Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Which British Airways economy flight tickets can be upgraded with Avios points?

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

This article is part of our unofficial ‘how to’ series that we have been running during August for the benefit of recently joined readers.

When British Airways ‘enhanced’ the Avios scheme in 2015, one of the carrots dangled at members to soften the blow of devaluation was the expansion of ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ to discounted economy flights.

Historically, you could only use Avios to upgrade flexible World Traveller or Euro Traveller economy tickets.  If you were spending your own money, it is very unlikely that you would be buying these.

In January 2016, we had some good news.

You could now use Avios to upgrade cash bookings made in K, M, V, L, S and N class on British Airways operated flights.  This covers more economy fare classes than previously.

Here was the bad news:

It did not cover O, G and Q fare classes.  These are the cheapest economy ticket types.

You also need to remember that upgrades use the same reward availability as Avios redemption tickets.  If you cannot book an Avios redemption in the higher class, you won’t be able to upgrade your ticket either.

British Airways

What does this mean to me?

On, you can see your ‘ticket bucket’ by clicking on the flight number during the booking process.  It will say something like ‘Economy selling class: Q’.

Let’s take Amsterdam as an example.

Any Euro Traveller ticket which only earns 125 Avios each way is in O, G or Q ticket bucket.  You cannot upgrade this ticket.

However, tickets which earn 250 Avios each way are upgradable, as are full fare tickets, earning 500 Avios each way., once you are logged in, has the ‘Book with money, upgrade with Avios’ booking option which allows the system to show the cheapest ticket in a suitable ticket bucket.

If your ticket has been booked by a travel agent, including a corporate travel agent, it can still be upgraded.   This is rarely possibly via ‘Manage My Booking’ on – it will usually throw up an error message just before the payment page – but can done be done via the call centre.

BA Holidays flights can be upgraded. However, package tour flights (technically know as IT fares) cannot.

What does it cost to upgrade?

To quote from

The Avios amount required for the upgrade is based on the Avios costs for reward flights in the cabins you are upgrading from and to and will depend on whether your flight is scheduled on a peak or off-peak date.

The formula is:

Avios for the cabin you wish to upgrade to Avios for the cabin you make your booking in = Avios required to upgrade one way

Here’s an example for a peak one-way upgrade from London to New York, upgrading from premium economy (World Traveller Plus) to business (Club World):

        Club World: 60,000 Avios  World Traveller Plus: 40,000 Avios = 20,000 Avios to upgrade

Note that all bookings must be done in advance of travel.  You cannot upgrade with Avios on board or at check-in.

And anyway ….

On long-haul, World Traveller upgrades would only get you into World Traveller Plus because you can only upgrade by one cabin (unlike Virgin Atlantic which allows multi-cabin upgrades).  World Traveller Plus is a very small cabin and a very popular cabin, and it isn’t easy to find Avios reward space.  Even if your ticket does qualify for an upgrade, your chance of finding a seat will not be great.

World Traveller Plus also attracts the higher rate of Air Passenger Duty so there would be additional tax to pay.

At the end of day, for the general public buying their own tickets far in advance, it is possible – due to the fare bucket – that they will never buy a ticket that is upgradable, let alone find that reward upgrade space is also there.

It does work for a small number of people, mainly those on expensive corporate tickets which are flexible / refundable, but British Airways should not really be advertising the ability to upgrade economy tickets as a benefit for the average Avios collector, because it isn’t.

You can find our more about ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ on here.

(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.)

Comments (83)

  • Sam G says:

    I agree that on long haul this is rarely possible / worth doing. However on short-haul this can make sense in some circumstances

    e.g. recently I got N class HBO tickets from Zante-Heathrow for 70eur each and upgraded to CE for 8500 Avios (off peak). This saved 8500 Avios vs paying Avios outright for them (+ ~10eur tax) so I effectively bought 8500 Avios for ~0.64p each. This figure being further reduced if you are an Avios collector as you’d earn back at least 700 from being on a cash ticket and + you’d get 20tps

    A corporate traveler without status may find spending a few thousand Avios to get lounge access and the onboard perks of an empty middle seat, meal and a couple of free champagnes/G&Ts on a Friday night flight back from a hard working week in Europe worthwhile as well – last minute CE availability is often very good

  • david jones says:

    it seems that availability seems to be down for eco and very much up on business for short haul. not great as prices are crazy for all airlines <30 days

  • Mark2 says:

    Am I right in thinking that tickets booked as part of a holiday package from someone like Titan would be from a very cheap bucket?

    • Rob says:

      Package holiday tickets cannot be upgraded full stop, irrespective of ticket flexibility.

      • Derek says:

        I booked Hong Kong Flights and Hotels via BAH and was still able to upgrade from CW to First one way, over the phone.

      • Graham says:

        Rob – that is incorrect. I upgraded a package booking from Economy to Club Europe very recently via the BA Holidays call centre. It was booked in to N class initially.

        The main issue with booking a package is that BA have removed (in the past year or so) the ability to see which fare class a flight is booked in to – unless you call them up and ask them before you book it….

