Virgin Introduces Live Bidding on First Class Seats

(21 Sep 2017, BWCS Staff)

Virgin Trains East Coast has launched an innovative new service to enable ordinary passengers to bid live for upgrades to First Class seats. The new Seatfrog mobile app allows travellers to take part in an auction of empty seats in the premier coaches on East Coast’s services.

According to Virgin, the app works by creating a live bidding system for seats that would otherwise remain empty for the duration of the journey. The company believes that upgrades will be available from as little as £5. The auctions will commence around 2.5 hours before a train departs from its originating station.

A statement from the train operator pointed out that First class benefits include free food and drink from a menu designed by James Martin, reclining leather seats, additional leg-room and free WiFi, which on its own may make a cheap upgrade worthwhile.

It is not clear how regular First Class passengers will react to an influx of ordinary passengers (or riffraff as Basil Fawlty would term them). Nor are there plans to widen the auction system to allow travellers to bid on the last available toasted sandwich or cold beer. However, other train companies have been investigating apps that allow passengers to order food and drink from the buffet via their WiFi connection.

Virgin East Coast said that the new last minute upgrade system will be available on selected lines from Monday to Friday. It will initially be run on services between the following stations (and stops in between), with new routes said to be on the way:

  • King’s Cross to Leeds including, for example, Doncaster to Wakefield Westgate, and Stevenage to Grantham
  • King’s Cross to Newcastle including, for example, Northallerton to York, and Peterborough to Newark North Gate
  • King’s Cross to Edinburgh including, for example, Berwick upon Tweed to Darlington, and Durham to Dunbar
  • King’s Cross to York including, for example, Grantham to Doncaster, and Retford to Stevenage

Seatfrog is available for iOS and Android devices.

On-board WiFi, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi services and on-board entertainment formed the main subjects of the recent WiFi on Trains Conference hosted by BWCS ( ). For more information on 2018’s event please contact

This year's Train Communications System Conference was sponsored by Icomera (Gold), Nomad Digital (Silver), Fluidmesh (Bronze), 21Net (Cocktails), LetsJoin (Lunch Day 1) and RADWIN (Lunch Day 2).


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