Avios changes 6: why are off-peak Club World upgrades now more expensive than peak?!

Executive summary:  the biggest ‘hit’ from the Avios changes is probably the increase in the cost of upgrading from World Traveller Plus to Club World.  Off-peak upgrades are more expensive than peak upgrades.

Key link: ‘Club Changes’ page on ba.com

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Here are the other articles in this series you may have missed:

1. Understanding the new tier point rules

2. Understanding the new earning rates

3. Understanding the new spending rates

4. What is an Avios point worth after April 28th?

5. Exploiting the ‘no repricing on date changes’ rule

7. Save 43% of your Avios on long-haul redemptions if you fly Iberia

8. Partner redemptions may be cheaper if booked on iberia.com

9. What will happen to airline partner earning rates?

10. Are you a winner or a loser overall?

Historically, the best use of Avios points – bar none – was to upgrade a cash ticket booked in World Traveller Plus to Club World.

You were swapping a slightly bigger economy seat for a 6 foot long flat bed.  The cost was negligible – upgrading a World Traveller Plus return flight to California would only cost 25,000 Avios points.

Even better, you would earn Avios points on the ticket based on the World Traveller Plus rate.  A Silver or Gold member would earn back the entire cost of the upgrade!

For a BA Silver, the maths to San Francisco currrently looks like this:

  • Cost of return upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World – 25,000 Avios
  • Base Avios earned back (125% miles flown) – 13,396 Avios
  • Status bonus (100% miles flown) – 10,716 Avios
  • Total Avios earned – 24,112 Avios
  • Net cost of upgrade – 888 Avios

This will change substantially after April 28th.

The cost of upgrading from World Traveller Plus to Club World is simply the difference in Avios points required for a straight redemption.  Let’s look at the new redemption table:

Redemption chart 2

Let’s look at the cost of upgrading Word Traveller Plus to Club World for the long-haul zones.  These figures are EACH WAY:

Zone 5 (New York) – now 10,000 Avios, becomes 24,000 off-peak and 20,000 peak

Zone 6 (California) – now 12,500 Avios, becomes 30,000 off-peak and 25,000 peak

Zone 7 (Asia) – now 15,000 Avios, becomes 36,000 off-peak and 30,000 peak

Zone 8 (Asia) – now 17,500 Avios, becomes 42,000 off-peak and 35,000 peak

Zone 9 (Sydney) – now 25,000 Avios, becomes 60,000 off-peak and 50,000 peak

This is an astonishing jump in many cases.  It is even more shocking when you look at the NET cost.

This was our old calculation for a current World Traveller Plus to Club World calculation for a BA Silver flying to San Francisco:

  • Cost of return upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World – 25,000 Avios
  • Base Avios earned back (125% miles flown) – 13,396 Avios
  • Silver status bonus (100% miles flown) – 10,716 Avios
  • Total Avios earned – 24,112 Avios
  • Net cost of upgrade – 888 Avios

These are the new costs:

  • Cost of return upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World – 60,000 Avios off-peak / 50,000 peak
  • Base Avios earned back (100% miles flown) – 10,716 Avios
  • Silver status bonus (50% miles flown) – 5,358 Avios
  • Total Avios earned – 16,074 Avios
  • Net cost of upgrade – 43,926 Avios off-peak, reducing to 33,926 at peak

This is a shocking increase, however you cut it.

Let’s be clear though. A net cost of 44,000 Avios is still a good deal to upgrade a ‘slightly bigger than usual’ economy seat to a 6 foot flat bed Club World seat for 24 hours of flying time.

More importantly, the two Club World redemption seats you need to be available in order to do the upgrade are more likely to be there now.  The old ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ deal was astounding, but it remained theoretical if you couldn’t get the seats!

PS.  The cost of upgrading from Club World to First has not increased.  For a California return trip at peak times, it remains at 50,000 Avios return.  At off-peak times it has actually got cheaper, dropping to 45,000 Avios return.

