“Want to upgrade to the next higher class?” That is the question asked by American Airlines in a new trail program called “Plusgrade” where passengers submit an offer in the hope of securing an upgrade to Business or First Class.
The process to submit an offer is fairly straight forward. For eligible flights and reservations, passengers simply enter the amount (per person) they and willing offer for the upgrade on each eligible segment on their itinerary. After a credit card number is supplied (which is only charged if the offer is accepted), the offer is submitted for consideration by American. Once submitted, offers may be modified, but if denied, a second offer can not be made. Accepted offers are legally binding.
Passengers will receive an email confirming their request, and will be notified if their offer was accepted. The notification will come no later than 24 hours before a flight. For those lucky passengers who have their offer accepted, they receive a bump up to the next premium cabin (economy to business, business to economy), complimentary food and beverage, Priority Check-in , Priority Baggage and Priority Boarding. AAdvantage miles, however, will be awarded based on the class of service purchased, not the upgraded class of service.
American is promising elites that they will still retain priority over anyone who bids their way into a higher cabin. “Rest assured that elite status member upgrade requests will continue to be given priority and will not be impacted by this program,” states the American upgrade page. How elite passengers will feel about this program has yet to be determined.
While bidding for an upgrade is not a new idea, it is a new feature for a U.S. based airline. Other airlines such as KLM, Etihad, and Air New Zealand are currently experimenting with Plusgrade as well. Delta, on the other hand, lets passengers bid for the opportunity to be bumped off a flight. In that instance, the lowest compensation bids are accepted on overbooked flights.