BA testing ‘upgrade for £ in the departure lounge’ via their app

Very quietly and very slowly, British Airways has started to roll out one of the new features it trailed over the summer – the ability to upgrade your flight via the BA app after check-in.

British Airways has, for a number of years, been offering cash upgrades in advance of travel via ‘Manage My Booking’ at discounted prices.  This is not what we are discussing here.  What you can now do, on selected flights, is purchase an upgrade AFTER you have checked in online.

I haven’t had any personal experience of this yet, but reports on Flyertalk suggest typical pricing of £75 to £100 each way on short-haul flights.  There are no examples of this being offered on long-haul yet.

This is what is known, or suspected, so far:

The offer is available via both the Android and iOS apps

It will only be shown after you have checked in (if at all)

It is not offered on Avios bookings

It seems to be available until 45-60 minutes before take-off, so you can upgrade in the departure lounge if you wish

I fully expect that you will receive Club Europe Avios and tier points after upgrading – which is one good reason to do it

This offer should also be available on tickets booked via travel agents, as BA has control of your ticket by this point

Here is a screenshot of what you will see (hat-tip Flyertalk):

AppUp screenshot

Do let use know via the comments if you have any experience of seeing or booking these.

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Comments

  1. Neil Macdonald says:

    If there’s empty seats, they should allow upgrade for Avios like any other grown-up airline.

  2. Slightly O/T, but speaking of upgrades, wouldn’t it be useful to run (or re-run) an article about upgrades at check-in / gate. What’s the guiding principles behind these, how and when are they awarded, what perks of higher class you do get and which you don’t etc etc Should be an interesting read especially if you have some real insider info from airlines (not only BA). Thanks

    • Good idea, hampered by lack of personal experience (!) – but I will have a think.

    • I only have a single data point for this. BA flight HKG-LHR, both myself (GGL) and partner (Silver) upgraded from club to first at the gate. Seat numbers hand written on boarding passes by gate agent with explanation of upgrade due to busy flight. Flight was purchased as a heavily discounted sale fare, TP’s and avios awarded as per club not first.

      • Case study 1: I was travelling to Moscow in July last year on a BA flight (on a mid-tier booking class M) and was queuing for boarding when a passenger in front of me had an issue with her boarding pass. It turned out she’d been upgraded (I saw she was Silver). When I heard the same magic beep sound at scanning of my b/pass, I jokingly asked the staff member: “Have I been upgraded too?”. “I don’t think so”, she rebuked in a typical Come-Fly-With-Me BA fashion. “Oh, you have actually been”, she said in a second as if I was taking her own seat. Anyways, it was an ex-BMI A321 aircraft, so I got a nice 7F seat and CW food but no extra tier points. I am Bronze, btw.

        Case study 2: I was in Moscow again in February 2017 on a super expensive ticket (eye-watering £600 in Economy, booking class – Y, fully flexible) and the flight was full. I was so much hoping to get an upgrade, but all in vain. Had to sit in economy and chew on an egg-and-mayo sandwich, which was “actually quite nice” if you are inclined to believe BA staff, of course.

        Case study 3: I was flying on S7 (member of Oneworld alliance) on a domestic Russian route on 31 December 2014 with my partner but he had a separate booking. The flight was superbusy, and I got upgraded at the gate but I let him sit there instead of me (as he let me sit in SAS+ for him two months prior to that). He got a nice seat but Economy food while people around him got Business class food!

        Case study 4: My friend was flying BA from London to Bucharest in July this year. He is BA Silver and AA Platinum. He was hoping for a QR aircraft and wanted to upgrade to CW. And he had the most amazing interaction with a BA staff member (BA customer service at its best). An attempt to use AUP fails, after trying to investigate why, the puzzled agent told him: “Looks like they upgraded you for free as the flight is oversold. What a silly thing to do”, he said to his face, “why lose the money you were willing to pay?” 🙂

        Case study 5: Another friend (he is German) was flying from Denver to Abu Dhabi via Boston and was upgraded from Business to First on a United-operated US leg of his flight. He has status with Lufthansa (nearly all Germans seem to have it, no?).

        • bruciebonus says:

          Managed to somehow fly out of Miami on Friday, 8 Sept. We were upgraded at the gate from Club to First and we had booked using BA Amex companion voucher!

