24 hours before a flight an upgrade may sound nice, but it’s not a necessity, and bidding is annoying anyway. You’re tough, you’ll tough it out and how bad can it really be back there? You make your way to the airport and are rightly proud of your frugality, until that moment it all becomes real.
Maybe it’s the snaking economy check in queue, or the realisation that the right upgrade is the difference in a tight seat and a flat bed with pillows, but all of a sudden, you want in. You wave your virtual bidding paddle, but sadly, it all closed at the 24 hour mark.
Tech startup Seatboost, which operates an upgrade bidding platform, ran upgrade trials in 2016 with Virgin America, but after the carrier folded into Alaska Airlines, they kind of lost their launch customer. PlusGrade and other larger firms won a majority of the business with other airlines.
You care, because unlike the current upgrade bidding programs most airlines use, Seatboost allows passengers to take part in a live and dynamic upgrade bidding process, seeing how many people are competing, what other offers are out there and best of all, it lets you win up to 1 hour before boarding. Even if you’re in the airport, sitting at the gate with your fingers crossed, a new boarding pass will be issued electronically.
Basically, it’s a fun way to pass time at the airport, and even more fun if you win.
TAP Portugal has officially broken the deadlock, becoming the first international carrier to sign onto the Seatboost platform, which means there’s a legitimate chance that many others will follow.
As of now, all routes that include business class are featured on the platform, subject to seat availability, obviously. Users can bid for cabin upgrades from 24 hours before flight up to 1 hour before departure, using either the TAP app, or the Seatboost app to take part. TAP sets the minimum bid, and then off to the races you go.
What’s cool here is the last minute approach. You could be sitting at the gate feeling particularly tired and find renewed energy as you bid your way to a seat up front, or you could simply check and see that demand is low, and the number is too tempting to pass up and lock it in just in time.
Obviously, airlines will want to find the right balance between a great upgrade bidding scheme and not diminishing the demand for outright business class purchases by creating a feeling of “why pay for this” if people can just pay a fraction and bid for it anyway. There’s always a balance.
It’s great to see an app taking a more user friendly, game centric approach to the upgrade process, allowing people to get excited the way they would an eBay auction. With any hope, TAP signing on will lead to more airlines embracing this fun way of creating ancillary revenue, giving more passengers a chance to get in on the good seats.
I think the important piece here is that the airline sets the minimum bid. We’ve seen in the past where airlines would rather the seat go out empty than to sell it at a heavy discount. TAP is pretty good with selling cheap biz class seats so hopefully we’ll see prices that are fair and reasonable for an upgrade.
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