Why you should turn down the new British Airways ‘at the airport’ Avios flight upgrades

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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.

British Airways upgrade at the airport

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!

(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.)

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  1. Optimus Prime says:

    OT – Does anyone have a recommendation for airport transfers in Corfu?

    We’re off to Ikos Dassia in 2 weeks and they provide complimentary transfers if booked directly with them. Unfortunately we have a BA Holidays package and they’ve already confirmed I would have to pay EUR 60 each way.

    • Lady London says:

      Would hiring a car there for the week even cost that much?

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Well, a decent car would cost around twice the standard return taxi fare.

    • SimonW says:

      https://www.corfuairporttransfer.com/ We used these guys last year for Dassia. Very reliable. Enjoy Dassia. If you havent, try and book your restaurants now.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Thank you, SimonW. Looking forward to it!

        • SimonW says:

          You will have a great time. We have been to 3 different Ikos now. All were superb. Very hard to fault for a family holiday.

    • We were paying Euro 25 from Corfu Town to the Imperial, which isn’t that far away (20 mins?) so I’d say Euro 60 is fair and unlikely to be beaten by a taxi, at least not by much.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        SimonW’s website and others charge EUR 60 for a round-trip instead of 60 each way 🙂

    • Rooster says:

      Unless your staying at the hotel all week, then hire a car!

  2. OT – Lloyds Avios rewards cc

    finally received my new Mastercard 🙁

    the email says that the Lloyds Amex will stop working “soon” – anybody know when that will happen?

    also, does anybody know for sure what the earning rate on the Lloyds Amex is once your account has been converted?

    • Rob’s done a couple of articles on the changes but Lloyds should have told you! Also can’t believe a major financial institution gets away with using a vague term like “soon” to indicate an end date!

        • Robert says:

          The cards will still work, but all the associates benefits received such as no exchange rate on FX and Avios earnings stopped on 5th May. (This is according to a couple of reliable Lloyd’s sources). As others have mentioned, due to the vague communications, you can always ring them and try to get reimbursed if required.

          • David says:

            I got a letter on about 20th May telling me that the change had occurred on 15th May. Sure enough, a Euro transaction I’d made on 15th May on my Amex attracted a non-Sterling transaction fee.

            I rang up Lloyds yesterday and got a total of £24 of FX fees refunded, but I don’t think I’ll be using those cards anymore…

          • Not that reliable, my cards are still working on the “old” terms and conditions and in any case all cardholders are legally entitled to 60 days’ notice of any changes to Ts and Cs. A Lloyds CSA told me a few weeks ago that all Lloyds Amex cards are now closed so clearly a number of them are woefully uninformed.

          • omg – have i not been receiving points for the last month’s worth of Lloyds amex transactions ?!

      • My old MBNA Miles&More card still worked end of February (7 months after closure!). I know as I had a recurring yearly payment via Paypal which I forgot about. It showed normally on my statement. Few days later got an email from MBNA that I should stop using my old card. I did a test with my old Amex to see and it worked. I was quite shocked and immediately called them. They were surprisingly relaxed about it! And since they are part of Lloyds group, I wouldn’t be surprised if some cards continue working for a while.

    • Andy Young says:

      I still haven’t received a letter. I phoned them yesterday and my card with the 0% transaction fee still applies.

  3. It is slightly presumptuous that you scorn the value of 0.5p/Avios.

    Valuing them more than 0.5p each assumes:
    1) you are redeeming for business (or above) seats
    2) that you actually would pay cash at the prevailing rate for the business seat if avios weren’t available

    Assuming 2) particularly is a bit avios-snobby. Many people do not overtly ‘pay’ for their avios (although I accept there is an opportunity cost in getting them), and do not have significant money to spend on airline tickets.

    Just because it doesn’t fit your high-spending avios plan doesn’t mean it is a bad deal. Almost any extra opportunity to spend avios, whatever the redemption rate, is likely to be useful to someone.

    • David says:

      Plenty of opportunities to get more than 0.5p for redemptions in Euro Traveller.