      • Tom says:

        If it’s a BA Holidays ticket then it’s no problem. You can also, with a bit of a headache, apply Gold Upgrade vouchers to them. If it’s a TA booking, then if it’s a standard published fare and not an IT ticket where they can’t see detail, then it’s OK to use Avios as long as long as it is on 125 stock and all BA flights in the booking

  • Riku says:

    Perhaps the BA website works for direct flights but when there are connecting flights via LHR the “upgrade using avios” gives useless results.
    If I search for HEL-LHR-KUL with “upgrade using avios” for May 2019 there is only availability about one day in seven. And the price is 66k avios + 8800e cash.
    If I search for cash fares then EVERY DAY in May is available for a cash fare of 6500e (this is booking class A which is refundable and changeable for 150e fee).
    So if you upgrade using avios you pay an extra 2300e cash plus 66k avios and severely limit your choice of flights??
    I don’t know how the website can go so wrong. Even a fully flex J ticket is only 5600e so the 8800e cannot come from picking the highest price J ticket and upgrading to first with avios.

    • Andrew says:

      Yes I have found this too that the “book and upgrade” option returns a very expensive ticket almost the same price as booking a cash First ticket whereas it should be a similar price to the J quote plus a little extra surcharge. I’m assuming if I book the J ticket then upgrade afterwards I will get a much better deal. I would argue BA are almost being dishonest by offering you a higher fare class when asking to upgrade which isn’t necessary to do

      • Sam G says:

        That function hasn’t worked properly for a long time. A lot of the problems are caused as quite often now the cheapest fares (in WT+ anyway) are “DIF” fares – based on the economy fare available with a fixed upcharge. The book+upgrade function cannot cope with that along with many other scenarios it seems

        Best thing to do is book the original online and then call in and get the upgrade applied, shouldn’t pay any offline fees this way and worst case scenario if it isn’t available and you can cancel within 24hrs anyway

  • PhilW says:

    O/T Anyone else having trouble logging into Iberia? I can log in via app and on mobile, but not on website and combine my avios.

  • Sue says:

    I bought 1500 worth of Avois for £65 and on top using my own Avois to make up 90000 for a redemption of £500. Was this wise?

    • Mikeact says:

      What/where is the redemption?

      • Sue says:

        They took off £500 from my first class air fares

        • callum says:

          You saved 0.55p per Avios spent. They’re generally worth around 1p each as pointed out by Alex, but I tend to get at least 2p per Avios for my own use.

          If there was literally nothing else you want to use them for then you could justify it as being wise, but I’m confused when/why you bought 1500 of them for £65? Those Avios only saved you around £8.25 which is a huge loss. Though buying Avios for around 4.5p each is most likely never going to give you a return anyway.

        • Sue says:

          Apologies, it was 3600 Avious for £63. I had to buy it to make up for the shortfall to get a redemption of £500, otherwise i could only get £350

        • Callum says:

          Well that’s a bit better but still very poor value.

          The most important question is whether YOU are happy with it though. I wouldn’t consider redeeming my Avios for any less than 1p each (and think twice if it’s less than 2p), but as long as you spent less than 0.55p each acquiring them and there was nothing more lucrative you could have used them for, it could make sense for you to do this.

        • Sue says:

          Thanks for your comments – all but £63 was through collection over the years ie. not paid for. This is my first time ever paying by Avios although I’d tried several times to use them by upgrading but found them ridiculously expensive in addition to cash payment. At the end I redeemed it just so I could make use of it rather than just collecting.

        • Callum says:

          No worries – that’s a benefit often overlooked.

          While the value was poor, it sounds like your options were not use them at all or use them for this, which doesn’t make it as bad as it initially seems!

    • Alex W says:

      You want to be aiming to get at least 1p per Avios in value.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Ofcourse £437 off is better than nothing but for c88.5k Avios you could’ve done better.

      I’m not sure about your spending or if you were travelling solo or with someone but £10k spent on an AMEX BAPP gets you 41k avois and a 2 for 1 redemption voucher so 130k avois would’ve got you a pair of CW redemptions to a lot of BA destinations.

      If you can add a few clubcard points or an AMEX gold credit card application you could’ve collected enough for 2 in First.

      The surcharges and fees on redemptions can mean its not much cheaper than an two ex EU J tickets but then LHR is easier than AMS for some and less flying around if your companion isn’t up for it.

  • Paul says:

    I just find that avios are hard to spend on flights when cash fares are available for prices in some casecjust double the avios fees. J fares ex the EU and increasingly thevUK can be had for £1200 against BA fees of £598 for a redemption.
    I now only use BA when I can be sure I can get avios upgrade from crap world to J+ which makes using them bareable.

    I just wish there was greater competition and some real alternatives. BA grip on the U.K. market is not healthy

    • Mark2 says:

      Your second paragraph contradicts the first.

    • Mikeact says:

      You mean like KLM in Amsterdam and Air France in Paris… problem for me at all. Where can’t you fly to from London ?

  • Al says:

    It seems IT (package deal) or BT (bulk or special fare) our organisation gets every time for ba flights from our travel agent are so rare they don’t get mentioned in articles? They come in all fare (economy anyway) classes and stop upgrades.

    Rob has explained them to me and I took it up with them but no joy.

    • Rob says:

      Your agent is ripping you off, end of story. Those tickets should only be sold as part of a package holiday.