Bid online for airline seats – and then wait for the post

British Midland sells off spare seats to the highest bidder

UK airline British Midland has set up an online auction for its empty flight seats - with bids starting at £45. Fast and furious it may be but don't expect to leave for at least a week because your tickets won't have arrived before then. So far, British Midland has had eight three-hour auctions and plans to run one every two to three weeks, with 100 to 300 flights available each time. One lucky punter recently got two tickets to Budapest for £55 each. However, British Midland's hi-tech credentials were called into question when The Register checked out the site. Yes, you can bid in near real time, but if successful, things slow down considerably. There is a one week minimum limit between bid and flight to allow the tickets to arrive by post. Quizzed as to why it hasn't adopted the popular e-ticket approach, the company told us it wanted to avoid causing congestion at ticket desks, with winning bidders getting in the way of full-price customers. The time and date of the next auction will be emailed to registered users a week before it takes place, although we hope it's more efficient than the on-screen version which told us the next one would be yesterday. Bidding works in much the same way as other online auctions, with a continually updated status report with the names of bidders displayed. British Midland also offers an automated bid service which will continue raising up to a maximum that you set. The seat auction certainly looks like a good idea. Get on it before it becomes popular and grab a bargain. ®

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