Air Canada earn extra revenue but it also gives those who spent very little on a ticket the chance to pay more for a better seat. While it is not available on all flights all the time, those eligible should get an email 7-10 days prior to scheduled departure with the details on how to place a bid. In this post, I’ll give you some tips on figuring out if it’s worth the extra $ or not.
As the date of our flight approaches, we’re really not looking forward to being crammed in economy on an Air Canada 777-300er during a red-eye YYZ- Toronto followed by 5 hours on an Air Canada Rouge 767 to BGI – Bridgetown Barbados. As luck or fate would have it, we received an email from Air Canada notifying us that we could bid on an upgrade 10 days before our scheduled departure.
We start by logging in and looking at the options on the YVR – Vancouver to YYZ – Toronto flight and there were at least 16 business class seats, which leads us to believe that if we placed a bid that had an “Offer Strength” of “Very Good”, we might stand a chance of securing a lie flat seat, priority boarding and lounge access. The thing is, it looks like that “Very Good” offer would cost at least $620+ per passenger. If we placed a bid and it was successful, we’d find out about 48 hours prior to departure. We would get priority boarding, a lounge pass to the Maple Leaf Lounge, a full lie flat seat, complimentary checked bags, and meals and drinks inflight. The lie flat seat on a red eye is the biggest perk, but you’ll only realistically get to use it for 3.5-4 hours on a 4.5 hour gate-to-gate flight (if there are no delays).
For the YYZ – Toronto to BGI – Bridgetown Barbados portion, a “Very Good” bid would start at about $540 and include most of the same perks as the YVR to YYZ flight minus the lie flat seat as the seat only reclines on Air Canada Rouge’s 767.
In addition, all condition of the initial fare type you purchased will apply: cancellation policies, change fees, and mileage earned, etc. Specific to mileage, you will not earn miles at the rate eligible for premium tickets; you will earn the miles based on the class of ticket you initially booked and your status with Air Canada. i.e if you book a Tango Fare, you will only earn miles as the Tango fare.
Source: AC Bid Upgrade FAQ
The True Cost: Let’s Compare:
- The price of each return ticket from YVR-YYZ-BGI is valued at $1,000/$500 each way.
- The optional ancillary fees are about $100: a Maple Leaf Lounge Access pass is $50 per person, $25 per checked bag, meal + drink about $25. We have lounge passes already, don’t check a bag, and have our own snacks so our ancillary fees would be $0.
- Total cost of the upgrade $1,160 if the $620 bid for the YVR to YYZ and the $540 for the YYZ to BGI flights are accepted.
- Total Cost of the Ticket without ancillary fees: $1,660
- Total Cost of the Ticket with ancillary fees: $1,760
When we looked online at the cost of a business class ticket for the same dates, the Business (lowest) fare to go was $1,125 and $1,115 to return, so a total of $2,240 per ticket. The fare included access all the perks of a business class upgrade in addition to earning 150% Aeroplan miles. With this bonus on miles flown, you can expect to earn 10,000+ Aeroplan miles + status miles towards elite status with Air Canada.
The bottom line: AC Bid Upgrade costs $635/$735 more than a business class ticket.
In this case, it isn’t worth placing a bid unless you’re really averse to flying in economy and have lots of money to spend on an expense like this. While each situation is different, hopefully this methodology helps you to assess whether or not you should book a business class ticket instead of an economy class ticket if you’re hoping to upgrade at a later date.
It really does appear that $700 is the going rate to pay for an upgrade on Air Canada when traveling between YVR – Vancouver and Canada’s othe rmajor airports (YYZ – Toronto, YUL – Montreal, and YOW – Ottawa) from what I’ve seen in the last year.
Have you ever placed an AC Bid Upgrade? If so, have you been successful? Do you think it’s worth it?
11 thoughts on “Air Canada’s AC Bid Upgrade: Is it worth it?”
AC “upgrades” are terrible offers. I paid $700 once to upgrade from Vancouver to Paris. 9 hour flight on Air France, a much better deal. I think the original ticket was less than $500 round trip. I have also upgraded on latam for $99 US for a 5-hour flight. Even the US Airlines have better deals on buy up upgrades. I find Air Canada’s upgrade offers to be a joke.
PS I’m sorry you have to fly Rouge.
The AC Bid Upgrade is totally a joke and slightly misleading. Thankfully, a generous benefactor gave us the e-credits for the upgrade. As for Rouge, it’s slightly better than the flight from YUL which is an a319. Options can be limited when going to Barbados. Jason’s favorites flight to BGI was on JetBlue!
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!
Based on how much an economy ticket is going for, I personally think you got a great deal. I’ve flown on the 777-300er to YYZ from YVR and found it very uncomfortable due to how crammed it is and how small the seats are and so I cannot imagine sitting in economy for 15 hours. Considering it is Air Canada and you found the ticket using Aeroplan points during a peak time and were able to bid at a lower point, you’ve lucked out. The question you need you need to ask yourself is: what other flights would you have used those Aeroplan points for? We recently used 75,000 points for a ticket on EVA in Royal Laurel Class from DPS-TPE-YVR so 15 hours of flying. Since you don’t earn miles on rewards tickets, you’re not missing out on mileage and hope you will earn more points when paying for the upgrade with a credit card.
I saw your post on another travel blog and would like to offer some advice about the Alaska program. We love it and use it a lot but it is not always easy to find availability on Cathay Pacific flights which is something the other blogger neglected to tell you. We booked EVA to come back home because even as MVP75K top tier elites, we couldn’t find space on Cathay to come home. Unless you plan on getting an Alaska Airlines credit card and flying on their partners, it might be a waste of time for you or take too long to get the points you need to fund your travels. If you do decide to work on getting Alaska points through travel or by purchasing, I’d use them on something really special, like Emirates First Class.
Sorry for the delayed response, we just got back from an around the world trip where we flew in Emirates First Class, Qatar Business Class, and EVA Royal Laurel. Happy and safe travels to you!
Much appreciated of your sourceful comment. It’s so nice of you for replying so much. I am actually looking to learn much more from you. Will be coming back to your website. Happy holidays.
Happy Holidays to you too Jerry! If you have any other questions, let me know here or via email. I hope your flight went well and that is was worth it! I’m sure it was. 🙂
We just flew from Cancun to YVR in premium economy, after our bid of $350 to upgrade to business was declined. The seats in premium economy were acquired with Aeroplan points + $75 each to upgrade to premium economy, so at $350 each the upgrade to business would have been great. It was one of the new 737’s with 6 across and 2 toilets for more than 100 people so not a great flight to fly even in premium economy. My plan going forward is to always book business class with my points – very worth it for a long flights!
Hi Lesley, Thank you for sharing this information! It is a very long flight from Cancun to Vancouver now on the 737 because it’s a single aisle aircraft and those 2 tiny washrooms in the back. Just as an FYI, the last minute upgrade price from OGG – Maui to YVR – Vancouver was $188 in case you ever do that flight. Not sure how to capture all of that in this post!
I’m still doing as much research as I can but so far Tam, Avianca, Copa and Tap upgrades to me are very reasonable, AC on the other hand is extremely expensive and on the top end of upgrades, my experience so far.
We have noticed that some business class fares with Avianca and TAP on certain routes are very reasonable to purchase. Thanks for the information about the upgrades, we will look into that further.