PPS.  British Airways states on their website about the changes that, starting in December, it will be ‘easier’ to upgrade from World Traveller to World Traveller Plus because more fare classes will be upgradable.  Technically that is true.  However, World Traveller Plus is a very small cabin with very few seats made available for Avios redemption.  In reality, your chance of being able to upgrade from World Traveller will be slim.

Click for the next article – Save 43% of your Avios on long-haul redemptions if you fly Iberia

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  1. This is a massive jump. I have been doing this for all my long haul flights thus retaining status and gaining most tier points back. I am quite flexible and didn’t really have an issue with getting availability. Eg in the sale last week I got nyc from lhr for £800 paid 20k avios and £100 to upgrade. Did the same for Delhi in march and Punta cana in may. I need to change my way of thinking now I think. The 241 Amex has just got 50% more valuable

    • richie: ‘The 241 Amex has just got 50% more valuable’.

      I mentioned the 241, and my view that the cost of the BAPP will probably go up in a comment yesterday. When they all sat down and planned their devaluation strategy the 241 will probably have been an irritation -but what to do?

      Scrap it?: “Too much at this stage we”d lose too many collectors”.

      Increase the charge for the BAPP card and place a minimal one the formerly free card, there’s some revenue to be had there?: “Great idea, how long shall we wait for the dust to settle?” Six months?

      • Mr Bridge says:

        I guess that would be in the numbers

        commission from amex paid to ba – cost of 2-4-1 redemptions =????

  2. I think gold upgrade for 2 and gold upgrade for 1 vouchers are now very valuable unless BAEC have quietly devalued those too. I need 50TPs in February to hit 3500TPs before March 8th and so have a little more insentive to do this.

  3. Excuse my terrible ignorance on this, but how do you go about upgrading using Avios having purchased a ticket? Or is it only possible to do when booking a ticket in the first place? I’ve ever only used Avios for purchasing the entire flight. Due to my height I cannot travel anything less than Club World, so wouldn’t want to book a flight and find I cannot upgrade it later on.

    • You can upgrade later via Manage My Booking online or by phone, but only if there is Club redemption availability on the flight and you have to pay the difference in taxes and fees as well as the avios. That is usually somewhere around £100 from memory on a return flight.

    • You can do it via Manage My Booking at any tin as long as reward seats are available in the higher cabin, your ticket is in the right fare class and it wasn’t bought via a travel agent ( with some exceptions).

  4. James67 says:

    Ist is this change alone that has cost BA my business. It is unlikely they will get a longhaul flight from me ever again barring a decent CW sale. I had planned most of my travelling over next couple of years would be WTP UuAbit now I will just find best J seats on trip by trip basis. I think your assertion that the 42k UuA to SFO remains good value is wrong because the typical WTP fare is probably going to be similar to that I pay for Asia; about £1200ish. Only an idiot would pay this plus the miles required without first checking availability of special fares in J with other airlines. At peak times to USA or if booking close-in it probably does remain good value but for all other times, advance bookings and other destinations I would expect to find revenue J fares costing not much more. BAs belief that UuA from WT to WTP will be welcome and popular is also misguided for similar reasons; BAs economy fares rarely offer good value when compared to the competition even in a sale, pax will not have or not be willing to part with the miles they have, and will turn their noses up at increased tax required. I believe WTP is currently only viable due to UuA; I suspect BA may have inadvertently killed it off. Airlines have difficulty making premium economy work, some have scrapped it while others are in process of doing so.

    • Actaully is £1200 about the price of a BRU-HNL in Club right now (plus a wadge of TP)?

    • I don’t think WTP will be going anywhere because of the huge number of firms which now specify premium economy in their travel policies for all but the most senior executives. And on US routes there is no competition in this area except from Virgin Atlantic. WTP on LHR-JFK is always packed with jaded Gold Card business travellers who aren’t allowed to fly Club World on work’s buck and haven’t been able to upgrade with Avios/their own cash. If anything, I could see BA getting rid of First and expanding WTP.

    • I mentioned £1500 J cash fares from Madrid to Miami the other day. Looking around I can see other options that would also easily trump a BA UuA under the new rules.

