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Cathay Pacific mulls Ebay-style bidding for business class tickets

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Cathay Pacific passengers may soon be able to bid for seat upgrades online if the airline approves a pilot program.AP

One airline is considering a new proposal to auction off business class tickets like Ebay.

Cathay Pacific passengers may soon be able to bid for seat upgrades online if the airline approves a pilot program, reports The South China Morning Post.

The auction, which would open up all available premium seat upgrades to all passengers, is aimed at increasing earnings for the Hong Kong-based carrier.

Passengers will be able to bid for a single-sector, one-cabin upgrade to either premium economy or business class.

"Customers would be invited to place an offer for their booked flights via a website prior to their departure date. If their offer was successful they would be advised around four days prior to departure and the offer payment collected," said a spokesperson from International Customer Loyalty Programmes representing Cathay Pacific on Flyer Talk, a popular aviation forum.

Several airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, and Air New Zealand already host auctions for certain flights, according to Telegraph Travel.  Also, in 2008 JetBlue auctioned off seats in its own eBay store.

But travel expert George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, says auctions like Cathay's undermine fast-disappearing frequent flier benefits.

"I think the real losers here could be people hoping to use miles to upgrade, or to get free upgrades with their frequent flyer status. It’s all about selling seats at whatever price the market will bear rather than giving anything away for free," said Hobica.

While travelers see this as a potentially cheaper way to upgrade, some Cathay Pacific customers took to the airline forum Flyer Talk to complain.  One user said that "it makes the airline look cheap."