    • I’ve twice done airport upgrades on a redemption booking with VS PE–>UC, 12.5k pts & £60

      Very happy with them 😀

  3. I saw this on a recent flight from MAN-LHR-CAI. It gave be the option to upgrade the MAN-LHR leg to Club Europe but when I went to select it I received a message saying that the offer was no loner available; which is fine as I wouldn’t really pay more for CE on a 35 minute flight unless I really needed the Tier Points. I was more interested to see how it worked.

  4. Something we have touched on before is the lack of a quality CE product. We are off to OSL on Sunday and the plane is only a third full, so in theory BA would love to offer us an upgrade. As we are almost certainly guaranteed an empty seat between us, why would we bother? If we were on AA for example then the bigger pitch, wider seat is more attractive than a tray table between us. If we are already checked in then we are only talking about the seat (which is the same, with the same pitch) and food, so I can’t see us ever bothering.

    • Lounge access too I presume.

      I would guess it might appeal to someone who doesn’t frequently fly and is interested in seeing what club is like more than a frequent flyer.

      If you have at least silver, then as you say club Europe is a bit of a joke really. That said a frequent flyer may pay the delta for the TP’s.

      It’s a nice additional thing to offer though, and doing it in the app is very convenient. I think we should applaud BA for this, even if the actual product is disappointing.

    • Out of interest Adrian, how do you know the plane is only a third full? I realise you can look on the seating map to see what seats are still available to be reserved but where are you finding out how many people are on your plane but haven’t reserved seats yet or will just take the one assigned at check in? Could the plane not actually be 95%? Have you called BA and asked them or is there another way of finding this out?

      • Subscription websites like ExpertFlyer.com can provide that sort of data.

        • Hi Tina,

          Many Thanks, haven’t heard of this website before. Looks like a good tool 🙂

          Their user guide is pretty comprehensive but doesn’t suggest they have or can provide this data. Reward seats, current seat prices, etc etc yes, many threads of data that are commonly available elsewhere, but not the info Adrian seems to be privy to…..that I would imagine all airlines are very protective with. Where do they provide this info and what link have they got that shows what each airline has actually sold? I’d be amazed if this info is actually available anywhere but happy to be proven wrong?

  5. Slightly O/T. If I take up the offer of an upgrade from my Plus fare to CE will I still be able to change flights on day of travel free of charge?

    • I upgraded a Plus fare to CE recently, and was told I couldn’t then move it – you get dropped into the cheapest CE fare class and so lose the flexibility.

  6. Are we sure that upgrades trigger the appropriate level of tier points? If so – it’s worth me upgrading a work flight with my own money to get my silver, but not if I’m going to end up with 5TP and a very expensive bacon roll

    • Memesweeper says:

      All the other upgrade methods involving money not Avios are earning points at the upgraded level, so I’d be astonished if this one didn’t.

    • All,paid upgrades are granted TPs and avios at the new level

  7. In my experience all paid for (£) upgrades provide full new class benefits (TPs, Avios, Lounge access, in-flight service).

    I have little to no experience on Avios upgrades they seem very hard to come by it seems.

    In terms of operational upgrades, those given to you by BA at their discretion be it at the gate, checkin or any other time will definitely not include the new class TPs and Avios. I can’t speak for lounge access as a Gold card I always have the same level regardless.

    In-flight service tends to include the same benefits of the new class in terms of meal, amenities, etc.. (e.g. pyjamas and nicer bag if moved from Club to First), in long haul flights this as always been the case.

    For short-haul CE upgrades they do tend to include a meal and drinks. I did have a few cases where I was told discretely that because I had been upgraded I would only get a meal if there was a spare as one was not loaded for me this was on a return to LHR service.

    Now as to when you get these operational upgrades that still baffles me or not but mostly they are due to oversold flights. The method not highly publicised in my view changed a few years ago from status tier priority based to paid fare so a higher fare gets upgraded before a higher EC tier (i.e. Gold will only be preferred to Silver if on the same fare, etc…) in terms of fares a full-fare will be the best one to guarantee one.

    This is mostly based on my experience and not based on any official guide, hope that helps.

    • I forgot to note that for operational upgrades lately the app based boarding cards will show the seat in the new class but the paid class name. e.g. a WTP seat number but WT is displayed on the boarding pass which can be confusing for some.

