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Seat upgrade at the airport

London
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Seat upgrade at the airport

Hi,

I'm flying bmi (although the carrier is united) to San Francisco in May. I have two economy tickets which i want to try and upgrade to business at the airport on the day of travel. The actual price of business class on the same flight is £6k per ticket today. So I called bmi to gauge what sort of a price it might be for an upgrade and they told me i could upgrade today for £1500 each ticket.

My question is - Assuming there are business class seats left on the day should i expect to pay less than £1500 on the day at the airport?

PS - i am in bmi's diamond club but in name only, i have only 1000 miles as a joining bonus.

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

There's no hard fast answer. Sometimes airlines do offer cheap upgrades for a set price at the airport some of the time and others won't. You'll be directed to ticketing and will need to get the entire ticket refared, a timely and potentially very expensive process.

You didn't say how much you paid for the tickets originally but I see anything less than £2500 return to the west coast in business class as being an excellent deal. That's about what I pay on BA, although it is much better product IMO.

Detroit, MI
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2. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

HIghly doubtful for international business. The last thing United wants is you bragging to your seatmates how you paid 20% of what they did for a business class seat. That would hurt their future sales. The seats will most likely be bought, snatched up as mileage upgrades to frequent fliers who bought expensive economy fares, non-revs, or go out empty. Business travelers who buy most of these seats don't normally buy three months in advance, so I would expect them to sell outright.

Edited: 08 February 2011, 14:44
Liverpool, UK
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3. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

In my experience I think you would be very lucky to upgrade on the day to business class for an additional cost that you would consider to be cheap.

If there are any empty business seats I would expect United to upgrade any elite members of their FF program first of all (they do this to keep these important customers happy).

Even if they were to offer these seats to economy class customers you might find the cost difference between a discounted economy ticket and business class to be substantial.

You have nothing to lose by seeking to upgrade on the day but chances are low.

TomC

New York City, New...
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4. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

If there are any empty business seats I would expect United to upgrade any elite members of their FF program first of all (they do this to keep these important customers happy).

_______________

The US carriers have published upgrade procedures for elite FF members, in the case of United this means using Systemwide Upgrade Vouchers (SWUs) of which UA's 1K and Global Services members receive a set amount per year. The seats up front aren't just given away to high tier FFs unless there is an operational need to do so, that being the economy cabin being overbooked.

Quite a few airlines are still willing to gain extra revenue by selling upgrades cheap hoping someone will bite instead of just giving the seats anyway.

Maybe our resident UA expert, GOBPI can chime in with whether or not LHR-SFO is a UFC (Upgrades for Cash) route...

London
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5. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

Thanks for all the comments. I think i'm going to hold out and see what happens on the day. We only paid £600 pp for an economy return anyway so i consider us to be "up" on the deal already.

Seattle, Washington
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6. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

OP - that is a very high price for an UFC. Usually for a TATL on UA, from economy to business, on the rare times I've seen upgrades for cash offered at the gate, it's ~$650 US. If this happens, you won't be sent anywhere to "refare". The gate agent, or agent at the ticket counter just happily takes your money and issues a new boarding pass.

I recently "purchased" award tickets on UA, SEA-FCO and was actually offered an upgrade from coach to business for ~$750 per ticket, at the time of online booking, to give you some idea of the offers out there. I did not accept.

I am sure on your flight, there are elite FF who have applied for upgrades that have not cleared yet, as others have noted. It's possible you would be offered an UFC at the time of online check-in. Impossible to say.

It's also possible UA will fly out with empty business class seats. You'll just have to wait and see. It's a very long time until your flight and UA has several months in which to sell the business class seats at regular price. Personally, I would not pay £1500 for this upgrade.

Edited: 08 February 2011, 16:38
Aspen, CO
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7. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

When I have taken advantage of United's UFC program on the transpacific routes such as SFO-SYD it's been about USD $800-1000.

I've also been in the situation as a 1K where I'm still waiting for a systemwide upgrade to clear for weeks but travel companions with lower status and no upgrade instrument who checked in on line were offered the upgrade for cash option as part of their online check in. Long story short, United will definitely take cash in some cases before upgrading their frequent fliers.

Bangkok
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8. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

Hi,

Speed.. Spoke to a few GA's I know at UA, in hubs.. There is no formal policy that limits UFC to any one region or flights.. It's totally controlled by Revenue Management.. they decide what, when and where..

The local stations do not have the discretionary ability to implement it, if it's not currently offered, nor do they have the ability to not use it, if it IS offered.. it will appear in what they call "the header bar" on the GA's screen..

Naturally as Jennifer notes, it's a somewhat fine line to balance.. UA doesn't want to alienate their best customers by not making upgrades available, but on the other hand, UA does need and want to have every possible opportunity to sell that seat-- even at a diminished price- versus let it go to UG status..

The bench marks I hear tossed around by UA fliers who like/use UFC is that they'll jump at it if it's no more than 40% of their current ticket or less than 33% of what the UB class ticket would be.. but again, the value is very subjective and pricing does vary.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 08 February 2011, 22:41
9. Re: Seat upgrade at the airport

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