IMPORTANT NOTE 23 December 2016 : The “Upgrade Yourself” link is WORKING AGAIN! THERE IS A NEW LINK :
NEW LINK | Upgrade Yourself LINK to Bid on a possible upgrade.
IMPORTANT NOTE 22 October 2016 : The “Upgrade Yourself” link is currently NOT working.
See UPDATE on KLM Upgrade Bidding.
The KLM Upgrade Yourself Program
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a “Upgrade Yourself” program, which is really just a bidding system for upgrades for economy class reservations. More insight with regard to airline auctions can be found in Scott McCartney’s article in The Middle Seat : Going Once, Going Twice: Airlines Auction Seat Upgrades.
I decided to give it a try for the first time in January, on a discount ticket I purchased AMS-JFK, with a return BOS-AMS on Delta. This bidding program is only for flights operated by KLM on KLM-metal. For my first experiment the entire economy class ticket price was approximately €600 (all-in), which I consider an ideal opportunity to bid for upgrades since the Day of Departure (DOD) KLM upgrades from Amsterdam (ex-AMS) is rather expensive when you are on a highly discounted fare class. This initial try was a success, albeit at a slightly higher price than I desired.
I subsequently tested bidding for AMS-ATL (also on a highly discounted ticket), AMS-JFK (highly discounted, two people) and JFK-AMS (two people). I had success about 50% of the time. To initiate the bidding process, you can either choose to bid from your open reservations (at klm.com) or using the Upgrade Yourself LINK. (Link corrected and updated December 2016) You will be promoted for your booking code (KLM record locator) and family name. If your ticket was booked on non-KLM ticket stock (for example, by Delta as an 006 ticket) you will need to get the KLM booking code from Delta, since the KLM booking codes differ from the Delta booking codes (even though the e-ticket number is the same).
Also, you are obligated to accept the upgrade at the agreed upon price if you happen to win the bid.
Let’s Make A Deal
Once you get to the bidding screen, you will be advised of the lowest possible bid. All routes have a lowest possible bid price (if there have not been any bids), or you are required to bid €10 higher than the highest bid already entered for a given flight. In the example below, the lowest possible bid was €279, and that is the bid I entered. The system shows that the next bid would have to start at €289.
You are welcome to check the progress on your bid up until the closing of the auction, which is usually sometime prior to online check-in. You must place all bids (or your final bid) more than 30 hours prior to departure. While KLM mentions wining bids will be decided at 30 hours prior to departure, I have noticed that it is usually closer to 24 hours prior to departure (or the point at which you can check-in online). This example shows a bid for two passengers. You can bid for more than one passenger at the same time as long as they are on the same booking record. Also, bidding is restricted to those passengers 18 years or older. The bid for both passengers must be the same amount, and if you win the bid it would only be for two passengers. (KLM does not allow one person of a two person itinerary to “win” the upgrade.)
Related: KLM Day of Departure (DOD) upgrades from Amsterdam (ex-AMS) in the KLM upgrade series.
A close up of the bidding progress for another reservation. (these pictures are taken from different flight examples, and are meant to show as much detail as possible with regard to the KLM bidding process; but not the bidding “flow” of just one flight example).
I have inquired with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines about whether only the top (highest) bidder can win an upgrade when there are multiple seats. KLM claims that you do not have to be the highest bidder to win, and that it is possible for the #1 and #2 (for example) bidders to win the upgrade. I have not witnessed this personally, and feel if it is a matter of €10 to €50 it is best to secure a bid in the #1 spot.
Once the bidding is complete, KLM will send an email if you won or lost within about 15 minutes of the end of bidding. The email lists the winning bid price and the total price that will be charged to your credit card.
Once the upgrade has been won, you can feel free to re-arrange or change your seating just as you would for any other KLM World Business Class ticket, in this instance I chose 4E on the main-deck of a KLM 747.