First class upgrades when travelling by train are notoriously expensive, especially when you buy them on the day. As someone who frequently travels, and frequently sees dozens and dozens of plush first class seats available while I'm sandwiched in standard class like I'm being shipped to some kind of cattle market, it's more than just a bit frustrating.
Virgin East Coast has just come up with a new initiative to allow standard class travellers to bid on spare first class seats shortly before departure. The company has partnered with Seatfrog, which allows you to upgrade via a smartphone app.
The bidding window will open two and a half hours before your departure time, and will remain open until 30 minutes before. Much like eBay, you can enter your highest price, and the app will notify you if you've been successful. If you win, you can pay via the app, and it'll provide you with a digital ticket for your upgrade.
Virgin East Coast reckon that upgrades will be available for a little as £5, although I suppose it depends how popular the service is. You may get stuck in a bidding war and end up sending the prices through the roof!
It won't be available on all services, but it's being rolled out to weekday services from King's Cross to York, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, with more to be added soon. If you definitely want to travel first class, it's still better to book your ticket in advance as Seatfrog cannot guarantee a seat will be available on your service.
The chief executive of Seatfrog has said that the company would love to partner with other train services in the UK. It seems like a great idea in principle, but I suppose it depends how well it goes with Virgin East Coast.
First class accommodation affords you a comfier, bigger seat, more legroom, a guaranteed table, and free drinks and snacks. If you'll be travelling Virgin East Coast and want to try and bag yourself a cheaper upgrade, you can download the Seatfrog app on your smartphone and get bidding. [Guardian]