A guide to flight upgrades with Air New Zealand

GUIDE: Program Guide
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 7 minutes
POSTED: August 2, 2017
UPDATED: August 1, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Air New Zealand Airpoints

No-one likes to fly Economy, especially on long-haul international flights. Finding out that you’ve received a complimentary upgrade is always a treat, but these are unfortunately few and far in between.

With Air New Zealand, there are some sure-fire ways that you can increase your chances of being upgraded – however it’ll depend on your Airpoints status, and sometimes how much you’re willing to pay.

This guide looks at the different options that may be available to you on your next flight, including:

This guide is a bit of a read, so we suggest you bookmark the page, ready to pull out once you’ve booked your next flight.

Otherwise, grab a coffee, and find yourself a comfy chair!

Common Rules

These rules apply to all upgrade types, except Star Alliance upgrades:

  • Upgrades are only valid on Air New Zealand ticketed and operated flights.
  • Members will earn Airpoints Dollars and Status Points at the earn rate of the original fare purchased, and not the upgraded fare.
  • Upgrades are not available on all flights. For example, they cannot be requested for Companion Tickets, grabaseat fares, and flights booked in certain discounted or low cost booking classes, including F class.
  • If you upgrade from Economy on a flight departing from London, you will be required to pay the additional Air Passenger Duty that will apply to your journey. However, no additional fees will be payable on upgrades from Premium Economy.
  • Apart for some limited exceptions with Recognition and Elite Airpoints Dollars upgrades, you can only request an upgrade of one cabin class – e.g. from Economy to Premium Economy, or from Premium Economy to Business Premier. This means that those among us who are stuck in Economy can’t use an upgrade to jump all the way to Business on any international flight.
  • Upgrade requests are on a ‘per sector basis’ – e.g. if you’re on a multi-sector flight (e.g. Auckland to London via Los Angeles), then you’ll need to choose one sector for each upgrade request. One benefit of this is that you can mix and match, by requesting recognition upgrades on some legs, and OneUp or Airpoints Dollars upgrades on others.

OneUp Upgrades

All Airpoints members regardless of status can request a OneUp upgrade.

These are the key points that you should be aware of:

  • OneUp Upgrades must be requested at least 72 hours before travel, and can be changed/cancelled up until that same time.
  • Your upgrade request will clear last, after any recognition upgrades. So, if you have the latter, use them first.
  • Your OneUp offer is for all passengers named in your original booking. It is not possible to upgrade some members of your travelling party and not others. On the plus side, your travel companions do not need to be on your Airpoints gifting register to be ‘gifted’ with the upgrade.
  • If multiple passengers wish to use their own Airpoints Dollars to request an upgrade, rather than relying on one passenger, call Air New Zealand on 0800 737 000. They will facilitate this over the phone.
  • You cannot request a OneUp if you have booked SkyCouch.

OneUp offers made by Silver, Gold or Elite Airpoints members will have their offer increased depending on their tier level:

  • Elite: 50% upweight
  • Gold: 30% upweight
  • Silver: 10% upweight

This is a nice bonus, particularly for Elite Airpoints members who have exhausted their recognition upgrades.

Once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, send Air New Zealand your best offer along with your payment details – you have a choice between using Airpoints Dollars, credit card or debit card. A meter will be displayed showing how likely your offer is to be accepted, based on a history of offers for that particular flight.

Air New Zealand will reply with an email 3-5 days before your flight departs, to let you know whether your offer was successful or not. If the flight is particularly full, they’ll send you an email to advise that they’ll review your offer 8 hours before the flight’s departure.

The full terms and conditions for OneUp can be found here, including a list with a few upgrade exclusions.

Air New Zealand Premium Economy will still be more comfortable on a long-haul flight than an Economy seat

Recognition Upgrades

Elite, Gold and Silver Airpoints members receive recognition upgrades each membership year. They are valid for the membership year in which they are earned, and will be visible from your Airpoints account.

How many you earn will depend on your Airpoints status:

  • Elite Members receive two recognition upgrades and one Elite short haul recognition upgrade per membership year, plus the ability to gift these to anyone on their gifting register
  • Gold members receive two recognition upgrades per membership year
  • Silver members receive one recognition upgrade per membership year

If you move up a status level at any time during your membership year, any unused recognition upgrades will expire and will be replaced with new recognition upgrades applicable to your new tier status. Reading between the lines, this means it’s a good idea to use your recognition upgrades as they come, and not try to hoard them away – especially if you know you’re going to move up a tier.

Two recognition upgrades may be used together to apply for an upgrade to move from Economy to Business Premier.

On Boeing 777 or 787 aircraft operating between New Zealand and Eastern Australia or the Pacific Islands, members can move from Economy to Business Premier using one recognition upgrade (excludes flights to Perth, Honolulu and Bali, or between Sydney and Rarotonga). This is likely ‘recognition’ that an ‘upgrade’ to Premium Economy on some of these routes isn’t really much of an upgrade!

When will you find out if your recognition upgrade has been successful?

