Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon Launches Upgrade Bid To 13 Destinations

Cathay Dragon Livery Tail Design
Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) experimented with the upgrade bid process for its economy and premium economy passengers with success in 2016 and made the decision to officially launch the program on selective routes immediately for itself and sister airline Cathay Dragon (KA).


Cathay Pacific

Currently, there are three different ways a passenger can upgrade to the next cabin of service with Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon including:

  1. Pay a specific amount at the airport. Eligible passenger will be able to purchase the upgrade at a specific amount based on route length, class of service and availability.  The amount will be lower than the difference between the cabin fares. However, this is not available systemwide.
  2. Redeem Asia Miles to upgrade by segment. Eligible passenger will redeem miles based on this awards chart. These upgrades are confirmable based on availability after purchase.
  3. Marco Polo Gold and Diamond members can use one of four certificates (earned at 1,000 tier points (Gold) and 1,000 tier points (Diamond)) good for a cabin upgrade on eligible fares. These upgrades are confirmable based on availability after purchase.


How Does Upgrade Bid Work?

The Upgrade Bid process allow all Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers an opportunity to bid for a one class upgrade based on the typical aircraft:

Aircraft with Premium Economy: Economy to Premium Economy, Premium Economy to Business Class

Aircraft without Premium Economy: Economy to Business Class


Route availability

Upgrade Bid is being offered on selective Cathay Pacific (CX) or Cathay Dragon (KA) operated and marketed flights between Hong Kong (HKG) and the following destinations that were ticketed on and before July 17, 2017.

Destination Country Airport Code
Adelaide Australia ADL
Amsterdam Netherlands AMS
Bangkok Thailand BKK
Brisbane Australia BNE
Cebu Philipplines CEB
Chiang Mai Thailand CNX
Chicago United States ORD
Colombo Sri Lanka CMB
Denpasar (Bali) Indonesia DPS
Dubai United Arab Emirates DXB
Kathmandu Nepal KTM
Rome Italy FCO
Seoul South Korea ICN

11 out of the 13 eligible destinations are in the Asia Pacific Region. The other two are split one each for Europe and North America. These destinations are chosen since the Hong Kong based airline has less frequency to them and can monitor the bidding process more closely on system processing load and integrity checks. Other destinations will be added in the future.



All eligible passengers will be emailed 7 days ahead and can bid, update or cancel an upgrade request online from that point up to 50 hours before flight departure time. However, it is advisable to bid earlier as winners would be contacted through emails up to 72 hours in advance.


Upgrade Consideration

Per the Cathay Pacific terms and conditions, all successful bids are dependent on but not limited to the following criteria:

  • The amount offered for the upgrade – there will be sliding scale with a minimum price provided as a reference
  • Competing offers – based on that has been bid up to a maximum. the closer to the maximum price, the better the winning chances
  • The original fare class at which the ticket has been purchased – the higher the fare class, the better the winning chances if the bidding price is the same
  • Marco Polo Club tier – higher tiers will receive better priority – Golds and Diamonds would have the highest priority
  • Asia Miles membership
  • The number of passengers in the same booking fare class
  • Success history on past offers
  • The number of seats available for upgrades


Cathay Dragon New Livery
New Livery Nighttime Render     Source: Cathay Dragon


  • Bookings made in China or India are excluded from participating in Upgrade Bid due to technical limitations for the time being
  • Mileage or certificate upgraded tickets will not be eligible to bid
  • All award bookings will not be eligible to bid
  • Upgrade seats are capacity controlled
  • Passengers younger than 18 will not be eligible to bid
  • Codeshare flights (even from oneworld) operated by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon would not be eligible
  • Once the upgrade bid is accepted, passengers would not be able to cancel and obtain a refund unless there is an operational disruption
  • Passengers will not receive additional status miles, sectors or award miles
  • Passengers are bidding per segment and not trip basis (e.g. eligible travellers will have to bid twice with the following itinerary DPS > HKG > ORD))


Keys To Success

Cathay Pacific is following other airlines introducing a similar auction process. Here is a list of items to consider when determining success of the program:

1. Cathay Pacific management will need to monitor all the bid intakes to determine how quickly the program should expand and the limits to which bids should be accepted or declined while balancing capacity (i.e. routes that have more walkup purchases should not release capacity for upgrades too early).

2. There are many airlines with a similar upgrade bid process. The following is a list of airlines with this process and have flights to Hong Kong (key Cathay Pacific competitors in Asia are highlighted in blue, destinations included in first phase are highlighted in green). It is important for Cathay Pacific to consider these destinations for phase 2 of the implementation.

Airline Continent Airline Alliance Flight Frequency
SWISS Air Lines International (LX) Europe Star Alliance 1x daily from ZRH
Air Canada (AC) North America Star Alliance 1x daily from YYZ and YVR
Garuda Indonesia (U3) Asia SkyTeam 2x daily from JKT and DPS
El Al (LY) Asia 1x daily from TLV
South African Airways (SA) Africa Star Alliance 1x daily from JNB
Air New Zealand (NZ) Australia Star Alliance 1x daily from AKL
Qantas Airways (QF) Australia oneWorld 2x daily from SYD, 1x daily from MEL and BNE
SAS (SK) Europe Star Alliance 1x daily from ARN
Austrian Airlines (OS) Europe Star Alliance 1x daily from VIE
SriLankan (UL) Asia oneWorld 5x weekly from CMB
Singapore Airlines (SQ) Asia Star Alliance 7x daily from SIN
KLM (KL) Europe SkyTeam 1x daily from AMS
Virgin Australia (VA) Australia 1x daily from MEL
Lufthansa (LH) Europe Star Alliance 1x daily from FRA and MUC
Etihad Airways (EY) Asia 1x daily from AUH
Scoot (TZ) Asia 3x daily from SIN
Philippine Airlines (PR) Asia 5x daily from MNL

3. There is balance to accept at a reasonable amount to avoid constant disappointment and still contribute to profitability. Cathay Pacific has not disclosed how much capacity would be reserved for the Upgrade Bid process. This would need to be monitored closely as the airline does not want to set up a perception that it is easy to bid into business class.



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