How to upgrade British Airways flights using American Airlines miles

Links on Head for Points pay us an affiliate commission. A list of our partners is here.

Being able to upgrade British Airways tickets using Avios is a well known feature of the programme as I wrote in this article.  There is also a full page on ba.com explaining how it works.

Whilst upgrades from World Traveller / Economy are restricted (the cheapest ticket class – Q, O and G – cannot be upgraded), virtually any ticket in World Traveller Plus or Club World can be upgraded using Avios.

The only condition is that an Avios reward seat is available in the class to which you want to upgrade.  The upgrade comes out of the same ‘bucket’.  The only other rule is that you cannot upgrade at the airport or on board, although ‘at airport upgrades’ – for cash, possibly not for Avios – are coming this summer for users of the BA app.

This is not as good a deal as it was, post devaluation.  It now costs 40,000 Avios, for example, to upgrade a return World Traveller Plus ticket to New York to Club World on peak days or 48,000 Avios on off-peak days.  Before 2015 it cost just 25,000 Avios and was arguably the best ‘sweet spot’ in the scheme.

What fewer people know is that you can also upgrade British Airways flights using American Airlines miles.

Upgrading BA tickets using American Airlines miles is not as lucrative, because you are restricted to full fare tickets except in Club World.  It CAN be done, however, which makes it an option for using up any AA miles you  have accrued.

All the details can be found here on the American Airlines website.

Only full fare World Traveller and World Traveller Plus tickets can be upgraded using AA miles.  Whilst it says ‘full fare Club World’, it also says it includes C, J, D and R booking classes – and R is one of the non-refundable Club World booking classes.

Here is another snag:

You must book your BA ticket via American Airlines in order to be able to upgrade it using AA miles.  Alternatively, there must be one AA flight (which can be a codeshare, but must have an AA flight number) in your booking.

Following the April 2015 Avios changes, you now need fewer AA miles than you would Avios for the equivalent upgrade.  The same World Traveller Plus to Club World New York upgrade would be just 25,000 American Airlines miles return compared to 40,000 or 48,000 Avios.

One other benefit (admittedly of little use if you live in the UK) is that AA lets you upgrade up to three flights per upgrade ‘fee’, so if you are flying from the US via London to, say, Moscow you could upgrade both for the cost of just one.  BA would charge you for each leg separately.

Iberia flights can also be upgraded using the same method.

This is clearly not something that would interest everyone, but if you have a few AA miles sitting around unused and have the ability to ticket your BA flights via aa.com then it may be of use.

(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.)

Bits: Plaza Premium lounge in T5 underway, Hilton sale on, 10000 new Avios seats
My review of the new Premier Inn hotel at Heathrow Terminal 4
Click here to join our email list and receive all of the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad

About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Thank you. Very useful info.

  2. Very informative and can make use of in near future. Thanks Rob!

    Btw think the 40,000/48,000 redemption comment should be the other way around for off-peak/peak days 🙂

  3. If I use AA miles to upgrade, can I still credit the base miles and Tier Points to my BAEC account – or do I have to credit the flight to my AA account to upgrade with AA MILES?

  4. Andrew says:

    I am about to book AA flights from Bogota to Miami to Montego Bay to Miami. Sounds like the itinerary of a drugs dealer, I promise I am not ! I tried to book ithese flights on BA.com to gain Avios but unable to book this itinerary on BA.com. I have signed up to AA advantage . In terms of gaining my Avios, would it be easier if I book my flights on say Opodo where I can enter my BAEC number rather than on AA website then have to go through a potential rigmarole to get AA points converted to Avios ?
    I have attempted to make a dummy booking on AA but don’t see an option to enter BAEC number.
    Many thanks!

