Why ba.com’s ‘upgrade using Avios to Club World’ pricing may have ripped you off

The abilty to upgrade a British Airways World Traveller Plus cash ticket to Club World, using Avios, is one of the most attractive parts of the Avios programme.

Upgrading from Economy / World Traveller to World Traveller Plus is a bad deal, because it is not possible from the cheapest economy tickets – the sort of tickets that leisure travellers will buy.  However, there are no restrictions on which World Traveller Plus tickets can be upgraded to Club World.

Any WTP ticket bought on ba.com,  even one bought in a sale, can be upgraded with Avios to a flat bed Club World seat as long as there is Avios redemption availability in Club World.  (I’m not sure about the rule for BA Holidays bookings.)

British Airways 350 2

But the process is broken …..

Over the summer I received a couple of emails from readers who felt they were being ripped off when trying to do this.  They would be quoted a price for a World Traveller Plus ticket but – when they tried to make a booking using the ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ function – the ticket price suddenly jumped sharply.

The good news is that there is a way around the problem.  The bad news is that a lot of people have probably over-paid for an ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ flight in recent months.

This problem seems to be limited to US routes only although I cannot be 100% certain of this.

Let me tell you about Dual Inventory Fares

Dual Inventory Fares are an interesting British Airways pricing initiative.  Put simply, it is a way of keeping a fixed gap between the prices of two different cabins.

British Airways doesn’t want the price gap between World Traveller and World Traveller Plus to get too big.  If it did, people who would otherwise have paid a premium to upgrade will decide not to bother with World Traveller Plus.  This costs BA money.

So, if economy flight prices are reduced to create a ‘too big’ gap between World Traveller and World Traveller Plus, ba.com will (and I am stripping out a lot of technical details here) automatically adjust the cheapest World Traveller Plus fare downwards.

This is actually a sensible business move by BA.  The reason it is called a Dual Inventory Fare is because you are sold a hybrid ticket type which exists in the BA booking system as both WT and WTP – don’t worry, though, this has no impact on your Avios or tier points which credit as usual.

But when you do ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ …..

When you do ‘Upgrade Using Avios’, ba.com makes a mistake.  Instead of giving you the Dual Inventory Fare, it gives you the standard World Traveller Plus ticket.   This means that you are overpaying for your ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ ticket.

It is easier to explain with an example

This screenshot shows the cost of a World Traveller Plus ticket to New York between 5th and 12th February.

The fare is £818 consisting of £376 base fare and £442 of taxes and charge.  Click to enlarge:

Upgrade Using Avios example 1

However, this is what you get when you try ‘Upgrade Using Avios’.

The fare is now £1,212 consisting of £684 base fare and £528 of taxes and charges – plus, of course, 44000 Avios for the upgrade to Club World.

Upgrade Using Avios example 2

The actual cost of this ticket should be £898 plus 44,000 Avios.  The cash element should be the original World Traveller Plus price plus the £80 of additional Club World taxes and charges.

In reality, you are being asked to pay £1,212.  You are over-paying by £314 per person.

The good news is that, now you know there is a problem, you can fix it

There are two ways around this, assuming that it kicks in when you try to book your next US flight:

Call British Airways to book.  It seems that the call centre is able to upgrade a Dual Inventory Fare.

or

Do your booking in two stages.  Do NOT use ‘Book With Money, Upgrade With Avios’.  Instead, break it into two stages.  Book the World Traveller Plus ticket for cash and then immediately go into ‘Manage My Booking’ and upgrade it with Avios, or call BA to do it.  If, for some reason, it fails (eg the Avios inventory in Club World disappears) you can cancel your WTP ticket for a full refund under the ’24 hours cancellation’ rule.

Conclusion

If you are planning to book a World Traveller Plus ticket to the US on ba.com using the ‘Ugrade Using Avios’ function, make sure you check the WTP pricing for a standalone ticket first.

If the non-upgraded WTP ticket is cheaper, use one of the two methods above to book it for the original price.

Review of the Aspire Lounge at Manchester Airport Terminal 1
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Comments

  1. Great post. I encountered this earlier this year trying to book London to New York.

    Worth adding that you need to check for upgrade availability BEFORE booking your WTP ticket, via the Reward Flight availability tools.

