In this guide, we will discuss the Aegean ‘upgrade challenge’ in which you can place a bid for an upgrade to business class. How does the process work, how to make the best chance, and is it worth it in the end?
Bidding for an upgrade
Aegean Airlines, Greece’s largest airline, offers an ‘upgrade challenge‘ in which you can bid for an upgrade to business class. It is one of the few airlines in Europe to have such a challenge. Czech Airlines (CSA) and Brussels Airlines are two other examples of airlines who offer such a challenge.
These challenges are different than buying an upgrade to business class outright, which is possible at almost every airline in the world. For example, at Air France/KLM you will be receive a message during online check-in (or can inquire about it at the airport) whether you want to buy an upgrade to business class.
In this case, the airline tells you what the price is which they ask for this service. It is not negotiable so you can only accept or decline it. With Aegean Airlines, the upgrade challenge is more akin to an auction and you have much more power to influence the price of the upgrade.
Aegean upgrade challenge
With Aegean Airlines, you can basically decide everything all by yourself. First of all you decide whether or not you even want to participate in the upgrade challenge. If you are happy with your economy class ticket, then just ignore the email which Aegean will send to you to inform you about the possibility.
If you do decide to participate, you must basically place a bid on the business class upgrade. There is however a minimum bid amount – and this depends on the route which you will fly. Needless to say, you can expect the minimum bid to be higher on one of the longer Aegean flights such as London to Athens than on a shorter Aegean flight such as Athens to Istanbul or Athens to Bucharest.
Is placing the minimum bid enough?
Placing just the minimum bid might certainly be sufficient in some cases. If the flight is nearly full in business class and ticket prices have gone through the roof even in economy class, the chances that a minimum bid is enough are pretty small. The airline can after all decide it is more profitable for them to keep the seat open and bank on someone buying a last-minute ticket instead.
This is especially the case if you fly a business-heavy route. The Athens-London Heathrow route for example is popular among business travellers in both business and economy class. Of course this route represents an entirely different economic model for Aegean Airlines than a leisure route which is mostly taken by tourists.
On such routes, a minimum bid has a much higher chance of succeeding, especially so if there are still plenty of (cheap) tickets on sale, which most likely hints that there are still plenty of seats available. If the flight load is low, your chances of succeeding with a minimum bid rise dramatically.
Placing a a bid
If you decide to place a bid, Aegean notifies you around two to three days before your flight whether or not they accepted your bid. In my case, I put a 60 EUR offer (which was the minimum bid) on an upgrade on the Bucharest-Athens route.
The bid was accepted three days before departure, after which the money was automatically deducted from my credit card. As I only paid 35 EUR for my economy class ticket, I paid 95 EUR in the end for a ticket in business class. As comparison, buying a one-way business class ticket outright on the same flight would have set me back 280 EUR.
What does a business class ticket give you?
If your upgrade bid is accepted, you will of course be upgraded to business class and can immediately select a seat in the business cabin. At Aegean Airlines, the seats in the business class cabin are the same as in economy, with the difference than the middle seat is kept guaranteed empty (a tray table is placed over it) which means that you will have a bit more shoulder room and privacy.
Of course, you will be served a premium hot meal and drinks. Aegean serves some excellent Greek wines on board and also has proper barista coffee, meaning that you can enjoy your espresso or cappuccino at cruising altitude. You can also drink some ouzo or try some of the excellent Mastiha liqueur (top tip!).
Extra ground services
Also on the ground you will be given additional business class services. If your upgrade is accepted, you will be given a checked luggage allowance of two bags. You can also bring two pieces of hand luggage on board.
Of course, you will also be given access to the business class lounge at the airport of departure and receive priority boarding.
Is bidding for an upgrade worth it?
This is entirely a personal matter. For me the value might be worth more or less than for another person! While I appreciate the extra service in business class, I would say that on most days I would be fine flying economy – as Aegean also has a great economy product as well with a free snack or hot meal (depending on flight length) and drinks.
As I hold Star Alliance Gold status, I already have access to a business class lounge when flying Aegean Airlines in economy, get priority boarding and can check in a bag for free if I want. Getting these benefits with a business class ticket are therefore quite useless for me. In my case, all I get is a slightly better seat and some better food and drinks. Only on the odd occasion in which I might want to spoil myself with a bit of luxury I would opt for it.
Passengers who should consider placing a bid
In my opinion, there are two sorts of passengers who should consider placing an upgrade bid. I think the value is much greater for passengers who do not hold any airline status and who therefore can use some of the ground services.
Lounge access can be an extremely useful benefit if you for some reason need to spend a long time at the airport. If you have for example a ticket on Aegean Airlines flying London-Athens-Larnaca with a long six hour layover in Athens, it might make sense to try to get your Athens to Larnaca flight upgraded. Instead of having to sit in the terminal the entire time getting bored, you can enjoy the free food and drinks in the Athens business lounge. Especially at peak summer season or other busy times of the year, a lounge can be an oasis of quietness compared to overcrowded terminals and gate areas.
Great business class lounges
The offer can also make sense if you fly out of an airport which is known for having great business class lounges. For example, Istanbul has the great Turkish Airlines business class lounge which you would be eligible to use if you fly on Aegean out of Turkey’s biggest city. London Heathrow Terminal 2 has several good lounges of other Star Alliance carriers (United, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa) which you could theoretically all use when flying Aegean out of London.
It would make less sense to upgrade your journey to business class if you only spend a short time at the airport before flying out or if the airport is not known for having a good lounge (such as Bucharest Airport in my case). As almost every business class lounge in the world is likely to have been reviewed at least once, it should be fairly easy to Google this to find out!
Bidding for an upgrade can also make sense for passengers who might need to bring along a lot of luggage on their trip. As check-in luggage is normally not included in most economy class tickets and must be bought separately as an add-on, a business class ticket can basically be a huge money saver here.
You can always try placing an upgrade bid and wait until two or three days before your flight to see if your bid is accepted. In the case it is accepted, you will receive the two checked bags (and two pieces of hand luggage) for free. If your bid is not accepted, you can always quickly add some checked baggage to your booking last minute before you check in online for your flight!
Do note that if you have already paid for additional baggage or selected a paid seat in economy class that these services cannot be refunded in case you are upgraded to business class. If you do plan on making a bid on a business class seat, I would highly recommend to wait with adding checked luggage to your ticket and not to select any paid seats in economy in advance.
The only person to answer the question on whether placing an upgrade bid is worth it is you! The amount of money which you need to offer in order for the bid to be accepted depends on a number of factors including but not limited to the route which you fly and the flight load. You can always bid more money to increase your chances if you think is worth it for you.
Getting a (minimum) bid accepted can however represent excellent value, receiving all business class benefits for only a fraction of the normal price. Especially passengers who do not hold airline status or need to check in multiple bags should consider placing a bid for an upgrade.
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