  5. Sandra says:

    Having returned from New York last year with AA in their so called business class (we booked BA and hadn’t realised until too late that the return flight would be on AA) I personally wouldn’t waste my Avios. In fact I would never fly AA again – they were delayed and had known all afternoon the flight wouldn’t leave on time due to an aircraft problem, but didn’t ask customers to delay arrival at the airport. They gave no explanation as to what was happening throughout the whole 3.5 hour delay, the replacement aircraft they eventually put us on was old, uncomfortable and didn’t even have an entertainment system built in, the crew were surly and totally uninterested in any kind of customer service and the food was absolutely terrible. BA refused to take any responsibility as AA are a ‘Partner Airline’ therefore nothing to do with them – we had a wonderful BA flight out to SF but the return totally ruined the end of our holiday and BA’s response to my comments regarding AA’s knock on effect on their own image did BA no favours either!

    • Agree, AA in NYC are appalling. I had a 14h overnight delay pushed out in 2-3h increments through the night. Staff on the ground seemed totally clueless. On the other hand I found their hard product to be very good.

    • I flew back from NYC last year in J on AA. My preferred TATL carrier is Virgin but this was one of those ex-Dub cheapies. It was the standard 773 and though it pains my patriotic heart to say it – AA metal/hard product knocked BA into a cocked hat! MUCH better seats, the food was probably slightly better and the service was okay (nothing great). I would definitely choose to fly AA again (on the right aircraft, they are particularly bad for inconsistency) – especially now their JFK lounge has had a revamp, it was rubbish previously.

  6. Sandra says:

    To clarify we flew out BA to San Francisco, toured using internal flights finishing with New York at the end of the stay!

  7. jamie says:

    O/T I am moving to Melbourne in September and wanted to confirm if I can still earn Avios in some way? I intend on getting an amex of some sort.

    • Genghis says:

      @Ro is your man. Hopefully he’ll be around to offer some advice. From speaking to him, the Aussie bonuses (like the US ones) are ridiculously generous.

      • jamie says:

        Yes Ive seen some of the bonuses (smiles and rubs hands together)

        Ok RO… please advise 🙂

        • PointHacks, Australian Business Traveller, Australian Frequent Traveller are your friend.

        • Peter K says:

          Hey, @Ro. Don’t want to embarrass you but you spelt your name wrong as Rob. Thought I’d point it out as wouldn’t want anyone else to spot it before you had a chance to change it 😉

        • jamie says:

          perfect thanks Rob!

      • Alex W says:

        Big signup bonuses in Oz, but on the other hand lack of Amex acceptance in Oz seems even worse than in the UK. A lot of places also seem to charge 2 or 3% fee for Amex.

        • IIRC the secret for hotels seemed to be to prepay (no fee) vs pay at checkout (fee, not just for Amex).

    • I found it easier to collect QF points. There are Amex MR options but some of the decent sign-up deals (ANZ Black, CommBank, NAB) were just for QF points (which of course you can still use to book BA flights). Also depends on what visa you’re there on (or if PR, etc) – I found Amex to be much pickier than others and they wouldn’t accept my visa. Most cards have fees but many are waived for first year. Look out for NFC discounts though which can beat points – I got 5% off all contactless spend with Me Bank! Enjoy Melbourne, fantastic city.

      • jamie says:

        Thanks Alan. I will be going over there on a PR visa. I will browse some of the options available but I currently have a Amex Platinum but the one in Australia is around $1200 which I certainly wont be going with lol. Hopefully Amex will be lenient due to having one now but we’ll see. Thanks for the advice 🙂

        • You can port your existing Amex account to Oz – this used to be beneficial due to exchange rate conversion, but not so much now!! The Oz Amex Plat might still be worth considering for the first year if decent sign-up bonus, I think a fair chunk of the fee comes back as travel credit? Have a fantastic time though 🙂

        • jamie says:

          Oh yes, I remember speaking to one of the agents who said I can transfer my account over. I plan to give them a call when I get to Aus, as I’ll need it for lounge access when I head to the U.S etc. I guess if the sign up bonus is worth it and they do the refund if I cancel early then it may be a good option for me. Thanks Alan, hopefully this move half way across the world wont be so bad after all 🙂

        • IIRC they might not be as good at the part refund. Am sure it’ll go well, think kindly of those of us stuck here 😉

  8. Sorry OT but hoping one of the members could answer. Looking to book a hotel and flights via BA holidayfinder, should I not take the outbound flight , does this invalidate hotel booking and stay ?

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.