Many years ago upgrades were incredibly easy to get, especially if you had status. However, as we’ve seen the past few years upgrades are getting more and difficult to get for ‘free’ but airlines are making them easier to get for a fee.

Most people will be aware of upgrading with points, and that’s pretty easy to understand, but many airlines are now using Bid upgrades. This means people without points or people not wanting to use them can upgrade easily.

This post will be an in-depth tutorial of how to upgrade on all Virgin Australia flights.

Reward seats = Upgrades (most of the time)

Domestic

It’s no secret that getting an upgrade on a domestic flight is so much easier than an international flight. Luckily Virgin are very generous with upgrading options.

UpgradeMe Points

Virgin Australia allows anybody to upgrade on their domestic flights no matter which fare is purchased or status you hold.

Virgin have a handy table which show’s you the points required for each sector. You can use the Mileage Calculator to find the distance of your flight.

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Virgin sorts upgrades by first in best dressed for domestic services. If you’d like to know what your chances of an upgrade are, I’d heavily advise getting a subscription to  Expertflyer.com. This program allows you to view the flight loads in all classes and show seating assignment which is extremely helpful.

As the image shows below these are flight’s going from Brisbane to Sydney next week. The numbers and letters may look confusing . However, they are very easy to understand.

Expertflyer Example
Expertflyer Example

The two letter codes at the start  J7 is an advanced way of saying J = Business Class 7 = 7 Business Class seats available. Keep in mind there are only 8 seats in Virgin’s business class cabin on their 737, so you have a very high chance of getting an upgrade. I’ll be writing a full post on how to read fare codes and buckets.

Another way to find if a seat is available if to search for “Reward seats.”

Points upgrades can be requested by:

  • Platinum members
  • Gold members
  • Silver members
  • Red members

A few things to not with points upgrades are:

  • Upgrades are instant if there’s seat free
  • Your earn rate will stay at the same level depending on the fare you bought

The upgrade can be requested as soon as you make the booking or in the lounge (if you have a membership – only applies to red and silver members)

UpgradeME Premium Bid

Many airlines are now introducing the upgrade bidding system to their frequent flyer program. Singapore Airlines is the latest to launch it.

Making an upgrade is incredibly straightforward and painless.

All you do is go to Manage booking and you’ll see the Upgrade Options tab.

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You’ll be redirected to a page that looks like this:

On this page, you’ll be able to offer how much you’re prepared to pay for the upgrade. My strategy is first to look at the aircraft loads and determine how full it is. If it’s J8 or J3 at the lowest, I’ll bid a minimum amount. If it’s showing J3 or J1 I’ll bid in the mid range or decide if I really need the upgrade or not.

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After you submit your request you’ll receive an email explaining your upgrade has been received and they will email you a few days before departure letting you know if the upgrades confirmed or denied.

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If you get that glorious email it will look just like this:

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Key points:

  • Anyone can bid for upgrades
  • You won’t earn extra points and status credits

Short Haul International 

Now and then it’s nice to have a break and a lot of Australian’s choose to travel to islands in the Pacific. Virgin Australia has a fantastic route map and destinations like Fiji, Port Vila, Auckland and much more.

You can use both points and bid upgrades, and Platinum members are now allowed to use their four complimentary upgrades for short-haul international flights.

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The same rules apply for international flights as they did for domestic flights. The only change is you have to be booked on a Flexible ticket, and you cannot use the lounge for upgrades as Virgin Australia use Air New Zealand lounges for their short-haul international flights.

Key points:

  • Upgrades will cost more in $$ and points
  • There isn’t as much selection with flights so be prepared to maybe not get the upgrade if you did a small price
  •  Must be booked on a Flexi ticket

Long Haul International

Long haul international is without a doubt the hardest type of flight to get upgrades; however, there are ways of making them easier to get. The process of getting an upgrade on a long haul flight are entirely different to domestic and short-haul international.

Virgin Australia only operates two long haul destinations. Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi both on 777 aircraft.

Points upgrade table:

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Points and Bid upgrades are exclusive to Gold and Platinum members for long haul flights.

Gold and Platinum members can upgrade to Business class from a flexible economy, saver premium or premium economy ticket with points. The table above shows the rates.

Gold and Platinum members can bid for an upgrade from a Flexible economy or premium economy ticket.

Both options are subject to Reward Seat availability, and luckily Virgin is very consistent releasing these seats (last-minute) To find reward seats this post will be very helpful: Virgin Australia Long Haul Reward Seat Trends.

Screenshot 2016-08-25 19.05.12

This would be much more comfortable right?
This would be much more comfortable right?

Pay to upgrade at the airport

This concept is quite new and not well-known. When booked on a flexible economy seat you can ask the check in staff to pay an upgrade. These upgrades are only available for one sector flights like SYD-LAX, they cannot be done for something like BNE-SYD-LAX.

The price is $1499 each way.

An excellent way to see if seats are available is to use expertflyer.com

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Summary

Hopefully, these tips and tricks enable you to enjoy a business class upgrade. Warning: once you fly business, you won’t want to fly Economy ever again 😉