Clark Howard

Should I Bid for First-Class Upgrades on Airlines Like Norse?

You book a plane ticket to Europe. Later, you get a curious message: would you like to bid on a first-class upgrade?

It sounds like a combination of a pop quiz and a game show. And it’s not something you see on domestic flights. So you may feel caught off guard.

But is it worth submitting a bid? And is there any reason to avoid it?

Should I Bid on a First-Class Upgrade on My Flight?

I bought plane tickets to Europe. Then the airline asked me if I wanted to bid for an upgrade to a first-class seat. Should I submit a bid?

That’s what a listener recently asked Clark Howard.

Asked John in Virginia: "My wife and I are traveling to Italy in the first week of June. Our return flight is on Norse Atlantic. I was recently updating some information in our flight itinerary and saw the option to bid on upgrades to first class.

"The lowest possible bid was €250 (euro) per person and it went up €1,000 per person per seat. I put in a bid for €275 per person, per seat and would be happy to pay that price for the upgrade, but I haven't stopped thinking about how odd this system is. There was no information about when we would be notified or how the bidding works.

"Do you recommend bidding on this type of thing? Assuming I can afford the price I bid, is there any reason not to?"

To address the first question last, Clark himself has submitted a bid in this exact scenario twice — once on a flight to the South Pacific and once on a flight to Asia.

To no one’s surprise, he says “I was so cheap I didn’t bid enough [to] get the upgrade.” But there’s nothing wrong with submitting a bid for an upgrade if you can afford the amount you’re bidding and if you think the upgrade is valuable enough to be worth that amount.

“This is a common practice in Europe and with some Asian airlines. Where you can bid on upgrades,” Clark says. “I’ve expected this to become a practice in the United States and I have not seen it. Although it could be going on with an airline somewhere. I just haven’t seen it.

“So what happens is airlines no longer want to give upgrades. They want to make money from them. And so having a bid process is something that works.”

What You’re Getting from Norse Atlantic Airways First Class

It never ceases to amaze me the level of detail that Clark gets into for any specific airline, hotel or destination. No matter how obscure it is or how unknown it is to me.

In this case, Clark threw in his two cents on Norse Atlantic Airways and its first-class accommodations.

“I don’t know if €275 will be enough,” Clark says.

“I should tell you on Norse, it’s not a true lay-flat bed. It’s a big recliner kind of seat. More like a premium economy. But a nice seat to sit in. And if they do grant you the seat, you’ll enjoy sitting in it. It will be a better experience than a regular Norse coach seat.

“So hopefully you will get the deal and you’ll feel that your €275 was well spent.”

Final Thoughts

Don’t get spooked if you run into a bidding process for a first-class upgrade if you’re taking a flight to another continent.

However, don’t expect to get the upgrade if you bid the minimum amount (or close to it).

Just make sure you’re willing to pay the amount that you bid and that you understand the details of that airline’s first-class experience before you bid.

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