During June, British Airways is trialling something new at Heathrow. During midweek office hours, passengers on cash tickets may be offered the chance to upgrade their seat using Avios. The offer will come via the BA app once the customer is identified as being in the airport.
Don’t do it.
This is how it seems to be working. For a long time, BA has let you upgrade at the airport for cash if a flight was quiet and there are no catering issues. You just need to ask at check-in.
The only thing that appears to be different now is that BA is converting the cash cost into Avios, using a poor exchange rate close to 0.5p per Avios, and quoting you that instead.
Even if you wanted to upgrade, you should pay cash instead of using Avios. You are basically getting around 0.5p per Avios, which is very poor. This is the same rate that you get if you choose to use Avios instead of cash to pay for seat selection.
Here is an example from a HFP reader who was travelling to Abu Dhabi in Club World yesterday and asked about upgrading to First:
The standard difference in Avios pricing, one way, from Club World to First is 18,000 – 20,000 Avios depending on whether it is a peak or off-peak date
Our reader was on a 2-4-1 British Airways American Express voucher, however, so if he had upgraded in advance – if Avios seats had opened up – he and his partner would only have paid 9,000 – 10,000 Avios each
Instead, he was quoted 65,000 Avios for the one-way upgrade, per person
The only caveat I would add is that, had the reader called Executive Club to upgrade into Avios seats, he would have had to pay a £35 change fee and any difference in taxes on top. This still doesn’t cover the value gap between 65,000 Avios and 18,000 Avios!
Allegedly, the BA employee at the upgrade desk told him that only two people had accepted the upgrade offer over the past two days.
I am guessing that 65,000 Avios is based on a one-way cash upgrade cost of between £325-£400 per person, each way, translated into Avios at a poor rate.
There is one other data point from Flyertalk at a similar level. The poster, flying to Chicago, was quoted 60,000 Avios for a one-way World Traveller to World Traveller Plus upgrade, or 120,000 Avios for a one-way World Traveller to Club World upgrade. What is amusing here is that the standard cost of a one-way First Class Avios seat to Chicago is only 68,000 Avios off peak!
Just say no, kids.
This HFP article tells you all you need to know about upgrading British Airways flights with Avios BEFORE arriving at the airport.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 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:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
If you have a small business, we especially recommend Capital On Cap’s Visa card which comes with a generous bonus worth 10,500 Avios:
(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.)