Air Canada

The ultimate guide on bid upgrades with Air Canada

To the point Here's everything you need to know about bid upgrades from economy to an upper class on your next trip with Air Canada.

The upgrade bid is a great way to travel more comfortably for a fraction of the cost. Indeed, many carriers allow passengers to move to a premium cabin through bid upgrades with Air Canada using cash or points.

Airlines will prefer the option of selling those seats to consumers ready to pay full fare, but they would also rather let them go at a discounted price with bid upgrades instead of flying them empty.

This article will focus on bid upgrades with Air Canada.

Ac bid upgrade en
Ac bid upgrade en

Bid upgrades with Air Canada - Eligible flights and fare with Air Canada and Rouge

To find out if your flight and fare are eligible for an upgrade with Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge, please visit the AC Upgrade web page.

Eligible flights and tickets are determined by Air Canada at its sole discretion and depend on a variety of factors, including cabin and seat class availability.

Not all flights qualify for an Air Canada upgrade, for example :

  • Group bookings
  • Code share flights
  • Bookings that include an infant (under 2 years old)

You will have to turn to the partner airline’s upgrade page for partner segments. When I travelled to New Zealand, I placed a bid upgrade for the AKL-LAX leg with Air New Zealand and separately on Air Canada for LAX-YUL.

It is possible to place a bid upgrade on a ticket purchased with Aeroplan Points and to make an offer with points instead of cash in the same manner.

Bid upgrades with Air Canada - How do I make an offer?

Once you’ve booked your trip, you can find the “Bid Upgrade” option after logging into your Air Canada reservation with your reference code and last name.

You can place upgrade bids with Air Canada at any time up to 48 hours before departure.

You can also modify and cancel them up to this window unless they have already been accepted.

Ac bid upgrade en 1
Ac bid upgrade en 1

Bid Upgrade prices depend on the original tariff class, with higher tariff classes generally having a lower price range.

As you can see here, there is an indicator of the “strength” of your bid. Obviously, the further to the right you slide, the more likely you are to get it. The amount of your offer is per person and includes all taxes and fees.

And on this screen, you can click on the toggle to make your offer with Aeroplan points.

Ac bid upgrade minimum bid en
Ac bid upgrade minimum bid en

If you’re not sure whether to offer points or cash, check the valuation you get against what you think they’re worth; the system will usually give you 1¢ per point, while Milesopedia values them at 2¢ per point.

You may also receive an email inviting you to place an upgrade bid with Air Canada closer to departure. What’s more, you may be able to purchase a last-minute upgrade when you check-in.

Regarding the latter, if an upgrade bid has already been confirmed and you decide to purchase an upgrade at the time of check-in, you will not be refunded. For example, you bid for an upgrade from economy to premium economy class, which was approved 48 hours before your flight, and you see an offer for business class when you check in 24 hours before departure.

Your credit card will only be charged if your offer is accepted by Air Canada.

Approximately 48 hours before your flight, you’ll be notified by e-mail whether or not your bid has been accepted, and your credit card will be charged if it has been obtained (you keep your original seat if your bid is declined). Once it’s confirmed, you can’t cancel it, and if it’s rejected, it’s too late to adjust your bid.

Bid upgrade accepted
Bid upgrade accepted

If you have to be rebooked on another flight through no fault of your own, Air Canada will try to maintain your upgrade if it is confirmed. However, if there are not enough seats or if the alternative flights cannot accommodate you, you will be refunded if you return to your original class.

If your flight includes more than one segment, you must bid for each segment individually. Check carefully what you’re bidding on to avoid disappointment. For example, if you’re travelling from Quebec City to Montreal and then on to Tokyo, the YQB-YUL bid will probably be much lower than the YUL-NRT bid, which you’ll have to place separately.

The Instant Upgrade option is also available on certain flights, enabling the upgrade to be secured immediately, with confirmation sent within two hours of the request. If both upgrade options are displayed, you can only choose one.

Ac bid upgrade en 2
Ac bid upgrade en 2

Check the cost! The confirmed instant upgrade option could be close to the minimum stake required. For example, on this route to Tokyo, from Economy to Premium Economy, the minimum bid for the YUL-NRT flight is $450while the instant upgrade option is available at $492 (while the offer for the return flight is $480 against $1,179).

