How to bid for a cheap upgrade with Norwegian

Feb 28, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on 15 August 2019.

Norwegian offers two classes of service on its long-haul 787 Dreamliner products, which fly to the likes of North America, South America and Asia. The two classes include economy and Premium, which is Norwegian’s premium economy-based product. Depending on the destination, time of year and demand, Premium is usually priced around 50% to 100% more than the cost of an economy ticket on the same flight.

Here are some TPG U.K. reviews of Norwegian’s Premium product on both its 787 aircraft, and the Evelop A330 it has been leasing to cover some services:

And compare these to Norwegian in economy class:

In summary, the difference between the classes is that Premium has:

  • Wider seats with significantly more legroom and recline;
  • Smaller cabin with dedicated service and more toilets per passenger ratio;
  • Some food and drink included;
  • Increased luggage allowance, both checked and cabin bags;
  • Lounge access where available (with a full-fare ticket); and
  • Priority check-in, boarding and baggage.
Premium Economy. Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy)
Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy)

Related: Norwegian Air implements fees for cabin bags, increases checked-luggage allowance

Last summer, I flew to New York for a visit to TPG’s New York office. During the peak summer travel period and as the flight was booked only a week in advance, the prices were very high. Return flights with full-service carriers in economy were priced at £1,600+ per person which is, quite honestly, ridiculous.

Fortunately, Norwegian was around half the price and was a natural choice. I booked Norwegian economy from London (LGW) to New York (JFK) for around £400 each way. Sale fares on this route can be as low as £149 each way, so while this was no means cheap, it was by far the most affordable option (and yes, I checked options for paying with points and miles!).

Shortly after booking, I received an email offering me the chance to bid to upgrade to Premium on each leg. Many airlines offer this service to bid for upgrades and it can be a great value way to score a cheap upgrade. But how much is it worth?

Related: The best ways to get to Gatwick Airport

At the time of booking, a Premium ticket outright was around £250 extra. For a seven-hour flight, I considered this to be a little too much — I would have been willing to pay around £150 for the upgrade. So when I received the email inviting me to bid, I was excited at the possibility of a £150 upgrade. When I checked on the bid link, it provided a recommended bid of £480 — in the middle of the bidding range.

Note that the price you bid is in addition to the cost of the ticket you already paid for. I have had several readers contact me saying they thought the price included the price of the ticket they had paid for and ended up bidding far more than they should have!

Related: A very expensive upgrade on Norwegian — Reader Mistake Story

Given this was almost twice the price of the additional cost of just booking a Premium ticket in the first place, I would not recommend paying this amount for an upgrade. I moved the slider to the minimum amount, which was £235 extra. Again, given there was no guarantee of receiving the upgrade for the minimum bid price, I would also recommend buying a Premium ticket outright rather than chancing the minimum upgrade price. If other passengers bid slightly more than you (say £245), then they will be approved for the upgrade before you.

The more you bid, the greater your chances of winning (just like a regular silent auction). I would recommend bidding slightly more than the minimum amount, as that will put you ahead of everyone else who bids the minimum amount. In this case, my strategy would be £245 or £255 if I thought the upgrade was worth that. But in this case again, it would make far more sense to pay for a Premium ticket than hope my bid was accepted. It doesn’t make much sense that Norwegian starts bids so close to the price of actually buying the higher-class fare, but I suspect this is a good revenue earner for the carrier with unsuspecting passengers.

At the gate area for the flight, I happened to ask the cost of a very last-minute upgrade. These are usually cheaper than bids or Premium tickets purchased in advance, so I was surprised and a little disappointed to be quoted a price of £275 for this last-second upgrade and politely turned it down.

Related: How to ensure an upgrade on your next flight

As a point of reference, I’ve also received an offer to bid for the return flight on Norwegian at a starting rate of £190. This is more reasonable but still slightly higher than I think the upgrade is worth. So, for now, I’m not bidding.

Norwegian isn’t the only airline to offer upgrades via a bidding system like this — you can read our full guide here.

Bottom line

If you do book a flight with Norwegian, it’s worth checking the price of simply upgrading your cash ticket instead, as this may be a similar or even cheaper price than the minimum bid upgrade and you won’t have to cross your fingers and hope the bid is approved. Of course, Norwegian uses its own algorithm to come up with amounts for upgrades, so if you’re considering splurging, take all things into consideration and only purchase if you think the upgrade is worth the cost.

Featured photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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