Qantas ‘Fare Bidding’ System A Worrying Sign For The Future Of Business Class Leave a comment

There have been many moans, and dire predictions, about the desert island the travel industry found itself belly-up on about 12 months ago.

The doomsayers have a point: even though bookings are once again on the rise, compared to 2019, ticket scanners worldwide are still very much high and dry.

However, thanks to the ongoing rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, confidence is once again on the rise. In Australia, this means people are now going on holiday with more confidence, with the temptation to venture interstate (slightly) less fraught with thoughts of “What if the borders crash shut again.”

A DMARGE correspondent recently booked a trip according to this logic, heading from Sydney to Noosa. Whilst up there though, they received an unexpected email about their return trip.

Image: DMARGE.

The option to bid on an upgrade to business class.

This Qantas feature, which lets you vie for an upgrade with a mix of points and cash, has existed since 2015. What was surprising is that, from our experience, it rarely gets offered. This is because traditional points-based upgrades take precedence (and usually there are enough people on board who have enough points – and the desire to spend them – to upgrade in this manner).

According to Qantas, “Bid Now Upgrades is available by invitation only for selected Qantas flights.”

“If your booking is eligible to receive a Bid Now Upgrade invitation, you have the opportunity to make an upgrade offer to a more premium cabin.”

Image: DMARGE.


What’s important here is not so much our correspondant’s ‘eBay style’ dilemma (how much to bid?!), but what this says about Australia’s aviation industry right now.

Though this incident is anecdotal, it comes in a context where questions are being asked about the pointy end’s future (of all airlines). Though experts are not expecting business class to disappear, whether it fully recovers is still up for much debate – and dependant on factors beyond the industry’s control (such as to what degree the work from home revolution becomes permanent).

As Skift editor in chief Tom Lowry recently told CNN’s Richard Quest, in a video entitled “serious doubts business travel will ever return,” nothing is guaranteed.

“The executives we’ve talked to are not talking about a full recovery in 2022 or 2023, it’s more like 2024/2025.”

Lowry also said, however, he believes the industry will get back on its feet, and that there will be opportunities to improve along the way: “Bill Gates recently said half [of business class travellers] won’t come back. I think that’s a bit stark.”

Whilst agreeing there is a portion that probably won’t come back (thanks to things like Zoom, and companies like Amazon realising they saved a billion bucks in 2020 by banning non-essential travel), Lowry highlighted this pause was a chance for executives to think about how they can come back better.

What will happen in Australia? Watch this (air) space.

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