  2. Penelope Buchannan-Smith says:

    O/T – Can BA gold use the first-wing check-in area?
    a) when in WT/WTP
    b) in CW
    c) in F
    d) None of the above

  3. how is the “dual inventory” part of this relevant to people who buy the tickets (instead of BA IT staff). Some flights have a cheaper ticket price than others. The problem is that when you upgrade using avios the system doesn’t find that price and chooses a higher price ticket. So you need to call BA to get the lower price ticket (which you would get it you bought the ticket without upgrade) and upgrade that.
    All the part about the ticket being both WT and WT+ is irrelevant really and just confusing to us readers.
    When you buy a ticket you are quoted a price. how that’s internally represented by BA IT systems isn’t relevant to the person buying the ticket.

  4. Rob, any chance you of looking at why BA’s new OnBusiness site can’t upgrade cheap ex-EU fares with OB points? Was recently looking at CW > F but WTP > CW is also broken.

    I’ve had a couple of calls with OB about this, what the agents said was complete and utter tripe.

    One told me to book the DUB-LON and LON-NYC flights separately, then I’d be able to upgrade the latter with my OB points. She also said it might turn out cheaper that way!

  5. I’ve done the WT+ to CW upgrade twice for BA Holidays.

    First time, it was £13 in additional taxes.
    Second time, £280.

    No idea if they’ve seriously overcharged me on the second one or what as it’s open jaw (DUS-LHR-BOS / JFK-LHR-DUS)

    • I have just had this hapoen to me on an open jaw. Only upgrading the return WTP to CW from SFO to GLA. Originally they wanted an extra £250 plus 25k avios per adult. I queried it and they manually adjusted it to around an extra £100 plus 25k avios each. I’m starting to think it should have been even less as its only one way and its the return flight that was upgraded. However, booking a multi city flight in different cabins then upgrading one leg with avios is impossible for me to price myself so had to go with phone quote…..

  6. Optimus Prime says:

    OT – still a rookie and have started to use my hotel elite benefits off my Amex Platinum.

    At Hilton Brussels City they didn’t have any available upgrades.

    Now I’m at Reinassance New York Times Square. Got free breakfast (but not on weekends, lounge is closed!) and free wifi. We arrived late and forgot to ask for a room upgrade. Room is same one we booked with points. Is this the case because I didn’t ask or probably didn’t have any?

    Thanks

    • NYTS, they probably didn’t have anything because all hotels are keen to inform you they have upgraded you. If they say nothing you should always enquire. Sometimes they will just pass off same room on higher floor or with review as an upgrade.

      Brussels City gave me a great upgrade in May to a huge room which was effectively a one room suite but I’m diamond. If you are gold you should try to do a diamond challenge. Did they give you drinks vouchers to compensate for absence of lounge?

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Yes I did get the drink vouchers at Brussels City.

        I realise upgrades are not guaranteed, just a little sad about my 100% failure rate even though we’ve travelled just twice since we got our Amex Platinum!

        Anyway next time I’ll try and remember to ask.

        Thanks!

        • I wouldn’t be too disheartened, the two cities and hotels in question inevitably have very high occupancy rates. Over the longer term I’m certain you will get good recognition, especially from Hilton. You could engineer it a little by opting for less popular hotels but the downsides to that are obvious.

        • Always email in advance !

    • You can never count on getting an upgrade. It depends on whether there are any spare rooms for the time of your stay and ‘upgrade’ is very loosely defined.
      Having said that in June we stayed at Delta Suites in Vancouver BC as Marriott Gold and got upgraded to the best suite in the hotel. We also got anything we wanted from the excellent a la carte breakfast. But in Hilton Seattle (diamond) the free breakfast was in the lounge and was dire. We paid $8 extra to eat in the restaurant and that was not much better.

      • Hilton Berlin told me at check in i was free to take the breakfast in the lounge, which was good. But i went back to the reception and asked if i was able to take it in the main breakfast area, and was told i could. I think sometimes they can be a bit cute with choice of words, or perhaps its lost in translation.

        • I always ask about this at check in because I want a clear answer and no nasty shocks on my bill. I have not had any hotel yet refuse me the option to dine in main breakfast room.