      Qatar currently (for the next 3 days) has an offer on UK to Phuket valid for the remainder of the year – can be booked in J for as little as around £1300 via a third party site.

      It is also possible to book Frankfurt – Kuala Lumpur for around £1250. £120 cash or £35 plus 9k avios (8k under the new rules) will get you to Frankfurt and back.

      By comparison the direct BA flight W->J UuA is pricing up at about £1150 – at the moment with 35k avios. Under the new rules that will be 70k avios peak and a massive 85k avios off-peak with reduced earnings compared to the Qatar option.

      Hmm – less than £1300 (Qatar) or £1150 plus an extra £72k avios minimum (BA)… I really don’t see the value in that outlay for a £150 saving a direct flight.

  5. Mr Bridge says:

    lots of flights have opened up on BA now.
    its time to activate my companion voucher, to get in before 28/04
    i bet hotels.com are busy with cancellations…( laughs out loud)

  6. Managed to upgrade with Avios on return trip from Barbados last month for all of my family for just 50,000 Avios – children couldn’t believe it! I bought premium econ tickets (rather than economic) for this exact reason – kept checking the website for Club World availability but none. Then one day before return flight BA offered be GBP400 per ticket to upgrade. I didn’t feel like paying GBP1600 for us but looked at the cost in Avios GBP172 plus 50,000 Avios : which I quickly snapped up. Strange thing was when we boarded I saw that only 2 of the prem econ seats were taken, but club was full??
    A real shame BA has changed the attractiveness of this

  7. Now have I got this right, it will now cost me 120k points to upgrade 3x WTP to Club LHR to JFK
    in peak times instead of 60k points?

    Thanks Deb

  8. Mr Bridge says:

    what is the chance of amex increasing from 1.5 to 2 to match bmi??

  9. I don’t quite agree with your characterisation of the “net cost” of the upgrade. If you have a WT+ ticket the upgrade will cost you 60k and you won’t earn any incremental avios. So you need to consider if it’s worth 60k not 44k avios.

    On the other hand if you are thinking how best to buy CW from scratch you are right to look at the net numbers. Do I buy cash ticket (eg £1800 with net 20k avios earned, or UUA for £1200 plus net 44k cost, or redemption £500 + 150k cost).

  10. Rob, your post was titled “why are off-peak Club World upgrades now more expensive than peak?!” but I’m not sure you answered your own question! I’m interested… why would BA do this?

  11. Can anyone tell me whether, under the new rules, we will be able to upgrade using Avios from Economy to Club Europe on short haul. If so, what fare classes will this apply to and how many Avios will be required?

    • From December, as long as you haven’t bought the very cheapest ticket (the ones that disappear quickly) then, yes. Club award space must be showing. Price is difference between CE and Eco redemption (eg 9k return for Germany) plus the extra APD.

      Must wait until December though.

  12. Double whammy – the devaluation was announced on the same day as the end of free Waitrose hot drinks!

    • Wrong, you can still have a hot drink just not drink it in the café unless you buy something else, which seems entirely reasonable to me. I can strongly recommend the ‘Bears Claw’ and my wife recommends the almond croissant.
      Our local store has no café so no change. They have tightened up the procedure for getting a cup and are not very good at refilling the machine but it is still in the long transition from being Somerfield.

      • I know but it was so handy for grabbing a drink At Westfield Stratford before taking the train! 90% of the time I’d buy another drink and cake for my kids as well. Or a sandwich for my own lunch!

      • Lady London says:

        I always bought something anyway when I took up the hot drink offer. I felt it was only fair.

        Trouble is, now they’ve stopped the ginger cake (yum!) and the Marlborough buns are mostly only half-cooked, I’m running out of things I actually would like to have alongside my free coffee.

        First world problem, I know.

  13. Sorry- quick question. I know that all flights booked before the April cut off will earn the old rates (domestic at 500 etc) but do they also still get the Silver bonus applied at 100%?

    If so I very temped to try and book at least 6 months work flights in April. Also I am concerned about a WTP to Club South American upgrade in Nov.- I was counted on ending net positive on that one (Silver).

