On a very long four-and-a-half-hour flight to Las Vegas, I was invited to bid for an upgrade to a Big Front Seat and I… won?
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Ahead of The Flight
A few days after I booked my roundtrip flight from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas, Spirit sent me an email inviting me to bid for an upgrade to the Big Front Seat from a standard coach seat. This was the first and only time I have seen this, but the usually affordable $50ish upgrade was selling for $248 at the time of booking.
I genuinely wanted the upgrade for the long flight during working hours because especially on Spirit, work space can be at a premium.
Submitting a Bid and Waiting
The bidding website had a slider and it was preset to about what the Big Front Seat was selling for before I purchased my coach roundtrip. I moved the slider all the way to the lowest level and expected to find $50, the usual standard price.
However, the minimum was unexpectedly high at $119, and it gave me pause. Is it really worth the extra $119? I wasn’t so sure. I switched screens and looked back at the seating chart to see how full the flight was. I paused again; I really wasn’t sure. Then, I considered the possibility that I might not win it anyway.
I placed a bid and I waited.
Result of Winning?
I was notified late the night before that my upgrade bid had been successful but that means that I was clearly the only bidder. Had I not placed a bid, it would have presumably been available for my 7:30 AM departure.
In the past, I have secured the Big Front Seat for as little as $25, buying it once the door closed, and often at the gate for $50. I might have saved myself some money by rolling the dice but I wouldn’t have known until I reached the airport if I would be sitting in the front with plenty of room to work. I’d also risk someone else buying it out from underneath me.
At the same time, I don’t love that the lowest bid was so much higher than the standard price, I also don’t love some of the language that was used in terms of how many others were bidding.
In the end, it was worth it to me to know that I had the seat I wanted, that it was still cheaper than booking it outright, and I knew I would be comfortable and have the room to work. That said, I would have submitted a lower bid if offered, may have still won it, and this may only encourage me to pay for the seat from the beginning. This flight was uniquely long during a work day so I am glad to have bid and won it.
What do you think? Have you bid for upgrades before? How was your experience?
What is the usual price for a BFS on this route when purchased at booking? That would be a helpful comparison point.
@Mitch – I haven’t flown this route in years so historically would be a challenge, but pre-pandemic I hadn’t seen a BFS for more than $55. Since, I have seen as high as $258 and that’s close to what this one was at.
Kyle, you’re like Spirit’s Tom Stuker.
I flew spirit this past July. I also was offered a bid for a seat by the emergency exit. I was going from Las Vegas to Newark NJ. I put my bid in a day later they said so many people put a bid in it went up if I wanted to stay in. I placed my higher bid and won. The samething happened on my return trip. This time it only was 23.00 more on top of the 18.00 I paid at booking.
How were you so sure you were the only bidder? Maybe others bid lower amounts and they accepted all of you? Spirit would rather have 120 than 50 or 25 bucks.
Because I bid the lowest possible amount on the slider. The slider wouldn’t go any lower than $119.
Just curious, how many BFS were occupied? Any go unclaimed on the flight?
Prior to the flight, just one was available. Onboard all others were occupied, and all seats went out filled.
I haven’t flown on Spirit. My understanding is that the BFS is similar to other domestic carriers “domestic first class” seats.
I can’t imagine a situation in which I wouldn’t pay $120 for an upgrade from domestic coach to domestic first on a 4 hour flight. The comfort factor, and the ability to reasonably use my laptop for work are the big factors in that.
Maybe in the right situation you could have gotten it for less, but also maybe you’d end up spending 4 hours in Spirit coach.
If I flew spirit with any regularity, might be a good thing to use an Amex Platinume airline fee credit for.
@Mr. Marcus – Great minds think alike: https://liveandletsfly.com/why-i-made-spirit-airlines-my-american-express-platinum-preferred-airline/
Hi Kyle. It’s not related to this story, but with last week’s “upside to losing status” post, you said you’d have another article later that day about your experience with Delta points.
I may have missed it, but did it go live?
@Mark – Yes, it was in this one: https://liveandletsfly.com/best-business-class-to-europe/
As a frequent flyer I need the front seats. I can’t take a chance and not get a seat that I truly need! Perhaps you can consider offering a special price for those of us who have a physical problem! Thank you.
I understand completely. I need to be able to recline. It is the difference between traveling and not traveling. I was really happy to see that I could upgrade to one of these large seats for $111. I am a retired senior so this was a lot of extra money for us. I will get a large seat and my husband will take no seat assignment. In order to help us justify the cost and travel on the funds that we have, we will travel with only 1 suitcase and each of us will have a personal item. It would have been nice to have been offered this seat for a little less after showing I am handicapped.
I played the bid game as well, placing the lowest bid allowable. I too won the bid(s) just the night before leaving me with the same impression.
The huge disappointment was that Spirit split my wife and I to 2 different sections of the plane even though I bid on both and booked both together.
I the end, in order to sit together we were offered 2 seats together in the very last row which we unhappily accepted.
This type of gimmicky nonsense is to me just one more reason I’ve grown to be annoyed with flying which once was an exciting and fun experience is now an annoyance.
I did a seat bid for a flight ewr-msy couple weeks ago. Seat was going for $83. I bid $32 ($1 more than their “low probability threshold”) . And got it. That was about a 3 hr flt. It was worthwhile.
Before covid I used to regularly bid on long domestic Qantas flights when invited and given the huge difference in booking prices between coach and first got low bids accepted a surprising amout nof times. Bidding on the low side often works.
Thanks for sharing. Didn’t know that one could do that.
Good article, but will there be a Spirit Airlines after the merger with JetBlue? How long out should one try & book this elusive “big front seat” fare? Thanks for the post Kyle!
@T- If the merger goes through, it won’t be until 2024 at the earliest, plenty of opportunity to give this a try. If they never merge or the government blocks, this may be here for good.
We booked the BFS in the second row for our honeymoon. When we got on the plane, we were notified that they changed planes. Our row had three regular seats with a stranger sitting in the middle. (Of course he was nice enough to switch with my husband.) I had to fight to get my $198 back.
Another time, I paid $99 for a BFS only to find someone else sitting in it. I politely told her she made a mistake. She said, “I have to sit here. I have a bad knee.” I said, “So do I. That’s why I paid $99 for it a month in advance.” She gave me nasty looks from a few rows back every time I got up.
1. I always pay for the BFS when booking.
2. I always choose the front row.
3. I always check Delta first to see if their first class price is comparable when factoring in the added fees. I’ve gotten first class DTW to MSY for $100 more than Spirit BFS with luggage. (The shorter line at the counter, too.)
I flew Spirit one time and will never fly with rhem EVER.. They had Mechanical issues at airport with plane which made me miss my connecting flight I was stuck in another state with my 12 yr. Old grandson next flight home was1 15 hrs. AWAY THE SUPERVISOR at the ticket counter kept telling me it was weather related so she couldn’t help!! ( thats their way of passing the buck)I finally get home filed a complaint they got back to me a week later to offer me a 50$ voucher MISSED A DAY OF WORK CAB FARE TO HOTEL 1 NIGHT AT HOTEL PLUS TICKETS PUT ME OUT ALMOST$ 1500 DOLLARS.THEM OFFERING 50$ FLIGHT VOCHERIS LIKED A SLAP IN THE FACE
I do wonder if it’s dynamic like most carriers. If there was only one seat left, that might explain why the bids were so high. Maybe the slide started at 50 bucks when the flight was first scheduled! I recently ran into this for concert tickets. I paid a lot for regular seats far out but the week before that price would’ve gotten me a meet and greet!!!
If you don’t win the bid do they still take your money?