        • Was treated very well as a Diamond at Berlin Hilton. Couldn’t upgrade me as it was New Years Eve (understandable – packed solid) so they gave me the contents of the mini-bar to make up for it! 3 nights running…. We ate in the main breakfast room once. Didn’t like it and went back to the lounge. Horses for courses obvs.

          • Yes, depends on the hotel. At Hilton Prague I like the lounge option better too. They had a nice spread and a good selection of items cooked to order.

          • On the subject of Hilton, what breakfast as a Gold could we expect at Conrad London? Considering taking out the Hilton Visa to take advantage of the free night

          • Simon Schus says:

            I love the Berlin Hilton 🙂 Last time, I arrived too late for the lounge, but I got the free mini bar 🙂 I had a nice bottle of red wine, and grabbed a few miniatures for the road! They were excellent, and probably the nicest of the Hilton hotels I’ve stayed in across Continental Europe, UK and North America (though I’m a fan of the Hilton Blackpool, Hilton San Francisco Financial District too!).

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Yes, I suspected this would happen because it’s Fashion Week in NYC, cash prices are very high this week. I don’t think they had any upgrades

        • Optimus Prime says:

          So lounge was opened today. They told me Marriott elite members get 1000 points each day instead of free breakfast on weekends.

  7. Completely off topic I know, but I have seen on Business Traveller that Qatar has what they are describing as their “biggest commercial promotion ever” on- how come this is getting no coverage on any of the blogs? Are the deals not any good?

    • No, they are not good! I was with Qatar on Tuesday and they told me that the best London deal was Lahore, to put it in context. A few places eg Venice have Bangkok for around £1200 but that is the only Asian route which looks attractive – and everyone is discounting Bangkok heavily these days.

      I will do something briefly over the weekend but there is nothing to get carried away over.

  8. Semi OT: if I transfer Avios from my wife’s Amex in to her BAEC account, can I then book using a BA 241 that’s on my account?

  9. A TA can also book the lower fare and upgrade. This probably has been around since the dual fares were introduced. I first noticed this problem about 6-7 months ago.

  10. OT any promo codes out there for QR ex UK in J. Need to book for November- thanks

  11. Sorry, newbie here, could you explain if this impacts BA 241 tickets booked online for Club World as well?

    And what about Lloyds upgrade vouchers from WTP to CW?

    Thanks!

    • Lloyds is not an upgrade voucher as such, more of a discount to the next class up. As it has to be used against an Avios Reward booking, the above topic doesn’t apply.

      • Yes, no impact. As Mike said, the Lloyds voucher is a massive misnomer. You are not upgrading a WTP seat, you are simply booking a CW seat for the miles of WTP.

        This is not just semantics, because a cardholder might think that Avios availability is needed in the lower class, eg WTP (it isn’t) and that you don’t Avios availability in the higher class, eg CW (you do).

        • Thanks both! The bit about the availability needed in CW instead of WTP (if I’m looking for a CW seat) is very useful information. Thank you!

  12. Slightly off topic but if your flying business/club and land at Heathrow, you should be able to use the fast track security, correct?

    The last time I was told I needed a voucher/coupon even though I had a fast track ticket, there wasn’t actually a queue so wasn’t bothered but if there was a queue I might have been.

    • For arrivals fast track is only for non EU nationals with the voucher

      • the real harry1 says:

        as an egalitarian it does annoy me somewhat that you can get fast track for money on re-entry to UK

        fast track on exit is not a passport exercise in the UK, just a carry-on baggage security check – this doesn’t bother me in the slightest if it gets speeded up for money/ status

        but re-entry is a passport check by Border Agency – IMV all people should be treated equally, according to their grouping ie EU/ EEA or not

        there are no real VIPs where security is concerned IMV, yes I guess I’d allow top politicians or [spits] so-called top 10 royalty as they are different – but not (say) FTSE100 CEOs or media figures – let them queue with the rest of us

      • I see thanks for clearing that up 🙂

  13. I tried to upgrade from WTP to Club World using Avios to Dubai in May 2918. The WTP price of the ticket was £641.07 but when I tried using “book with cash upgrade with miles” the price shot up to £1054.07 plus 44,000 Avios.
    So in the end I booked from ARN to DXB via LHR in WTP for £496 return plus only 44,000 miles with £80 extra for the taxes! So £576 return in Club World, happy days!!

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