My experience with the Etihad upgrade system

I’m currently working on a project in Abu Dhabi and shuttling back and forth between Singapore. SQ used to fly to AUH but stopped doing so sometime in 2012, making Dubai the only port of call in the UAE.

dubai abu dhabi

Dubai isn’t that far from Abu Dhabi, all things considered. It’s roughly 90 mins by car, although this time can be doubled in heavy traffic (the kind I encounter on Thursday afternoons heading to the airport for the 8pm SQ 495 flight). But it’s definitely less convenient than flying into AUH directly.

So I’ve been looking at Etihad options for my journeys to and fro. Yes, they’re not part of Star and therefore I don’t earn any lovely Krisflyer miles by flying them, but remember that orphan miles in Etihad don’t need to go to waste either.

My company allows premium economy travel on flights 6 hours and longer. It’s roughly 7.5 hours from Singapore to the UAE, so it qualifies. Unfortunately, the flight options in premium economy from SIN-AUH or SIN-DXB are, shall we say, not convenient.

premeconomyprice

So my dilemma is- should I fly full fare SQ to Dubai and hope to upgrade with my own miles especially for the dreaded red-eye flight back home, or should I fly Etihad to Abu Dhabi for the added convenience of getting there faster?

I’ve learned that Etihad is engaged in aggressive FCM (first class monetization- referring to selling off unsold premium cabin seats at discounts to prevent the seats from going to waste). On its website it lists numerous upgrade options.

etihadupgrade2

I figured that if I could get my economy seat + upgrade bid to be below what I would have otherwise paid for premium economy, I could get the best of both worlds.

So, how does the math for this work? My base economy fare from SIN-AUH is S$1,070, or $753 USD. The cap on my spending is $2,063 USD

etihadprice

Etihad operates a bidding system for upgrades called Etihad Select (Plusgrade is the operator). It operates on a sliding scale- there is a minimum bid, which in my case was 2,500 AED and the upper limit of the bid was the fare difference I would have paid had I upgraded to business class from my existing ticket at full fare rates.

I forgot to take a screenshot of this but the image below from AusBT shows you what it’s like

ausbt

~48 hours before I was due to fly, I received an email saying that my upgrade had cleared.  My bid cleared at 2,595 AED, or $706 USD.

On my particular flight there were still 5 business seats unsold at T+72, so I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of interest. Even after I won my bid, inventory showed 4 seats available, meaning I could probably have won with the minimum bid.

etihadupgrade3

Total fare= $753 USD + $706 USD = $1,459 USD < $2,063 USD

Take that, expense policy.

So I’m looking forward to my very first EY business class experience soon! I’ll be flying on their latest product, the Business Studio on their B787-9 jet. etihad1

eithad2

For those of you keen on this, Flyertalk has datapoints on successful bids for upgrades on EY.

cover photo by woodysaeroimages

5 thoughts on “My experience with the Etihad upgrade system”

    1. cool you got a better deal than me. I wonder if the minimum bid is affected by your original fare though… if for example I buy a $1,000 economy class ticket, you buy a $500, will they price the min bid differently? Ultimately it’s about incremental revenue so I don’t see why they would, but who knows. After all, we’ve both already paid $1,000 and $500. If you’re willing to bid $400 and I bid $300, you’re the more lucrative customer

  1. Not too sure if the initial fares actually play a role in the bid… but from what i read online it seems to be determined by the number of bidders…

    1. not in my experience. i think it depends on your base fare that you pay originally for economy.
      remember that bids can be confirmed as far as 72 hours out so if you’re bidding at t-48 or t-24 it may be too late

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