Bidding for Luxury: A New Way to Fly?

The allure of flying first class has clearly diminished in recent years, leaving Airlines scrambling for an initiative to maintain their organizational element of luxury. What has become of this growing issue is an interesting concept that will be implemented quite soon. Airlines have begun the transition to auctioning off business class seats, and not in the conventional manner of going to a Kiosk. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Bids for premium seats that otherwise might fly empty begin online weeks in advance and typically close 48 hours before takeoff.” These auctions are also applicable to other seating arrangements that may be more appealing to customers. Essentially, those seated in coach can upgrade to premium (if that option exists on the particular flight), and premium customers can bump themselves up to the elite business class. Plusgrade, the company responsible for designing the auctioning system, allow carriers to determine exactly how they will handle premium seat bidding, and which customers will be given the chance to participate. Rather than let many of these seats go unfilled and thus wasted, airlines are considering organizational efficiency in finding a way to get people to buy in. There is a strong correlation between overall economic certainty and luxurious commodities such as business class seating, and this relationship is evident in the statistics. Figures show a parallel decline in business class purchases and the economy, the former of which has yet to truly recover since the downturn.

The auctioning concept, which has yet to reach domestically, represents the quality management idea of reengineering, a portion of breakthrough improvement. The concept is considered radical redesign because it is a complete change of pace for the industry. In a time where most airlines seem to be ignoring the common customer’s needs in an attempt to cut costs, auctioning provides mutual benefits for both parties. Airlines can still charge insane face values for top tier seating, while giving the average customer an opportunity to experience first class. There is also the element of the unknown, and risk associated with an auction, which livens up a usually dull experience.

Airlines have taken a cautious approach to implementing auctions for seating, and have used a method quite similar to the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Study-Act. Rather than introduce the market to an idea this revolutionary in relation to the industry, many airline companies have done trial periods to gauge the level of consumer interest. After some successful trials in 2012 multiple companies, including El Al a popular Israeli airline, have introduced the concept in full in 2013.

I was once lucky enough to fly first class because of an error made by the airline company, and can say for certain that is an amazing experience. Still, the luxury associated with premium travel has declined in recent years, and for many it is frankly unattainable. By offering these unsold seats to others at a potentially discounted rate, it will hopefully introduce a whole new class of people to a whole new class of travel.

9 thoughts on “Bidding for Luxury: A New Way to Fly?

  1. Wow! After reading this my eyes suddenly widened. I’ve never flown first class, yet have always dreamed of it. Until today, I’ve always thought it to be impossible. Every time I fly from this point on, I’ll shoot my shot at getting a premium first class seat!

  2. This is an interesting concept that airlines are looking into. The one issue that could arise is how would coach passengers feel if someone placed a bid for a first class seat and ended up paying the same amount as a coach passenger. Many people could have a problem with this idea if the first class seat ends up selling for the same amount as a coach.

  3. Personally, I do not like how airlines try to scheme in their ticket prices to make money off their flyers. I am sure most people by now have heard of the proposed idea of certain airlines charging their flyers by how much they weigh. That is simply ridiculous in my mind! So I definitely like this new idea of simply bidding for tickets, especially in first class where tickets are already very steep! Hopefully this plan works out!

  4. This article was interesting because I personally hate flying in coach or in first class. I think this is a very interesting concept for airlines to adopt. I just think that auctioning for first class will lower the value to the flyers who do pay the full amount for first class. Having this system I feel like might have negative side affects and less people would buy the tickets because they can have the chance to bid for the tickets.

  5. How would individuals feel in coach that couldn’t afford to pay first class but someone who bid for first class buy the same amount! Even though this is a good idea, it can be one a huge problem!! I never flow first class, but now if airlines are starting to let consumers bid on seats, I may have to keep up with this!!

  6. This was a really interesting post. There are few things I enjoy less than flying, and it doesn’t have anything to do with fear, but rather the cramped conditions in coach. I’ve always wanted to fly business or first class, however, those seats are incredibly expensive. I think this is a very smart idea by airlines, I’m sure there are a lot of flyers who would pay a premium to upgrade, but simply can’t afford the current cost of that upgrade. Bidding makes it a lot easier for a regular consumer to get a seat in business or first class, and the airline benefits since they have one less empty seat, so it seems like a win-win to me.

  7. It’s a good idea to auction off unsold first class seats, but I would only take it into consideration if I was flying internationally. For domestic flights, I wouldn’t go the extra mile for bidding online. By experiencing the first class, maybe more people will switch over even though its expensive. But as far as auctioning is concerned, Airlines maybe able to fill more seats that way. If they are able to fill two seats in first class, then that’s two economy seats open for last minute flyers. Ultimately, their goal is to fill as many seats as possible for highest profit.

  8. Having flown on 16-hour flights at least 4 times in my life, and going on 4-hour flights at least once a year, I’m pretty fed up with being seated in coach. I would love to grab a first-class seat, but they are quite pricey and I am personally unwilling to pay that much for an upgrade. This is quite an interesting concept, though I wonder how well it would work. I also think it would probably have a better chance of doing well for international flights than domestic flights.

  9. From my experience there are two types of people in the airline industry. People that fly first class and people that fly coach. I think in the past decade or so, the number of people who want to fly first class is shrinking. People now realize that regardless of where they are on the plane, they’re going to get to where they are going regardless. Look at Southwest, almost all their flights only have coach seating. Now that the economy is starting to turn around again and discretionary spending is increasing I do agree that airlines should be testing out different ways to increase revenue and these mini auctions are definitely out of left field but at least the airline companies are doing something to spice up their product offerings. Hopefully for the airlines’ sake customers will respond well and we can keep this industry rolling!

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