Here’s my experience bidding for a Cathay Pacific upgrade

Cathay Pacific allows passengers to bid for upgrades to business class on certain routes. Here's my account.

Last week I received an email from Cathay Pacific informing that I can bid for an upgrade on my SIN-HKG round-trip. This was the first time I have been offered to bid for an upgrade on CX and of course the first thing I did was to click on the email link.

Cathay Pacific giving me a chance on an upgrade

And these are the benefits of upgrading.

Benefits for upgrade to PE
Benefits for upgrading to J

I was booked on Economy V Class for a working trip that cost S$600. So I was quite surprised that CX is allowing upgrade to Business Class for one of the legs. My understanding for such has always been one class up (i.e. Y to PY, PY to J), so my first guess was that PY Class for the return leg was full and CX was cashing out for Y to J. Apparently my guess was wrong. Our Milelion intern early stage investor Matthew kindly informed me that the return leg  on CX635 has no PY class because it is a A330-300. Duh.

How much is CX expecting passengers to bid for upgrades?

There is no free lunch, unlike what some websites tell you. For such upgrades, only cash bids are allowed (no miles allowed) which is similar to mySQupgrade. On Cathay Pacific’s website, there is a helpful tool to tell you how good your chance is based on how much you are willing to bid for. See screenshots below for various offer strength.

Probably nada chance
Slightly better chance
Getting better chance but look at the price


A strong chance
Durian bao jiak!

Based on what CX is asking for the upgrade bids, I did a check for a revenue ticket to see how much a full Business Class round trip would have cost.

Full J fare on CX for the same days

It costs $2,277.90 for a SIN-HKG round trip for the days I was bound for, so I take it as S$1,138.95 for one leg for a revenue flight. You can see that it is not good value if you are bidding for a Strong or Excellent chance ($1,055 and $1,310 respectively) to snag the upgrade to J class given the fact that my V class revenue ticket already has a sunk cost of S$600 (or $300 each leg).

On the other hand, it will cost a minimum of $755 to start the J class upgrade bid. Whether this is good value really depends on individuals and the chance of snagging the upgrade at this price will probably depend whether the airline will be able to sell more revenue J tickets from now till the bid closes or if someone outbids you. But I wonder will a minimum bid snag a J seat versus a reward booking…

Terms and conditions

There is a comprehensive FAQ page from Cathay Pacific regarding Upgrade Bid. Some good to know pointers are:

  • Upgrade Bids are on selected routes only
  • Bids must be placed 50hrs before departure of the first leg
  • Changes and cancellation must also be done before the 50hr mark
  • Marco Polo and Asia Miles members will have a higher chance in snagging an upgrade but the value of weighting is undisclosed
  • Miles will only be earned in the original class booked
  • Asia Miles redemption booking are not eligible for upgrade via Upgrade Bid

The bid

Just for the sake of it, I placed a bid on the 15 March. It was a very low bid of S$760 just to test water with no hopes of snagging an upgrade (but if I do, it is something that I could still afford). And on Wednesday when I arrived into Hong Kong (two days before CX 635’s departure), I received an email from Cathay Pacific.

I have been upgraded

Yup, I will be paying S$772 for the Business Class upgrade on the HKG-SIN leg on the A333. I was curious to know whether the J class seats were really so empty so I did a check on the internet check-in.

There are actually still 6 more empty J seats left on CX635 after the upgrade bid exercise. This got me thinking a bit. Maybe there could have been more empty seats and some of them were snagged by upgraders like me? Or perhaps I was the only one who bothered to bid because most people will find no value in a short haul flight? In any case, the upgrade was successful and we now have a data point that bidding with the minimum amount can grant you an upgrade to J. Now time to check out the new Deck.

Will you consider Cathay Pacific’s Upgrade Bid?

Jon Lee
Jon Lee
Jon is in love with food, cooking and travel (who isn't?). Apart from cooking up a storm in his kitchen and worry about the calories, he is blessed to be able to do occasional travels around the region for his work. Sharing is caring, he feels. And this is how he shows that he cares for mankind.

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CX J Promo to HKG usually cost $1.3 – 1.7k round trip.
I would not say it’s a very good value


ikr. sigh, business trips…


Got a bid offer for Qantas to SYD a few days ago – the total cost of the minimum bid both ways plus the economy fare I had already paid was the same as I could have bought a revenue ticket on the same flights. The total cost of a “good” bid was substantially more than i could buy a revenue ticket. Total waste of time.


Regional J is just a bigger seat. Only A350 worth trying. For MPC member, there is always a chance for free operational upgrade…

Will James

Seems not the case anymore
MPC member hardly get upgraded anymore since this bidding scheme started.

Tim Raeburn

Its a 7000 hkd minimum (for poor chance thanks CX) one way Hk to London. to go up one class from PE to econ.
Kinda makes the collected miles I have worthless as CX will always go for revenue over miles!
I used to get the odd upgrade as travel solo. Havent had one in years//


May I ask, when you received your confirmation email from CX approving your upgrade bid, did CX pre-assign a seat for you already? Did you get a chance to select your own seat?


Thanks Jon. I am planning to upgrade my tickets for my trip from Hong Kong to Copenhagen. But I am not a sole traveller, I am in fact travelling with my partner and really want to sit together (like in the middle section), I am a bit concerned that CX will assign me to sit far away from my partner, which is not that satisfactory. Or CX will customarily put “travelling together” passengers to sit next to each other ( actually I don’t mind it is the next row or so) or CX will just simply split both of us… Read more »



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