Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Get a free upgrade to First Class when you book British Airways Club World business class

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

British Airways has brought back its ‘Free upgrade to First’ promotion.  This runs a couple of time each year.  We don’t often focus on it but this time we thought it was worth explaining how it works for the benefit of readers who have never seen it before.

If you book a cash flight in BA Club World for travel by 30th March, you might be able to get a free upgrade on either the outbound or the inbound to First Class.

To be honest the small print is extensive, but it might work for some.

Who can travel?

You must be a European resident from specified countries.

For transatlantic flights including USA, Canada and Mexico you must be a resident of: UK, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Switzerland

For other long-haul destinations you must live in: UK, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Where can you travel to?

Flights from Russia and Israel to London are included when operated with long haul aircraft.

Flights to Tokyo and Doha are excluded as well as London Gatwick to Barbados, Bermuda, Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, St Lucia, Oakland, Orlando, Port of Spain and Tampa.

As there is no First Class on the London City – New York route, an upgrade to First is not possible.  However, you could book your outbound from London City and the inbound to Heathrow (or vice versa) and be upgraded on the Heathrow flight.

When can you travel?

The outbound flight must be by 16th April and the inbound flight completed by 22nd April.

What sort of ticket do you have to book?

You must book a fully or semi-flexible return fare in Club World (J, C, D or R) and get the other sector in First (A).

Avios redemption tickets are excluded.

The cheapest Club World tickets (which book into I) are excluded.

It is also important to note the restriction on First Class availability.  You will only get your upgrade if British Airways is selling ‘cheap’ A-class  First Class seats on your flight.  There are only a couple of seats per service released in this fare class.  You should not assume that you can definitely have the upgrade just because tickets are still available for sale in First Class.

How can you book?

You must book with a travel agent or via the BA call centre (0344 493 0787) and request the upgrade at time of booking.  This upgrade is not bookable online.

Other bits

You will earn Avios and tier points according to the cabin you actually fly in.  This is actually one of the key benefits of this promotion and which is often overlooked.  You would on most routes receive 210 tier points for the flight you take in First Class rather than the standard 140 tier points for Club World.

To maximise your miles when paying, your best bet is the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card which earns double Avios (3 per £1) when you book at ba.com or via BA Holidays.  You do not get double Avios if you book with the free British Airways American Express card.  Another option is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which offers double points – 2 per £1 – when you book flight tickets directly with an airline.

I should have covered the important bits, but here is the link to the BA website with full T&Cs.


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (July 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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

Comments (38)

  • Joe Caputo says:

    Or just fly business on most other airlines. BA First is not materially different from class leading biz on board, and on the ground it’s non-existant.

    • Will says:

      I’m don’t think that’s entirely fair. Having recently flown Etihad business I think BA first is certainly a better product.

      I think Club World also gets an unfair amount of criticism. It’s a bit odd having to climb over someone’s feet, and facing a stranger is also non premium but in terms of the seat comfort and amount of space the bed has I find it better than seat arrangements where your feet go into a hole and space is restricted.

      It’s better for sleeping, perhaps not better for privacy.

      In terms of service and food quality I must say I could not fault both on my most recent trips to and from DOH.

      • Paul says:

        I am delighted you enjoy BAs service and hope you continue to do so.

        My experience is the polar opposite however and over 30 years of flying in the pointy end has witnessed the highs and lows of BA.

        BA hard product is in my view very poor. Club world is a 3rd rate layout unmatched across the industry with even most US carriers now providing better. Cathay led the way after their disastrous “ morgue layout” whilst Qatar’s products are simply outstanding.

        Food. The last time I gave BA money directly for a long haul flight was 4 years ago. A380 to Hong Kong F and J and it was spectacularly bad. In club the food was no better than my kids school dinners and that was their quote. It looked bad and tasted worse. In F in the days prior to ordering food simply did not exist and what was provided was tasteless.

        The crew were the equivalent of “Saturday Staff” in some stores, lacking presence, skills or tact, and were more concerned that their “Clingons” were in jump seats.

        My last 5 BA paid trips like many others over the last 10 years resulted in complaints, compensation and frustration. So I went to AA CX and QR and have not yet had cause to grumble. They offer better service, better seats and better crew.

        QRs J offer is way beyond anything BA deliver in any cabin.

        An upgrade to Club World Plus won’t get me back but the $1200 Hawaii fare from CAI will see me make my first Club and first flights with BA this summer, though I have only 1 TATL as the AA 777-300 is the better experience.

      • David S says:

        Hi Will
        Not sure that I agree with you but it is only my opinion. I have flown BA first along with J with Etihad and Qatar and a few others and there is no comparison.
        Ok, the old Etihad seats were a bit narrow but still comfortable with aisle access and the privacy is much better than BA first. The food was better and the only difference was the LP champagne in BA first which is excellent.
        QR J is miles better than anything BA can offer in first, LP aside.
        I don’t mind BA J too much, only because I travel with the wife mostly and choosing seats in advance means she doesn’t need to climb over someone and I don’t mind. But based on lounge (including Concorde room), seats and food, BA first needs to do a lot better to compete. Which is why I don’t waste my avios on F redemption and stick to J.

    • Nick says:

      First wing check-in and the CCR is not ‘materially different’??
      Wow you’re hard to please.

    • Will says:

      Having just been through Al Mourjan in Doha, apart from the breathtaking design the food was mediocre – certainly no better than the BA gold lounge at LHR and for me an airport lounge needs putting into context – it’s a place to spend an hour of two before or between flights, the interior design is far less importance than being comfortable and getting something decent to eat.