  14. Do you think this will increase the number of Ex-EU fliers as people who would previously fly WTP and Uua are essentially priced out and now will get into CW a different way?

    I just can’t work out the business benefit to BA of these changes? Only corporate business clients win, meanwhile the leisure flier with complete freedom to choose an airline has less incentive to be loyal?

  15. Diddy Not Happy says:

    This really is too much. Along with all the other devaluations and selling the whole scheme off I’m going to start moving away from BAEC, maybe over to Virgin.

  16. Prospero says:

    I have interpreted the new rates differently, at least as far as UuA will be calculated.

    Take London to San Francisco (Distance Band 6) as an example
    The Off peak base rate = 16,500 Avios
    The Peak base rate = 25,000 Avios

    My understanding of the way BA upgrades have traditionally worked is that an upgrade from one cabin to the next is calculated as a multiple of the base rate, currently 1x for Club to First; 0.5x for WT+ to Club, 0.5x for WT to WT+. From April 28, upgrades from WT to WT+ and from WT+ to Club change to a multiple 1.0x, and with the new variable rates there will be two price points which will be 16.5k off peak and 25k peak.

    Or is my rationale warped?

    • That doesn’t make sense, because the off-peak rates are NOT multiples of the base rate.

      At the moment they ARE, and the peak rates WILL BE the multiples you have quoted.

      If you take Zone 9 as the example, why would BA let you have an off-peak CW for 97500 avios (notwithstanding that you paid cash instead of 65000 avios for the WTP revenue component) when they want to charge 125000?

  17. If I gave a Cathay Pacific marvo polo gold, can I apply for a BA silver card? Or do I simply automatically get all the ba silver benefits?

    • You get BA Silver benefits when travelling. However, you are treated as a BA Blue if you choose to credit flights to a BA Blue account, even if you also hold Marco Polo Gold.

      • Thanks raffles! This was a big week for you and HfP!! Well done on tackling the avios news so thoroughly.

  18. HI Raffles, Having followed your guidance and achieved [today] the 10k spend on my BA Prem Plus I am now awaiting my 2-4-1 Voucher.
    I am a little confused: Does this 2-4-1 Voucher work in conjunction with an Avios purchased Flight or Cash paid for booking?
    We are looking to go to New Zealand and this will entail a change of carrier from BA in HKG to [probably] Cathay Pacific yet such flights don’t get a mention on the Avios Site – therefore this begs the question does the whole journey get covered by the 2-4-1 voucher or just the BA part?
    And finally, given the changes to Redemption rates for Prem Econ flights post 28thApril would it be wise to wait until then to book such flights when we hope to fly out Jan 2016 & return Feb?

    PS Your articles have been very revealing & rewarding – thank you very much & keep up the good work.

    • Avios redemptions only, BA flights only

      Best you can do is book as far as you can (Tokyo or elsewhere in Asia?) on BA with the 241 and then either a) use Avios on Qantas, Cathay from HK, JAL from Tokyo etc for the 2nd leg or b) buy a cash ticket for the 2nd leg.

      I would strongly recommend, if you have the Avios, trying to book Club World before April 28th. In most cases, what you will pay for Club World now is what you will pay for Premium Economy after April 28th.

      You are better off blowing your Avios on Club World to, say, Tokyo and then paying cash onwards rather than doing PE to Tokyo and using Avios onwards, in my view. The comfort gap between PE and Club World is so huge.

      • Your reply is much appreciated.
        We are hoping to spend a couple of days on our return in Hong Kong to break up the time difference and journey [my excuse for stopping over]. Saying that Tokyo sounds as if it could be interesting.
        Many thanks.

    • Colin, currently in the CX first wing lounge in HKG having used our 241 to HKg as a jump off to Bali. Best lounge I have ever been in! Met lots of other avios people going and coming from Australia using their avios. This city or some others Rob mentioned are great jump off points. It’s a great pity we can’t go all the way, you could if there was availability from SIn onwards, but I found nothing for months now. Or use club world either. If you have enough avios to do first then club onwards. Really fab trip.