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?