Platinum Upgrade Doldrums on Continental

You would think a last-minute aircraft upgrade from a 757-300 (24 first class seats) with a 767-400 (36 business class seats) would bode well for my Continental upgrade chances on a Wednesday midday flight.

But this is Continental we're talking about. As I was checking in today, upgrades were actively being hawked for very little $ on the airport check-in kiosks.  

Take a look (for both my LAX-IAH and IAH-LGA flights today):

Sure, I was on a lowball T-fare, but I do supposedly hold top-tier status with them and the ticket still cost $280. Maybe there are just too many Plats...

I'm really worried this upgrade policy (prioritize Y and B fares over status and try to sell upgrades for as cheap as possible to anyone willing to buy them at the airport) may soon come to United.


Fozz M December 15, 2010 at 03:36 pm

Y fares are the only fares that trump everything and have no capacity controls. B and M fares come from the same restricted bucket and M is only available to Platinums.

The fare-ups are just people buying up to the lowest qualifying fare that they can upgrade at. So, for a plat, if the right bucket has inventory, it's a M fare, if the inventory isn't there, it's a Y fare.

So what is happening is people are actually buying up to the Y, B or M fare, not up to first. But when they get there, they get the upgrade since they are on the higher fare. You should loyal the folks that are paying the more, that just makes simple business sense.

Darren December 15, 2010 at 05:21 pm

Ouch, hope you have the exit rows (I'm sure you must). How much were the upgrades going for at check-in?

@Fozz: Thanks for the clarification. I agree it makes sense to try to get money for upfares before the seats are given away free, but why have status based on miles flown then? I talked to a gate agent and she said there were 10 buy-ups in the hour before the flight. Surely those wern't all plats. Are you sure that a general member would have to buy up to a Y to get the upgrade?

All I'm saying is that this system of prioritizing $ over status is not appreciated. I get it and I try not to be bitter about it because I know I'm not a "valuable" Plat, but I do take issue with Continental's "what have you done for me lately?" attitude.

@Darren: I was in an exit row until after the aircraft sub. Upgrade was $199. I can only imagine how cheap it was for someone who bought higher than a T-fare...

Return trip this morning:

LGA-IAH goes from 7 seats booked out of 16 mere hours before the flight with me #5 on the upgrade list to booked full with me #2 on the list...

Upgrade from IAH-LAX cleared at the window.

Darren December 16, 2010 at 09:54 am

I'm really surprised that many people bought up T-1 hour. I hate to say it, but well done CO, if they got $200/each. What I'm gathering, though, is if they had a higher fare class, the upgrade would be nearer the "tens of dollars" everyone says, right? I'll be getting my first dose of the upgrade game on CO next month... thanks for posting your experiences... it will temper my expectations.

Nick December 16, 2010 at 01:16 pm

One thing to keep in mind is that CO is cheaper than many other airlines at the B fare level. And yes, those on higher fares would get the upgrades a lot easier.

My upgrade came through at the gate this morning for LGA-IAH. I do love CO's breakfast service.

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