Well, via this link we now have full details of what has been rumoured for a few days – that British Airways tickets issued by travel agents, most importantly corporate travel agents, will be upgradable with Avios points.
There is quite a bit of confusion about this topic, in particular what the effect will be on ‘standard’ Miles for Upgrade transactions. I will try to separate out the facts and the considered speculation from the hype.
This is what we know via the Speedbird Club link above:
For the first time, tickets booked via a corporate or standard travel agent can be upgraded with Avios to the next class of travel. BA has allowed tickets booked on ba.com to be upgraded with Avios for some years, via a process known as MFU (‘miles for upgrade’). The key MFU rules will also apply to upgraded corporate tickets:
- You can only upgrade by one class (World Traveller to WT Plus, WT Plus to Club World, Club World to First, Euro Traveller to Club Europe)
- The ticket must have been issued by BA (ie have a ticket number starting 125-) and, if multi-segment, must only contain BA flights
- The cost of the upgrade is the difference between a one-way redemption between the two classes (ie First Class one-way to New York is 60,000 Avios, Club World is 40,000, therefore the upgrade from Club World to First costs 20,000 Avios)
- You can do the upgrade online or by phone, although for the rest of this week you may have to ring if you do not see the option to upgrade showing in Manage My Booking
- You CANNOT upgrade from the cheapest Euro Traveller or World Traveller tickets. You CAN upgrade from the cheapest World Traveller Plus and Club World tickets.
- You can only upgrade if Avios redemption availability is showing for the upgraded cabin on your flight, as the MFU ticket comes from the same ‘bucket’ as a standard reward ticket.
- You will need to pay extra taxes if the upgrade causes you to pay additional fuel surcharges or Air Passenger Duty based on your new class of travel
- You receive Avios and tier points for the class you originally booked, not the class you ended up flying in
Here are some special rules related to the upgrading of travel agent and corporate tickets:
- You will still be able to upgrade if your company has a special fare deal with BA
- You will be able to upgrade tickets booked prior to today
- You will NOT be able to upgrade if your flight was sold as part of a package holiday, including via BA Holidays. (For those who understand the jargon, ‘IT fares’ are exempt.)
- Your company CANNOT do the upgrade for you. You, the passenger, must go into ba.com and personally upgrade your ticket using your own Avios.
- Once you have processed the upgrade, your corporate travel agent loses all control of your ticket and can no longer make any changes to it. If you need to change your plane home, you can no longer ring your corporate travel agent – you will need to ring BA.
So, what is the net result of all this? Will it mean, as some online commentators have suggested, the end of upgrade availability for the general public? My personal view is ‘no’, and I think I will personally benefit from this change. Let’s look at some facts.
Most personal reward flights are booked months in advance. Most corporate flights are booked a few days in advance. You are not therefore competing for the same reward availability. Corporate upgraders are taking availability from flights that BA opens up for Avios redemptions at the last minute – when did you last book a family holiday at 3 days notice?
Flyers will need to use their personal Avios to do this. Some may prefer to keep back their Avios to travel with their family, rather than use them on a work trip. And if they are using them for short notice upgrades, then there will be fewer people with enough Avios to be fighting you for those Summer tickets to Florida.
Some corporates and travellers may not be happy with their corporate travel agent losing control over the booking, which will make them less keen to upgrade.
More importantly, a lot of business travellers will not be willing to pay the extra taxes, which will be coming out of their own pocket. On Heathrow to New York, for example, the tax on a World Traveller Plus return is £414. The tax on a Club World return is £520.
All in all, I am not too worried. I don’t think there will be fewer Avios seats when I book my family holidays six months in advance. I will also, given our huge Avios points haul between me and my wife, be able to upgrade her on business trips without it making any real dent in our balance.
PS. (because this story was always going to have a PS ….)
What should worry you is this line, which appeared in the document sent to US travel agents according to Flyertalk. There will be “some changes to the upgrade policy and process moving forward“.
Whilst I don’t want to scaremonger, this does not seem like great news. BA could, for example, withdraw the ability to upgrade cheap, non-refundable Club World and World Traveller Plus tickets – it is already impossible to upgrade such tickets using points from BA’s On Business programme. Let’s wait and see.
EDIT – see the update to this story on 29th July