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.


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.


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


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


~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.


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


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

cover photo by woodysaeroimages

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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I bid for my wife before and i paid 2365 aed for the one way upgrade from auh to sin which was successful


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…


Does the minimum bid get increased over time i.e. get more expensive closer to the flight date?



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