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 (December 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.