Plusgrade – take care

Readers may be familiar with Plusgrade, a revenue upgrade platform for the airline industry.

Universally considered as a negative for frequent flyers (either for eroding frequent flyer upgrade benefits or eroding the solitude of lightly loaded premium cabins), the platform has been live tested or permanently implemented by a host of airlines including AA, AB, AV, CA, CX, EI, EY, FI, GA, LH, LO, LY, MH, MK, NZ, OK, OS, OV, RJ, SN, TP, UL, VA and VS (congratulations if you could translate all of those airline codes in your head).

A reader sent through the below email targeting Malaysia Airlines (MH) Plusgrade for an itinerary operated exclusively by 737 aircraft.


Regular MH flyers will have spotted that the A380 lie-flat business class seating with 72″ pitch featured in the picture is vastly different from the regional business class on offer on MH’s 737s (which has 42″ pitch). It is disappointing that MH are setting up their customers in this way.

Why ‘Plusgrade’ might not be the best way to upgrade on MH

Bidding for upgrades is designed to result in passengers overbidding above what the upgrade would have actually cost in previous circumstances (i.e. before Plusgrade was introduced). It allows the airline to push out emails in advance for bids and then confirm or reject upgrades a day or two ahead of the flight.

The psychology is interesting. Perfectly acceptable bids are often displayed at the red (highly unlikely to be accepted) end of the scale. So even when for the loading of the flight the airline would accept the low bid, the passenger is encouraged to bid higher anyway. Some airlines also email passengers with bids in to encourage them to go higher.

Experience of one of the first airlines’ to adopt this system (being Air New Zealand) is discussed on FlyerTalk, where users keep a handy listing of their bids. Bids in the red zone do succeed.

For MH flyers, at the entrances to MH lounges at KUL, upgrade prices are clearly posted on signs like the below. Don’t overpay through Plusgrade!


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