Practical Advice (and Lesson Learned) When It Comes To Using Austrian’s ‘Smart Upgrade’ Program

Practical Advice (and Lesson Learned) When It Comes To Using Austrian’s ‘Smart Upgrade’ Program

For those of you not familiar with Austrian’s ‘Smart Upgrade’ Program, it is an excellent concept that allows a passenger who has purchased ANY Economy ticket for an Austrian long haul flight to bid for an upgrade to Business Class.   The upgrade bid can be made as early as when you first book your tickets or as late as 72 hours prior to your flight.    Bidders will find out if they are successful between 48 and 72 hours prior to their flight.   It is a system that I have used successfully in the past and I think it is an outstanding program for Austrian passengers.

However, there are a few things that you should be aware of, and prepared for, when using Smart Upgrade.    Mind you that these things are not Austrian’s fault but rather things that passengers are responsible for.   I bring this up because of a personal experience that took place today when dealing with my parent’s travel plans.

About a month ago, my parents booked tickets to Vienna so that they can visit family in Slovakia for the next month.   Fares were attractive at only $650 per parent.    At the time we had also decided to place a ‘Smart Upgrade’ bid in the hopes of upgrading to a Business Class seat for the outbound flight.   The bid was placed, billing information provided and all we needed to do was wait for the 48-72 hour window to find out if we were successful.

This morning I wake up to an email from Austrian saying that the bid was unsuccessful.   Out of curiosity I call OS to find out why the bid was declined since several seats were still open in Business (actually nearly half were open).    The OS agent informed me that there was no problem with the bid, but the billing information was incorrect and the bid could not be awarded, thus it was cancelled.

What happened?

Well, my mother, whose credit card we had used to buy the tickets as well as for the upgrade bid, had cancelled that card thus leaving Austrian with credit card info that was no longer valid.   Austrian basically had no choice but to cancel the bid thus relegating my parents to Economy.    They could still upgrade to Business but now the upgrade price is more than they are willing to pay.   If you have Eastern European parents you would understand their concept of frugality.

So the lesson learned, and one that I hope can help others:

If you are going to bid for an Austrian ‘Smart Upgrade’, please make sure that the credit card you are using for the upgrade will still be valid 72 hours prior to your departure.    If you are going to change cards or get a replacement due to expiration, you can cancel your existing bid and replace it with a new one.    You do not lose your ‘place in line’ since Austrian’s bidding process awards the highest bidders, not the one that has been there the longest.

Also, I would suggest that you inform your credit card company that a charge may be coming from Austrian Airlines from a billing location in Austria.   Many credit cards will put a security block on your card if they see unusual or international activity attempted on your account.    Make sure that you provide them the dates of when you expect your bid to be awarded and processed.   Give the credit card company a 5 day window so that there is no risk of the credit card company blocking your charge.    I had this happen this summer when I was using the Smart Upgrade window.  Fortunately a text from my credit card company alerted me at which point I let them know that this was an authorized transaction.  I had to replace the bid, but I was successful anyway.

Remember, the burden to provide proper information rests with the passenger!