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British Midland sells off spare seats to the highest bidder

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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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