      Not that I’ll let BA off the hook, the lounge food, esp CCR given its first only and very frequent flyers is below par. AA flagship first, Qantas F in LAX and Cathay HKG lounges all rate much better.

      The service varies too much on BA but when they get it right it is excellent. I’ve had bad service, but then again I’ve had bad service on AA and etihad (though never on Cathay).

      As for the CW seats, middle pair is excellent for couples and I must have a very different view to other people who think upper class on Virgin is superior to CW. You can’t sit with a partner on Virgin, the seat is either a seat or a bed – no lounging and sometimes despite my best attempts I just can’t fall asleep on a plane which means if I’ve asked for the bed to be made and then can’t sleep I either have to spend the flight lying down or get the seat turned over again, then maybe I’m sleepy in a few hours and have to repeat the faff.

      I’m not knocking the ME3 products at all, I just think we’re too quick to bash BA. It’s not clear that Qatar or Etihad can actually make any money so their products may prove to be unsustainable or have decades of state money pumped into them.

      We really need a new airport to increase the slots, or to stick high speed rail from LHR to LGW to open up competition but it’s not as doom and gloom as people make out.

      Very easy to look back with Rose tinted specs, to the chap who’s been traveling for 30 years in premium will no doubt remember that for the first 10 of that was no such thing as a lie flat business seat.

      • Rashad says:

        Will, how cute, someone must love BA product and I’m glad to hear you are loving it.

        • Graeme says:

          People are entitled to their opinion, even when it is at odds with yours, and I fail to see why you feel the need to be so patronising and condescending. It would be a less valuable forum if everyone agreed or had the same experiences and opinions.

      • shd says:

        “middle pair is excellent for couples”??

        Newlyweds, perhaps. Most of the rest of us apparently don’t want to be able to hold hands during a flight.

        In fact, OH’s favourite seat is Etihad F, with the doors closed (and me in my seat elsewhere!)

        • Derek says:

          best of luck for your marriage

          • Rob says:

            Historically my wife and I would sit behind each other in F so we could both have a window, rather than side by side in the middle with no window.

  • AviosNewbie says:

    Why is there a restriction on being a ‘citizen’ of these countries than a ‘resident’? So an American living in the UK cannot use this offer to go home for a visit??

    • S says:

      Yeah I don’t really how it even remotely makes sense. Resident, sure. Citizen? Why? Also, wouldn’t that be illegal, to discriminate on nationality?

      • Anna says:

        Nationality isn’t a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, but totally agree it seems a really odd restriction!

        • Anna says:

          Though I have just quickly scanned the eligibility paragraph and though it refers to being a resident of certain countries I can’t see that it specifies you have to be a citizen. Though why residents of Spain, but not, say, Portugal are eligible is still a bit of a mystery!

  • Pedant says:

    My thoughts too – pretty sure you can’t prevent an EU citizen from buying anything they want from any EU country !!

  • Anna says:

    Anika -apologies if I have missed something but my reading of the eligibility criteria is that passengers have to be residents of the specified countries, not citizens. It would be interesting to know why! (Maybe to stop other nationals buying up large quantities of seats, who knows?)

  • Steve says:

    OT – I’m struggling to pre-book my main meal in Club World. It’s on one of the listed routes, ex-LHR, and I’m about 25 days out. The option at the bottom of MMB is greyed out and the in-flight meals section says I can select from 30 days. Are they just sometime a little late releasing the menus? My concern is that I’m seated right at the back of the cabin (to get window seat with direct aisle access) so will probably be last to choose. If I can’t preselect my meal I might want to more further forward.

    • Anna says:

      Where are you going? I had an issue with this last summer, you could pre-book a meal if you were getting off at the first stop but not the second one! CS agreed that it was crazy but couldn’t do anything about it.

  • Gabriel says:

    Anika, the eligibility criteria clearly specify you need to be a resident of eligible countries, not a citizen. Please update accordingly.

  • TripRep says:

    Given it states “subject to availability”, which can presumably change. .

    I do find the first line misleading…

    “Book your free upgrade to First”

    • TripRep says:

      Then again how different is that to book your Avios CW seat and potentially be downgraded (subject to availability)….

      • Tilly says:

        How common is that? We’ve got our very first redemption flights in May LHR – YYZ. Out First, return in CW. Really hoping we don’t get downgraded.

        • Anna says:

          I think you are much less likely to be downgraded on a well served business route like Toronto than on a once daily (if that) flight to a resort. You’d be more likely to be moved to another flight than have to travel in a different cabin, if that was your preference.

        • Tilly says:

          Thanks Genghis and Anna.

          Fingers crossed we don’t get downgraded. Would put a dampner on our 5th wedding anniversary trip. Are the Toronto flights normally full?

  • first 241 says:

    a bit O/T but can someone tell me does the expiry date on a 241 voucher mean flights have to be taken before that date or can the flights be after the expiry date

    • Andrew M says:

      Someone else can confirm, but I believe outbound must be flown by expiry. Return can be after.

    • David S says:

      For 2-4-1 the outbound flights needs to be taken before expiry date and the inbound can be anytime even after the expiry date.
      For the Lloyds upgrade voucher, you need to book the flight before the expiry but the flight can be taken after the expiry date.
      Slight difference and it very nearly caught me out when I was using my first 2-4-1 since I was planning to use it after the expiry, in which case, the voucher would have expired and be void.

      • Anna says:

        Yes, the Lloyd’s voucher is valid for pretty much the same amount of time as the 2 4 1 when you consider the terms of use, despite many people thinking they have less time to use it.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.