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

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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 ba.com, 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.

ba.com, 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 ba.com – 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 ba.com:

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 ba.com 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)

  • Mark says:

    For the record,anyone who uses the 40% off BA flights with Vitality… The class of the tickets does vary and is regularly a ticket class is the “upgradeable” list. However, under all circumstances it is not possible to upgrade using cash or avios. It says contact your travel agent, but of course these are a third-party who won’t be able to help you individually.

    I would be interested to hear if anyone has ever found a way of upgrading asides from AUP.

  • chris says:

    if you use avois to upgrade a cash booking to club europe (say), do you then also earn tier points as a club europe booking (i.e. 10 tier points becomes 40)? I’ve done this a few times and seem to earn club europe tier points but on my last flight I didn’t. Have I ‘got lucky’ via a glitch or was my last flight not credited correctly?

  • Jovanna says:

    Is B class upgradable? I have B showing on one of my bookings.

    • MarkZ says:

      I may stand to be corrected, but I understand that B is “Flexible Economy”, so computer says Yes!

      • Jovanna says:

        Thank you. I just saw that it was 20 TPs too. Hopefully something will open up.

  • Roger says:

    Can anyone post link to Avios distance based chart?
    i.e. the one which says zone 1 is 1-650 miles etc.

  • Roger says:

    If I was willing to pay 1p per avios, any idea on how do I go about acquiring Avios quickly.
    Need some for 241 redemption.

  • Clive says:

    As there is no bits thought this may be of interest. AMEX Connect has a number of hotel discounts which can be added to your card:

    These include Hyatt, NH, Melia etc

    https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/network/shopping.html

    • Rob says:

      Thanks. Thought they had scrapped that site to be honest.

      • Alex W says:

        You now have to manually enter your card number for every offer. And there is no way to tell which offers are saved on your card. Terrible system.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          The saved offers still show on your Amex account with all your other saved offers.

        • Alex W says:

          Not on MBNA or Lloyd’s issued Amexes, unless they have recently fixed the website?

  • SS says:

    O/T – anyone still waiting for SPG points to transfer over from their SPG card?

    • Adrian says:

      yes, from the 2nd august

      • Darren says:

        Well partly, had a third transfer over last week but two thirds still in the Amex acc. which is a little confusing.

      • SS says:

        Similar for me then, statement closed on the 9th

    • fivebobbill says:

      Yes, had 36,000 disappear from my SPG Amex account 3 days ago. No sign of them in my Starwood/Marriott account yet, but given the merger etc I just assumed it would take a few days…?

      • SS says:

        Likewise, I think I saw on Flyertalk thread some people reported transfers coming through – guessing they were in the US though

        Hopefully next week

  • ThT says:

    O/T
    Does anyone know if Amex Plat car hire excess insurance also applies to UK rentals? I’m uncertain at the moment whether the UK Amex Plat card insurance benefits apply only when on what the documentation refers to as a “Trip” or can also be your country of residence, in this case the UK?

    Thanks

    ThT