    • the real harry1 says:

      if you get a free upgrade to a fare class that includes lounge access, you get the lounge access

      • I know that finnair for one keep track of operational upgrades and don’t give them to the same passengers again and again. The idea being that if you try business class for free you might pay for it in the future. If you don’t pay and keep flying economy they lower your priority in the op-up queue and give the chance to somebody else.

        • I know that BA stops offering upgrades via Manage My Booking and at the airport to people who accept them.

          Which makes sense, of course, because if people were 100% sure of being offered a cheap upgrade they wouldn’t pay the higher Club price in the first place.

          It is same discussion around whether Avios seats should be made available at short notice. If BA routinely opened up all unsold seats for Avios 24 hours in advance, people who buy expensive flexible tickets would move to Avios instead.

        • How do you know this though? Isn’t it just incidental evidence? If a flight is overbooked in economy, and no-one has booked in CE, then are the algorithms going to block upgrades via Manage My Booking? And even if you have it on authority that BA stops offering upgrades via Manage My Booking, a) BA’s IT is sh***. b) For what period of time is the alleged block? A week? A month? A year? Two years? In five years or so as a G, I’ve consistently and continuously received ‘Offer to Upgrade’ – especially on LGW to JER, and LHR to BRU (and vice versa). But again, this is just more incidental evidence…

        • Just to add Rob – I’m not being critical. And you know significantly more than the most of us. I just have a bit of a cynical view on these sort of things and also my own experience doesn’t mirror what you state.

        • Also – I find that BA DO now open up large number of Avios seats on intra-EU 24 hours before flights. Since Club Europe has been introduced on UK domestic, it’s easy to see this: if Club Europe is available, but economy is not, you can damn well bet that economy will more than likely open at 1am the day prior to the flight. More flights are now available at the last minute – for my intra-EU routes anyway than have been previously. The downside is that – I find – there is significantly less – none even – availability from T-7 to T-1, especially on UK domestics. But LAST MINUTE availability is always there. Incidental evidence: my UK last-minute domestics since around this time last year have all been Avios. It really is that good!!!

        • How about a HFP experiment? Take twenty EU routes and check availability each day for three weeks. I’d wager there will typically be a bit of economy availability between seven and twenty-one days out. Minimal economy availability seven days out. And much economy availability on most of the twenty routes from one day out. I’d also wager that the key indicator to availability in economy is the number of CE seats available – especially during the last 7 days.

        • Not much of a data point, but I checked Geneva at 3pm yesterday and I could have got on the 5pm or the 8pm in both classes, which surprised me.

        • the real harry1 says:

          just checked our route out to the sun for next week – whilst there is next to zero RFS availability in ET, there is plenty in CE virtually every day next week, with numbers of seats available often 4-8, so you might have a point

        • Nick Burch says:

          Last Friday some friends of mine got to CDG, and discovered they’d booked their flights for the wrong week! I was able to book them flights to LHR on BA with Avios for the flight leaving in 80 minutes, or the one in 3.5 hours, seats available in both cabins. Compared to the change fee on their cash tickets, the avios got amazing value!

        • the real harry1 says:

          @ Nick Burch – good way to monetise your Avios stash? 🙂

          or are they paying you in beer? lol

    • Peter Taysum says:

      I would have thought that’s a breach of contract. If they are selling as “Club Europe” you have to get the benefits (unless there’s small print to rescind this).

  8. Scottydogg says:

    OT

    I upgrade from Amex gold to Amex Platinum a few months ago , (mainly for the lounge passes)
    We have had 3 bills now but the £450 fee has still not been taken . We are now wanting to cancel the card , anyone have experience doing this .
    When we had the BAPP card , we phoned and cancelled and had some of the fee refunded pro rata , I believe this happens with the black card as well , but we still haven’t paid the fee ? im confused

    • Just cancel the card. Don’t ask about the fee for obvious reasons. Been there, done that.

    • Say nothing, ask nothing, you are one of the lucky ones slipped through the net. Only hold onto the card if you still need the priority pass. Once you cancel the plat the lounge visits will be charged and you will get a bill.

    • Shhhh!

    • Forgot to ask.did you get the 20k bonus avios for a small spend?

