Bidding for an upgrade is something I’ve never considered before, mainly because I’ve heard that unless you bid high, your chances of being upgraded are slim to none, plus the fact that intra-European business class pales in comparison to domestic first and business in the U.S.
In most cases, European business class isn’t worth the money.
However, after receiving a number of tempting emails from Aegean Airlines inviting me to bid for an upgrade before a recent flight from Thessaloniki (SKG) to Athens (ATH), I thought I’d give it a go.
Bidding for an Upgrade With Aegean Airlines
When I say I received several emails, I was pretty much bombarded.
In total, I received 6 emails in a mixture of Greek and English. To be honest, if I hadn’t received those emails, I wouldn’t have even considered bidding for the upgrade, so hats off to you, Aegean — your marketing worked on me.
Before I decided to bid, I did a bit of market research through my Instagram to see if I could gauge through others’ experiences how successful my bid would be. I had more positive responses about successful Aegean upgrade bids than I was expecting.
I was advised that I would have better upgrade chances by waiting until 3 days before the flight, as that’s when the airline’s algorithm would start dishing out the upgrades.
Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I took their word for it.
There was a final check I did before I made the decision to go for it: I checked ExpertFlyer to see how many seats were still available in business class and there appeared to be at least 8.
Making the Bid
More convinced than ever that I’d have a shot, I took the plunge and made a bid.
As with other airlines, you’re presented with a sliding bar of amounts that correspond with an offer strength. In other words, the more you bid, the more chance you have of getting the upgrade.
I went for €70 ($70), as this was the lowest cash amount that still registered as a strong bid.
Just like that, my bid was made.
Lo and behold, I won the upgrade! I received the email from Aegean early the following morning after bidding and a whole 2 days before my flight was due to depart.
Would the $70 I paid for the upgrade be worth it?
Here are my thoughts …
Aegean Business Class Airport Experience
I felt weirdly nostalgic about leaving Thessaloniki — the city which I’d called home for the best part of a month. Thankfully, the excitement of flying business class with Aegean for the first time helped to combat the sadness of leaving Thess behind.
As a Oneworld Gold member who rarely flies with any other alliance, I was looking forward to being able to use the business class check-in desks for the first time since I arrived from the U.K. on my summer adventures in Europe.
I walked straight to the front of the line at Aegean’s dedicated check-in zone at Thessaloniki Airport (SKG) as no other passengers were waiting.
Thanks to my new business class ticket, I was allowed to check 2 pieces of luggage up to 70 pounds (32 kg) each instead of the lowly 1x 50 pounds (23 kg) luggage allowance that was included with my $190 one-way ComfortFlex economy fare that I’d originally booked.
My larger case weighed 52.5 pounds (23.8 kg). Even though I could have checked both my bags in, I took my smaller carry-on bag onboard with me so I’d at least have some possessions with me if my luggage got lost on its journey from Thessaloniki to Athens to Naxos.
Hot Tip: To minimize the impact of losing a checked bag, try splitting your possessions between your checked bag and your carry-on where possible so that you have the essentials you need to get by for a few days while your checked bag is on a detour. Consider dropping in an AirTag, as well, so that you can keep an eye on your bag!
Even though I was only booked in business class from Thessaloniki to Athens, my checked bag allowance was valid all the way through to Naxos.
The AEGEAN Business Lounge
I rocked up at the AEGEAN Business Lounge with very low expectations given the terrible lounge that the airline operates in the intra-Schengen area of Athens Airport.
I was very surprised when I arrived at the entrance of the modern and shiny exterior of the AEGEAN Business Lounge, which can be found 1 level down from the main terminal level.
As my boarding pass was scanned with a smile, I was informed that I would be boarding my flight to Athens directly from the lounge. What? Had I mistakenly arrived at Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Munich?
Okay, Aegean, let’s see what else you’ve got.
The design of the lounge was up there with some of the best I’ve seen. I love lounges that feel more like hotel lobbies than airport lounges and the AEGEAN Business Lounge was exactly that.
As you’ll find in any good lounge, there were various zoned areas, like this café-style space close to the coffee and tea machines.
The bulk of the seating comprised of sofas and armchairs ideally placed along the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked directly onto the apron.
The armchairs were as comfy as they look.
The sofas gave off a slightly more corporate vibe.
It was nice to see the return of reading material.
Advertisements for Greece and Aegean could be seen throughout the lounge.
The buffet area, while small, had everything you could ask for in a lounge. To level up a notch, it would have been nice to have à la carte options like The Lounge Thessaloniki upstairs (accessible via Priority Pass).
Except for the classic Greek spinach and feta pies, food options were pretty standard for an airport lounge.
I found mostly the same generic sandwiches and cold cuts that you’d expect to find in any lounge.
Fruit, not wrapped in plastic (take note, lounges of America), was also available for those who like healthy snacks.
After spending the majority of my summer in Greece, I wasn’t surprised to find a sea of tiny plastic bottles. It’s rare to find any kind of recycling facilities anywhere in Greece, and plastic bottles of water are handed out freely at restaurants and in bars.