Ac instant upgrade en
Ac instant upgrade en
Ac bid upgrade minimum bid py en
Ac bid upgrade minimum bid py en

The fare conditions of the original ticket, including cancellation policies, rebooking fees and accumulation of frequent flyer miles, will remain in effect even if you have earned the upgrade. In addition, the amount of the bid upgrade with Air Canada does not count as an eligible expense towards elite status. But you’ll also benefit from a higher baggage allowance,access to lounges and more.

Bid upgrades with Air Canada - The strategy for flying business class

Since the company wants to fill as many seats as possible and generate as much revenue as possible, you can get a general idea of the success of your bid from the standard knowledge of supply and demand; if the cabin is almost empty, you can get away with a low bid, and if it’s nearly full, you risk being rejected even if you try as hard as you can.

For information on flight loads, Expertflyer is your friend. When you use the Flight Availability tool, you can check which seats are available for sale. On Air Canada, the following letters represent unsold seats in each cabin:

  • Premium Economy Class: O, E, N
  • Business class: J, C, D, Z, P

For example, on flights AC303 and AC305 shown here, the maximum bid might not be enough, while the minimum bid should be more than enough for flight AC301; not only is the business class cabin relatively empty, but the economy class also seems very open, which means there are more seats to take upfront and fewer people competing for them with an upgrade bid!

Expertflyer yul yvr
Expertflyer yul yvr

Although the highest number you’ll see is 9, it doesn’t exactly represent the actual number of passengers, but it’s still a good indicator since there are still at least 9 unsold seats; some aircraft have 12 seats in business class, like the A-220, whereas a wide-body aircraft can have 32.

In this regard, make sure you know the type of aircraft and the aircraft you’re bidding on before you do so. You may be disappointed if you win a bid on an A-220 bound for Los Angeles when you have the horizontal pods of an A-330 in mind.

Cheap last-minute upgrades with Air Canada

Sniper strategy: Wait until the last minute to place your upgrade bid with Air Canada. You’ll have a clearer idea of your chances and may be able to walk away with a reasonable offer. Likewise, don’t bid the lowest amount, but a little higher, to keep out all those who have placed the minimum bid.

Bid upgrades with Air Canada - Is it worth the price?

There’s no doubt that bid upgrades with Air Canada are a way to travel in a superior cabin without paying the full fare.
The range of offers will vary depending on the tariff you have purchased; the rate you pay will have an impact on the minimum and maximum amounts. In fact, if you’ve bought a ticket in premium economy class, you’ll be able to bid less to be upgraded to business class than someone sitting in economy class.

Here’s a breakdown of costs based on four bookings of the same round-trip YUL-NRT itinerary, but booked at different rates. Yes, Japan is super trendy and I was able to compare several of my friends’ bookings.

Friend Price Total cost Bidding range for J
A Economy Standard $1,400 $1,300 to $2,500
B Flex Economy $1,200 $1,200 to $2,400
C Premium Economy Standard $2,500 $850 to $1,900
D Economy Standard 85,000 Aeroplan points $1,300 to $2,500

There are no errors in the table; friend B has managed to obtain a flexible economy fare at a lower price than friend A in standard economy; the itinerary is the same, but the dates are different. However, we can see that even though friend A paid more initially, his bidding range is higher than friend B’s. This is because the tickets are on different tariffs (letters). This is explained by the fact that the tickets are on different tariffs (letters).

Friend D, who redeemed Aeroplan points for his standard economy flight, has the same bid upgrade range as Friend A, who purchased the same fare but paid in cash.

Friend C made sure he had a minimum of comfort by buying Premium economy class, and his price range is lower than that of my friends who booked economy class.

Ac bid upgrade py to j en
Ac bid upgrade py to j en

Since the cost of bid upgrades is added to the original ticket price and calculated separately for each journey, this is what our friends could pay to be transferred to business class if their offer is accepted:

Friend Initial cost Bid cost Total cost
A $1,400 + ($1,300 to $2,500) x 2 From $4,000 to $6,400
B $1,200 +($1,200 to $2,400) x 2 From $3,600 to $6,000
C $2,500 + ($850 to $1,900) x 2 From $4,200 to $6,300
D 85,000 points + ($1,300 to $2,500) x 2 85,000 points + $2,600 to $5,000

A full-fare business-class return ticket to Tokyo costs between $7,000 and $8,000. So, if you can win an upgrade with Air Canada with a low offer, that’s about 50% off your fare.