  • Elite members: up to 355 days prior to the scheduled flight time, if the upgrade booking class is available.
  • Gold members: up to 6 days prior to the scheduled flight time, after Elite upgrades are confirmed.
  • Silver: up to 6 days prior to the scheduled flight time, after Elite and Gold upgrades have been confirmed.

If you’re travelling with someone who does not have their own recognition upgrades, you should call the Air New Zealand contact centre on 0800 737 000. Air New Zealand will split your booking, so that you can use a recognition upgrade for yourself, and a OneUp offer for your travelling companion (if you so wish).

Also, if you are looking to use a combination of recognition upgrades and OneUp offers for different sectors of your journey, then you will need to request your recognition upgrade first. After this, you may make an OneUp offer on any remaining sector.

Note that if you have a travel booking with a recognition upgrade and later wish to change your travel arrangements, your upgrade will be deemed to have expired if:

  1. at the date of changing your travel arrangements, you no longer hold the applicable Tier Status that enabled you to earn the recognition upgrade; or
  2. if the date of travel is in a new membership year.

I’ve finally taken the leap and will be flying on Air New Zealand’s 787-9 Dreamliner to Adelaide in November.

Elite short haul recognition upgrades

Elite members receive one short haul recognition upgrade each Elite membership year, in addition to their two standard recognition upgrades. Like the others, this will be visible from within your Airpoints account.

The short haul recognition upgrade can be used to move from Economy to Business Class on direct Air New Zealand ticketed and operated flights between New Zealand and Eastern Australia or the Pacific Islands (excluding flights to Perth, Honolulu and Bali, or between Sydney and Rarotonga).

Your upgrade request can be confirmed up to 355 days prior to your scheduled flight if upgrade classes are available.

Elite Airpoints Dollar upgrades

Elite members can request upgrades at a fixed fee, payable only with Airpoints Dollars.

I personally find the prices to be pretty reasonable, and if you find yourself short on Airpoints Dollars, you can always top-up using your Air New Zealand Airpoints Mastercard. There is no maximum on the number of Airpoints Dollars that you can purchase, so you could attempt to use this method to purchase these upgrades outright.

The upgrade charts can be found here. As with the other upgrade types, these are per sector, and for one-class only (except the Trans-Tasman and Pacific routes discussed above).

Star Alliance upgrades

All Airpoints members can use their Airpoints Dollars to redeem a Star Alliance Upgrade when travelling on a Star Alliance Partner Airline. After viewing their upgrade chart, you can request your upgrade online.

Unlike with Air New Zealand operated flights, you can upgrade direct from Economy to Business. However, the Star Alliance booking classes that can be upgraded are limited, and your upgrade will be subject to the relevant Star Alliance partner booking terms. Key restrictions include:

  • Subject to the bullet below, Star Alliance upgrade awards may only be requested at least 7 days before departure.
  • Star Alliance upgrade awards on flights operated by ANA may only be requested within 28 days of flight departure.
  • Upgrades to First and Business Class on Singapore Airlines’ B777-300ER, All-Business Class A345, and A380 are not available.
  • Upgrades are on a per sector basis.

If you’re angling for one of these upgrades, it’s worth doing your research before booking to make sure you fall into the right booking class. You should also confirm with Air New Zealand whether they can see any upgrade availability for that particular flight.

Again, you can top-up your Airpoints Dollars with your Air New Zealand Airpoints Mastercard to then ‘purchase’ these upgrades if you find yourself short, and this may be good value for some.

The Business Premier meal service is one of many reasons to try and upgrade your seat

Air New Zealand Upgrade Priority

Upgrades on Air New Zealand ticketed and operated flights are processed in the following order:

  • Elite Recognition Upgrades will be confirmed into available upgrade classes from time of booking (355 days in advance).
  • Six days from travel, Air New Zealand will manually check and confirm uncleared Elite Recognition upgrades from available unsold seats (excluding the number of seats held back for commercial sale).
  • Gold then Silver Recognition Upgrades will be cleared in the same manner.
  • Immediately following, appropriate OneUp offers will then be accepted.

Upgrades are able to be reviewed in tier order for any remaining unsold seats at the airport on the day of travel.

It’s helpful that Air New Zealand have published this information – should you be lucky enough to have access to more than one of the options above, it’s good to know where your request will sit in terms of priority.

Summing up – Air New Zealand Upgrades

As you can probably tell, there are many moving parts to flight upgrades – whether you’re successful in your endeavours can depend on your Airpoints status, how much you bid, what type of fare you have, and the passenger loading on your flight.

It’ll be up to each individual traveller to determine what their ‘price’ is in terms of upgrading. I personally think that the Elite Airpoints Dollars upgrades are reasonable value, and I would suggest that you try to match these in price when making a OneUp request, as these are likely a reasonable benchmark in terms of what may be accepted by Air New Zealand.

Star Alliance Upgrades are well overpriced in my view, especially when factoring in the cost of the initial flight purchase. Often you can request a Star Alliance Business Class award redemption at around the same cost in Airpoints Dollars.

If you have had any experiences that do or don’t fit with the analysis of the different upgrade types above, let us know in the comments.

Images are courtesy of Air New Zealand

A guide to flight upgrades with Air New Zealand was last modified: August 1st, 2017 by Daniel Kinnoch