In a premium lounge like this, I’d expect a water tap for refilling personal reusable bottles, or at least larger glass bottles for self-service rather than so much single-use plastic. Come on, Aegean, it’s 2022!
While I don’t drink beer anymore, a lounge with beer on draught always gets extra points from me — especially when it’s local.
There was a decent selection of wines.
The bar also featured spirits, including ouzo.
My attention then became focused on the Aegean Airbus A320neo that pulled up right outside the lounge.
I could get used to taking up-close photos at ground level of the plane I’ll be flying before boarding it.
I presumed that we’d board the aircraft through the set of doors that were situated behind a single counter.
I was right.
My boarding pass was scanned and I walked through the doors, across the asphalt, and up the stairs onto the aircraft in what was probably the quickest boarding experience of my life.
Thankfully, the torrential rain held off just in time. Yes, it rains in Greece, too.
Bottom Line: Before I even got on the plane, the perks I enjoyed thanks to winning up upgraded bid were: a dedicated business class check-in line (though on this occasion there was no queue at all at check-in), an increased baggage allowance (from 1 bag at 50 pounds to 2 bags at 7o pounds each), lounge access, and boarding directly from the lounge to the plane.
I was very impressed by the AEGEAN Business Lounge at Thessaloniki. The value for me here isn’t strictly to do with the cash I’d save by not having to buy drinks and snacks at the airport, but rather from a customer experience standpoint.
Not only is the lounge a relaxed, spacious, and modern space to hang out in before a flight, but the added luxury of boarding the aircraft straight from the lounge before the other passengers meant no waiting around at the gate or in a jet bridge — something that even the most seasoned travelers still often have to do, even when flying in premium cabins or with elite status.
Aegean’s Short-haul Business Class Experience
If you’re not accustomed to business class in Europe, then you might be shocked to see regular economy seats at the front of the plane.
Unless you’re flying one of the rare intra-European wide-body routes, then you can forget lie-flat seats or even a 2-2-configured cabin: the best you can look forward to is a blocked middle seat with an extra tray for your drinks.
Believe it or not, this is pretty much the gold standard for European business class.
The business class cabin was cozy with space for just 12 passengers.
It surprised me that it was just myself and 2 other ladies in business on my flight as Athens and Thessaloniki are the 2 largest cities in Greece. I’d have expected a higher passenger load.
I love Aegean’s modern navy blue seats adorned with white finishes and an embroidered logo. Even flag carrier aircraft seats these days can look tacky and cheap — this is not the case with Aegean.
Curtains were pulled across to separate the 2 cabins as soon as it was safe for the crew to leave their seats.
The white Aegean logos on the headrests coupled with this subtle branding on the starboard bulkhead made for a tasteful reminder of the airline.
I had plenty of room to stretch my legs in row 1 on the port side.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave Thessaloniki behind. At least for now.
As part of its business class service, Aegean lays a branded place setting on the tray tables.
I appreciate that this might create more waste, but I’ll make an allowance here in terms of hygiene.
The more I hear these days about cleaning — or lack thereof — between flights, these throwaway mats will go a long way to reduce the risk of opening your tray table to the previous passengers’ slops and spills.
Take note, British Airways.
I was served a snack of smoked mackerel (I think) and prawn bruschetta-style light bites garnished with a single cherry tomato and a sprig of something green. It might have been tiny, but it was delicious.
You’d be right for thinking that this meal alone is in no way worth the $70 price tag that I paid for the upgrade bid. However, it’s still nice to have on a 42-minute flight.
By way of bubbles, Aegean serves up Amalia Brut — a very tasty Greek sparkling wine. I’d describe it as being closer tasting to Champagne than Prosecco and Cava.
It was all smiles and a big cheers to Aegean from me.
A final thing to note is that Aegean has the most lovely-smelling hand wipes that I’ve ever been handed on a plane. I hope this picture does my enjoyment justice.
I must also add that the service overall was amazing. With only 3 passengers in the cabin, the purser of our flight (who will have to forgive me for forgetting to note down her name) had all the time in the world to provide the most attentive service.
Each interaction was polite, professional, and, above all, friendly. I find interactions with non-U.K. cabin crew to be sometimes rather stale and robotic. I’m happy to say the complete opposite can be said regarding the crew on my flight from Thessaloniki to Athens.
I guess the ultimate question I need to answer here is was the $70 I paid for my upgrade worth it?
I can wholeheartedly say, that yes, it was worth every cent (in my opinion). The extra checked bag, increased weight allowance, and boarding the aircraft directly from the state-of-the-art lounge were definite highlights for me.
If I was flying from Thessaloniki again with availability in business class, I would definitely bid for the upgrade again.
I’d love to try this out on one of Aegean’s longer, international routes to see if I can have the same success! I’ve also heard that Aegean’s lounge in the extra-Schengen area of Athens Airport is far better than the one I visited in the intra-Schengen area.
Would I do this for every airline? Probably not. I had the same opportunity with Air Serbia last month but decided against it after reading up about its business class.