    • Chris L says:

      On my last three Avios redemptions I achieved values of 3.5p, 4.3p and 5.5p – and that’s based on looking at all sensible options to do an equivalent journey, not just the cash price for the exact flight I was on. The thought of getting 0.5p of value gives me cold shivers!!

      • Robert says:

        Those are great values, but how do you work them out?
        I used 140,000 Avios for an F ticket LHR-SIN
        how much would that be per Avios?

        • I try not to go below 2p on redemptions and have had as much as 4p (RFS to Nice on GP weekend!). I calculate the value by taking the full cash price of the flights, deducting BA’s fees and the £195 BAPP fee then dividing what’s left by the number of avios used.

        • Robert says:

          thanks Anna, not sure if I’ve done it correctly though. Cash price shows as £2,086, after making the deductions and dividing by 140,000 Avios it means I’ve only got 0.012p for them, is that right? In what circumstances can I get 2p or 3p for them please?

        • Genghis says:

          … assuming you’d pay that price, of course. A better comparable might be say to Easyjet, if available.

        • Robert says:

          Thanks, they don’t seem to have availability though, so how are people working out what the Avios are actually worth, I can’t seem to find any redemptions where they are worth more than 0.1p !
          Rob, do you have a specific calculator or post which explains it please?

        • Shoestring says:

          @Robert – compare your equivalent flight as (say) a RFS Avios redemption vs the cash cost. Eg 7500 Avios + £17.50 fee vs £160.
          Subtract the £17.50 – now it’s 7500 Avios vs £142.50.
          Divide £142.50 by 7500 to get a saving (or value achieved) per Avios.
          142.50/ 7500 = 1.9p per Avios point.

        • Or for long haul – 2 F seats to Miami using a 2 4 1. Cash price £4000. BA taxes approx £700, BAPP fee £195, so £3195 cash saving. Divide this by the 100,000 avios required for the booking and you get 3.2p per avios. Obviously this has been maximised by using the 2 4 1 – in the event I got 3 seats which brings down the pence per avios amount but we have to travel as a family of three on this trip!

        • Sandgrounder says:

          How about this:
          4500 + £152 out
          2900 + £167 back
          For two people, £512 e/w cash price. So:
          So, 23.4p per Avios.
          If you haven’t guessed, that was for Madrid last weekend!

    • RFS in business to Frankfurt, one night at the Sheraton Frankfurt on avios, Frankfurt to Doha on Qatar’s A380 in F or business class on avios. Don’t know how much cash value is per point here but as sure as eggs are eggs it’s got to be better value than paying cash.

    • O/T Hilton Clubcard redemptions don’t look like a great deal since (they say) they are priced at the flexible rate but become non-changeable and non-refundable.

      • True. But you earn HH points back on the headline cash rate. All it means it that you are getting more like 2.5x face than 3x face – many can live with that.

  4. Ralph says:

    We travelled to BOS on Tuesday using a companion voucher. Were originally in F but had to change flight time at the last minute so could only get J, although plenty of F cash seats. Upgrade at airport was £659 each or 103,500 Avios each vs 18,000 Avios for two with the upgrade voucher. Not very tempting! It’s going to be quite annoying if they hold back normal Avios availability in the hope of selling it more expensively at the airport…

  5. Thanks. I’m in New York but Rhys might like it.

  6. Michael says:

    Whats everyone take on Heathrow rewards? I have 2600 points but a £25 voucher useable. Do people generally redeem as a voucher or convert to airline miles? I know they run good airline miles bonuses sometimes.

    • Best is when a transfer bonus is on, either for miles or vouchers.

      However, Graeme (who you may have met if you’ve been to any of our parties) left HR at Christmas. His replacement seems less bothered about running bonuses and we’ve not seen anything yet in 2019. Who knows if they reappear?

      • Michael says:

        I haven’t, but thank you.

        • David says:

          I use Heathrow Rewards for Miles & More conversions – it’s basically the only currency that converts into M&M, except Bonvoys, which are better spent on hotels.

