Is it worth bidding to upgrade on Malaysia Airlines? No!

Malaysia Airlines is one of a growing list of airlines allowing customers who purchased an economy class ticket to upgrade to business class by bidding. While this can be a great opportunity to fly business class for less on some airlines, my example below demonstrates that you have to check fares carefully before making a bid – clearly, Malaysia Airlines’ pricing system is not well designed and not worth in my case to make a bid!

After a customer service disaster with Malaysia Airlines (MH) on an international business class flight, where they refused to rebook me or refund the money until I initiated a credit card complaint, I have avoided Malaysia Airlines. Fast forward a few years, and I booked a domestic flight in Malaysia where MH is cheaper than low cost carrier Air Asia. I figured there is not much risk on a $26 flight with plenty of alternatives. Here are the choices I had booking the flight:

As you can see, the promo fare is MYR103, while business class is MYR274 and actually cheaper than full flexible economy at MYR325!

A few days after booking the cheapest economy fare for the 1h30min flight, I received an invitation to bid on an upgrade to business class. Given the low price to outright buy the business class ticket (which I was tempted to do), I figured the bid should be a bargain. 
But to my surprise, the minimum bid of MYR225 would make my total fare (MYR103+225-328) higher than buying the business class ticket in the first place.

Even worse, the highest bid that would give me an “excellent” chance  of winning the bid at MYR359 would be higher than throwing away my economy class ticket and buying a new business class ticket. 

I’m not sure if MH is playing their customers for a fool or has a just terribly set up bidding system, but clearly this is a bad deal and I won’t be bidding!

Bottomline: Bidding to upgrade is a great chance to fly in comfort for less – but as this example shows, some airlines have poorly implemented the solution or think they can wring some more money out of their enemies passengers. If you are interested in an upgrade, I recommend to carefully take note of the fares prior to booking, so you know exactly what a “good deal” on an upgrade would be. If an upgrade is very important to you, I’d buy the higher fare class outright, rather than playing games an hoping for an upgrade! And lastly, I’ll continue to treat Malaysia Airlines like a low-cost carrier and avoid them most of the time – unless they are cheaper than another LCC…

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