Bidding for an upgrade is something that some airlines allow you to do. It generates more revenue for the airline and winning the bid means the passenger gets to travel in a higher class for less than it would usually cost. Here’s my friend’s first experience of the system with Air New Zealand.

Guest post by Rinaz Ali.

A few months ago, I decided to go home to Sydney from the swamp where I live, Washington D.C. I dreaded the thought of yet another long haul flight. My usual direct route was Qantas’ seventeen hour Airbus A380 flight from Dallas to Sydney, one of the longest flights in the world.

Taking this flight always felt like the movie “Mad Max : Fury Road”, like a non-stop, gruelling battle for survival across the desert punctuated by long hours where you would never see a single flight attendant. I also do not recommend watching “Mad Max : Fury Road” during this flight.

Kia Ora, Air New Zealand

So instead of Qantas, I decided to say “Kia ora” to one of my other favourite airlines, Air New Zealand. Specifically, their brand new Boeing 787-9 operated out of Houston, Texas to Auckland, New Zealand. From there I would hop over the “ditch” as we affectionately refer to the body of water separating Australia from New Zealand. The term is also probably a middle finger to the famed Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, after whom the Tasman Sea is named.

Though not a large airline, Air New Zealand continues to punch above it’s weight. In 2017, it won Airline of the Year from, and Top Airline in the World from Conde Nast’s “Readers Choice” Awards. Also, they have hilarious safety videos featuring the likes of Betty White (below), Bear Grylls, Richard Simmons, Rhys Darby and Anna Faris.

I am not someone rolling in Frequent Flyer points, Avios, Mileage Banks or Sky Miles; nor am I Gold/Diamond/Platinum/Titanium/Adamantium ranked like my friend, The Flight Detective, so I booked cattle class. Despite being in economy, I was excited to fly the equally much lauded and much maligned “Dreamliner”, which has higher cabin pressure and humidity.

This is supposed to help offset dehydration and jet lag on the fifteen hour flight to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The 787 also boasts larger windows that don’t have shades but rather darken electronically with the push of a button. Like the Black Eyed Peas, Boeing thinks window shades are so 2008.

A Few Issues

I have to admit that I finally booked this flight after quite a few glasses of wine without too much research, like a lot of things in my life. I would later learn that the Air New Zealand 787 economy class has some of the narrowest seating available – seat pitch that would make my sciatica scream with agony and leg room that would make my knees feel as though they were surgically implanted into the seat in front.

As the date for my flight got closer, two things happened. One : the Rolls-Royce Trent engines on the 787 exhibited a nasty new feature where they would start shutting down mid flight. Fun! The other was that I didn’t want to die in economy. Okay, that last part was an exaggeration. I knew the plane was safe, I just didn’t want to do economy.

Bid For An Upgrade

Thankfully, the wonderful staff of Air New Zealand seemed to sense my panic and had sent two separate e-mails. The first was addressing the Trent engine issue, which the Flight Detective covered here. My flight to Auckland would be unaffected, but my hop across the ditch would now be operated by a charter airline from Portugal called Hi Fly. I will cover the travesty that was that flight in my next post.

The second e-mail was something new – the offer to place a “bid” to upgrade my cattle class to Premium Economy within a few weeks of my impending flight date. This program is called OneUp. The bidding started at $250 and could go up to $1000. An indicator on the web site showed the chances for success based on how much I was willing to bid. If I didn’t get my bid, I don’t have to pay any extra money.

Upgrade Success!

I liked this approach, even though the web site seemed to hint that my only chance was if I bet $500 or more. Being the cheapskate I am, I proudly picked $280, $30 more than the minimum, not liking my chances. But you know what gamblers always say, “You gotta be in it to win it!” (usually while missing teeth and reeking of alcohol!)

With only a few days before my flight, I received the e-mail I didn’t expect to get – an upgrade to Premium Economy! For a fifteen hour flight, I was very happy to get this upgrade, and on a plane less than a few months old to boot. I will do a review of Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy in my next post.

Have you ever bid on an upgrade and won? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Seat images by Air New Zealand via Australian Business Traveller.