On the other hand, if you really want business class and are prepared to gamble to the max, it may be worth checking the real cost of a confirmed business class seat and assessing the difference.

It would be a good deal if you paid in cash, but check out the following options for cheaper, more predictable solutions.

Yul nrt j cash
Yul nrt j cash

Bid upgrades with Air Canada - Comparison with eUpgrades and award fares


When you want to travel in the premium cabin, what’s the best option between using eUpgrades credits and bidding for an upgrade with Air Canada?

With eUpgrades, it’s possible to know the cost in advance (number of eUpgrade credits with or without extra money). What’s more, you can get an instant upgrade if space is available; you can find this information on Expertflyer and directly to the Air Canada search results page, where you can see “Eligible for upgrade” or “You will be on the waitlisted”.

In my opinion, the latter solution is tantamount to improvising an upgrade bid, since you won’t know until shortly before departure. If getting an upgrade is a bonus and not important, you can do either.

This type of check with immediate confirmation may be worthwhile if business class is very important to you.

Eupgrade cost en
Eupgrade cost en

Upgrades on Air Canada without being on the waiting list

eUpgrades may also be available earlier, depending on your status and ticket price. This means that Air Canada will access upgrade bids after all eUpgrades have been confirmed, i.e. no later than 3 days before the flight, as opposed to 48 hours previously.

Eups chart en
Eups chart en

What’s more, unused eUpgrades credits can be carried over to the following year if you hold a premium Aeroplan card such as the American ExpressMD AeroplanMD* Prestige Card, but only for 50 of them.

So it’s a good idea to use them if you don’t have such a credit card in your wallet, or if you have too many eUpgrades credits before you consider bidding for an upgrade.

Likewise, upgrade bids can come in handy on short flights or during the day when you’d rather be upfront but don’t mind staying in a seat that’s not lie-flat.

On the other hand, if you don’t have access to eUpgrades credits, you’ll need to make a cash or points offer with the bid upgrade option. Although this depends on the amount you bid and the rate you pay, it’s still a cost-effective way to turn left.

Upgrade on Air Canada with Aeroplan points

The basis of travel hacking is to avoid paying with your hard-earned money, and when you consider all the ways we can earn points in Canada with credit cards, a points strategy makes more sense too.

If you’re just starting out, many credit cards offer excellent welcome bonuses to get you started in this hobby. For example, the TD® Aeroplan Privilege* Visa Infinite Card can get you a one-way ticket to many destinations in business class, if you’d like to experience the thrill of a first-class flight without breaking the bank.

You can also turn to cards like the American Express CobaltMD Card to build up a steady stream of points for future travel, whether in economy or business class. Its 5X gas accelerator on organic spending is the best you’ll find, and these points are transferable to Aeroplan, among various other programs.

You always have to do the math, calculate the value of your points, and evaluate your options. The upgrade bidding system may require a minimum of 40 000 points to upgrade from economy to business class from Montreal to Vancouver, while you can book a confirmed ticket for around 25 000 Aeroplan points

As for our Tokyo example, I admit it’s sometimes hard to get reasonable prices with AC’s dynamic charter, but there’s often a little nugget here and there waiting to be found. For example, I found this fare of 73,600 Aeroplan points; that’s all you’d have to pay compared to buying an economy ticket and bidding $1,200 or 120,000 points to hope for an upgrade.

Yul nrt in points
Yul nrt in points

Bottom Line

Upgrading with Air Canada is an excellent alternative for comfortable, low-cost travel, and is offered by most airlines worldwide. Since Air Canada has a very good system with eUpgrades and it’s very easy to earn points, I prefer the more predictable options.

However, if your only way to travel business class is to pay full fare in cash or an outrageous dynamic fare in points, rather than improvising on a bid, I’d think again and again.

I’ve placed successful and unsuccessful bids in the past; you just have to have the right mentality and know that you can win or lose. Bid Upgrades should be used when the upgrade in question is not so important, but would still be much appreciated.

Have you ever placed a successful upgrade bid with Air Canada or other airlines? Join our community and share your victories!

Complete terms and conditions for Air Canada offer upgrades can be found here.

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I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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