      • Scottydogg says:

        Yes , didn’t need to spend anything , think as soon as I activated it I got the 20K dropped in

        • Did you take out the gold, get the bonus and then upgrade for the additional bonus? Thinking of this route if it’s doable?

  9. The reasons I upgrade shorthaul are speedy check-in, fast track security, lounge access and now food. If i’m already past security and heading to the gate i’d be reluctant to upgrade for anything more than the cost of lunch.

    • the real harry1 says:

      ‘It seems to be available until 45-60 minutes before take-off, so you can upgrade in the departure lounge if you wish’

      that’s just the cut-off point

      most people would presumably upgrade the day before

  10. OT any views on club Europe row 9 emergency exit seats, worth paying more for leg room?

    • Very rare CE goes back to Row 9! Arguably paying for seat selection in CE isn’t necessary as the empty middle seat gives you space to sit sideways. You could also lose your exit row if they shrink the CE cabin or change the aircraft type. That said, if you’ve paid for CE then a tenner or so to lock in an exit row is a decent deal (cheaper than doing tier point runs to BA Gold in order to bag Row 1 …..)

  11. Row 9 on what aircraft?

  12. It’s really a slap in the face for Elites.

    As BA silver, I get upgraded a fair amount, including from Club World to First on long haul, which is pretty nice. This typically happens at the Gate, so I don’t get the lounge upgrade, but still.

    Now it seems that upgrade slot might be sold for a lousy 50 quid to somebody else, who perhaps has no loyalty to BA.

    • the real harry1 says:

      doesn’t seem to be offered for long haul yet, just European short haul

      if it were, LH upgrade cost more likely to be £hundreds, not a lousy £50 🙂

    • Interesting – I’ve only once had an upgrade as Gold. Generally I don’t see upgrades (except when spending Avios) as a status benefit with BA – by contrast with the US mileage programmes it’s a key part of what they offer (as no lounge access for them)

      • When I was Gold I had quite a few upgrades on LH, and when silver as well. But I’ve never once been upgraded to CE from ET. Makes me wonder whether upgrades exist on short haul!

        • the real harry1 says:

          plenty in Europe, see the FT thread

          probably route/ time dependent – not likely in peak

  13. I was offered and took late (cheap) upgrade to CE on flight from LHR to ABZ last weekend. Got all of CE perks and appropriate tier points and avios. Interestingly this was just one way and I f I tried to upgrade both ways it was going to cost me an extra £370!!!

  14. Bit pointless really.
    Its the same seat with some food thrown in.
    You would have already lost the valuable extra baggage allowance by checking in

    • the real harry1 says:

      MrEgg – do you have any evidence for that? if you check in @ T-24hrs then accept the upgrade – are you saying you won’t see your 23kg checked baggage increased to 2x 32kg?

      that would surprise me

      • Per the article title – if it’s about upgrading in the departure lounge – then you would have to have already checked in your bags. Or bought a shed load of duty free!

        But if you can upgrade prior to getting to the airport then surely yes you could benefit from the increased luggage allowance.

        • the real harry1 says:

          I think Raffles just wanted a catchy title, now that you mention it he might have been more explicit about T-24hrs! Not that I’m going to criticise a man flying back from Geneva in his own private jet 🙂

  15. I was recently offered an in app long haul upgrade post check-in on a LHR-JFK from WT to WTP. It was £195 so significantly more than these European upgrade offers which I have also been offered. I haven’t taken BA up on any of these yet – when I want to travel in CE/CW, I’ll usually book it at the time of ticket purchase with Cash or Avios. But it does seem that long haul in-app upgrades are out there.

  16. Fairly OT: I paid for an AUP from WT to CW on LHR-JFK. I went from the lowest class of economy ticket (O) to J, but only got credited the Avios for the lowest class of Business ticket (R/I 5187). Do I have an argument to get the higher Avios for business (8645) since it says J on my boarding card? Or is it usual to get the lower no. of points if you upgraded from a cheaper ticket?

    • Presumably you didn’t pay anywhere near the full cost of a J ticket, so I wouldnt have thought you would get full J Avios.

    • You didn’t upgrade into J class, AUPs go into I class. The ‘J’ on your boarding pass relates to cabin not fare class – it’s the same whether you’re in J, C, D, R or I. Similarly F means F, A or Z. So you did get the correct avios and there’s no chance of blagging more.