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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Why are the taxes and charges different when you upgrade?
    Air passenger duty is the same. So even though you are using avios, BA is effectively charging you £80 for lounge entry or what?

  2. Ruth Findlay says:

    Ah! This explains a lot. I’ve been looking at upgrade using avios for Vancouver CW flights and it was always much more expensive than a stand alone WTP ticket. Now I know why and how to fix it. Many thanks.

    • +1, great article. I’ve been frustrated with this for some time now as I used to use money and UUA to book one way back to the UK from Asia but found that differences between cash WTP and UUA WTP on these could vary by up to a factor of 4. I already discovered that it was now better to buy and then upgrade but I had no idea what was going on.

  3. indeed, this has been the case for a while now. Just to add, there is a third option (even if this seems obvious), especially if the ‘Manage my booking’ upgrade fails and not because of lack of inventory (this happens a lot), just book online and call them to upgrade.

  4. This is good to know – but on a separate note I’m not quite sure I understand the implementation of the dual inventory. LON-JFK r/t next summer is £500 if you can book into O class – and £1400 in T.

    • It may be too far out for DIP to kick in. There are also time limits around when you see these fares. They drop away as you approach the travel date.

  5. This happened to me on a flight booking from LHR to Bangalore. 2 different prices were quoted for WTP and WTP+Avios upgrade to CW. This worked out at £100 extra for each of our 2 tickets. I took screen shots of both fares but did proceed to book the Upgrade with Avios ticket. I complained to Customer Services and after almost 2 months of back and forth emails BA stood their ground with a lame excuse along the lines of ‘keeping our fares competitive’. I let it go … life is too short ! But for next time, I know 🙂

  6. You live and learn! Can I clarify that ANY WTP ticket irrespective of fare bucket is eligible for UUA? If so, I take it that there is value in booking in some BA Holiday sales in WTP and upgrading after booking? I never considered this as an option previously as I thought (incorrectly it would appear) that BA Holiday bookings would be in a fare bucket that was ineligible for UUA.

    • Not entirely sure about BA Holidays actually – I meant to say any ba.com fare.

      • bruciebonus says:

        Booked a holiday in the current BA sale (WTP flights + hotel) and managed to upgrade from WTP to Club one-way with avios + £44pp; I was told it was for additional taxes. The WTP fare was the lowest on offer for the sale. There was also no change / admin fee when I called as I made the amendment within 24 hours of booking.

    • Not sure about WTP to CE but I upgraded CE to F using avios on a recent BA holiday purchase.

  7. Interesting and handy tip, thanks Rob!

    PS WordPress errors seem to be all sorted now 🙂

  8. If you book into WTP and use UUA do you get the avios and TPs based on WTP?

    • Yes. In theory you receive the Avios and TP of the WTP fare. However there have been occasions where people have received the higher TP.

      • Also I’ve had quite a few times previously where I received zero TP & Avios on UUA bookings and had to get BA CS to manually add the WTP amounts.

      • Thanks

      • Something similar looked like it was going to happen on my brothers booking – he booked a redemption to SCL but they changed the day of the week so he got rebooked into a revenue booking class which was TP/Avios earning and also allowed seat selection. Flyertalk suggested this may be temporary until they open up redemption space, and sure enough about a week later the booking got moved into redemption booking class and seat selection erased. He’s not flying until March. If this were to happen nearer time of travel and didn’t get fixed in time, you might end up in a better situation.

  9. Great article on longstanding problem. Same issues on European flights.

  10. This isn’t the only problem. I bought LHR-HKG tickets in Y at a very very good price.The difference when booking between Y and Y+ was around £170 on the return leg however going through an online upgrade to Y+ it was asking £1200

    • hearingdouble says:

      I don’t think that’s necessary a technical issue, that’s just BA’s business model. The cost to upgrade (i.e. make a change to) an otherwise non-flexible WT fare is not necessarily the same as the fare uplift when they’re trying to tempt you to buy a WTP fare at the outset (and when you still have the option to choose a different carrier or indeed not to buy any tickets at all).

      Pricing is variable. If you see a price you like but don’t buy it, you can’t really complain if the price goes up later. This article highlights a different issue because the pricing is different depending on the booking method.

  11. I used UUA for PHL-LHR leg of JER-LGW-TPA-PHL-LHR. 24k avios (peak) and no additional payment.

  12. David Murray says:

    Great article and I absolutely agree with the main point on WTP to CW.

    However, while upgrading to WTP used to be a bad deal, S/N fares are now upgradeable and relatively cheap – certainly within leisure price ranges some of the time. Still not as good as WTP to CW but not necessarily that expensive, particularly for travellers starting outside the UK where the cheapest fares frequently don’t book into the cheapest buckets.

  13. I was discussing this very issue on another site recently; the sale WTP fares of circa £750 would change to £1250 when trying to upgrade online, so I checked for Avios availability first, then booked 2 x WTP LHR-MIA online for £750 each then called to upgrade (106k avois and £140).
    I was really impressed with the call centre staff (Emma) – she was incredibly helpful, and as I was short by 1000 avios (thanks Marriott…..), she hung on when I purchased them online then processed the booking (70k of my balance came from the Tesco ink offer so thank you HFP!).
    I’ve done a number of Ex-EU flights but these offers haven’t been as prevalent (esp. with the euro rate) so upgrading WTP is a good option for us. Since flying CW when we got married 3 years ago I have always managed to get decent CW/F thanks to sites like this – the only problem is I’m not sure I could go back to economy!

    PS Re the Marriott offer of 1k avios – has anybody been credited with this? I emailed them a few weeks ago and they didn’t reply and I’m still waiting….

  14. Can you use a GUF2 with TA to upgrade these fares though? My understanding is that this fare class isn’t upgradable without redemption inventory.

    • I tried to upgrade a T class WTP fare last year with a TA and received the following reply –

      “Unfortunately, the fare you have written about, is actually what is known as an upgrade fare from economy, which is priced as an economy fare + 250 GBP, (known as “NKX1D4T1/DIF4″), but since
      it’s technically an economy fare, it is not upgrade able using a GUF”

    • Generally GUF2 via TA doesn’t need redemption availability, just appropriate cash bucket. However I believe some of these dual inventory fares have caused some issues. The FT thread on GUV2 is very good for info on this and TAs that are used to processing them (Propeller et al) should be able to keep you straight.

  15. RedHroogar says:

    Ah! This ‘dual pricing for WT+’ may explain an anomaly I found when booking a flight to SKB in 2016. When I searched for WT+ pricing those show on ba.com for Outward were ~£1200 and also shown were CW at only £1 more! So naturally I booked CW rather than use Avios to upgrade. A couple of days later I searched for WT tickets on the same dates for friends and lo an behold WT+ price was now shown as ~£650! On rechecking by just searching for WT+ the higher price was shown. Tried my hardest to persuade BA to change my price on the bases that there was a serious error with their Website; they refused but gave no reason for the discrepancy. Only compensation was that both my Wife and I earned Bronze status that lasted between us almost two years (due to our 6month offset in join date).