  7. PaulC says:

    O/T Airport Lounge Access. Family holiday coming up 17th June. 6 adults and one 2 year old travelling. My wife and I between us have 1 Lounge Club Card with two free entries (In wife’s name) and 2 Priority Pass Cards (one in each of our names) Will they allow us to use all 3 cards including 2 in my wife’s name to get all 6 adults in free? Whats the charge for a 2 year old? Flying T2 Manchester to Palma and back.

  8. David says:

    OT: Any advice/thoughts on this welcome.

    Flying from Heathrow to SFO on 18June in F by Avios redemption and Amex BAPP 2for1. If Heathrow affected/shutdown by planned Extinction Rebellion action, what is likely outcome for next day/alternate flights – appreciate unlikely to get F seats again. Will they refund some avios? Will there be any difficulties due to no longer having the BAPP card that the 2for1 was issued from?

    Any advice welcome.

    • +1. We’re travelling from Heathrow on the same day, in First, to Boston. I’ve never been in the Concorde lounge before and this news is starting to worry me a little.

      • Shoestring says:

        I should take the target days (18th June & 2-11 July) with a big pinch of salt, it could be any day this summer/ year or no days at all https://www.express.co.uk/travel/articles/1137292/heathrow-airport-london-flights-extinction-rebellion-drone-protest-climate-change

        And using drones within 1km of an airport carries a max 5 year sentence. Whereas stopping your cars halfway along in the LHR tunnel and handcuffing yourself to the wheels & together etc is incredibly disruptive (esp if repeated every couple of hours!) but basically gets you a fine & a telling off by a magistrate. Ie there are many other forms of civil disobedience that could effectively shut down LHR operations from running smoothly that aren’t likely to get you a 5 year prison sentence.

        But judging by the recent actions of Extinction Rebellion in causing the London traffic chaos, they think the message is important enough to outweigh all the pain & misery they cause to others.

      • On the bright side, there are worse places to be stuck in than the CCR! You could always book into the Sofitel the night before if you’re really worried but I suspect the authorities will be under strict orders to deal firmly with any disruption.

        • Thanks for your replies. I guess it’s a case of “wait and see”. I’m a bit annoyed as it’s the start of my 50th Birthday holiday…

  9. Craig says:

    completely OT – I’m looking for a redemption option to fly JNB-MRU. I know South African Airlines used to fly the route, but i can’t work out any way of booking it with them via avios anymore. It’s on a Tuesday in May next year (I know Comair or someone flies on a Saturday but that is no good for us).

    Any ideas? Cash flights are looking very expensive already so ideally we want to fly direct by if we have to do a stop (and therefore we can get them both on avios) that might be an option

    • Michael says:

      QR via Doha but that’s a bit ridiculous. Oneworld Partners are limited in Africa apart from Royal Air Moroc and Comair. Not sure if it’s ever been possible to book South African Airlines with Avios as they are in star alliance.

      • Craig says:

        thanks for the response. I thought i saw something online but may have been wrong re using Avios on SA Airlines!

    • marcw says:

      You can redeem any Star Alliance miles for this sector. Maybe transferring Amex MR points to KrisFlyer helps (I think it’s 15k one way in economy). Or you could also transfer MR points to Flying Blue and book on Air Mauritius, but they charge you fuel on top (i’ve checked and it’s 17.500 miles + 99 EUR fees+taxes – in economy). Remember that with Flying Blue you can reduce by a 25% the required miles, paying roughly 1 eurocent per mile.
      But unless you are MR rich, Air Austral is offering JNB-MRU with a connection in Reunion for 165 GBP pp (economy), which is an ok fare (for 213 GBP you can fly non-strop with South African/Air Mauritius).

    • It can be booked with Virgin Atlantic who is a redemption partner with South African airlines! I’ve done it before without any issues on the phone. Of course this won’t solve your issue trying to use Avios

      • Craig says:

        interesting. Not considered Virgin Atlantic but I do have a smaller pile of around 70k flying club points. Will investigate that option. Thanks!!

  10. Dominic Barrington says:

    I’m beyond disappointed at the loss of the Sofitel check-in. I found it a huge blessing, but perhaps I’m just lazy!

  11. BlueHorizonuk says:

    Seems like BA have cancelled the domestic 747 flights on 25 August and offering refunds.

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