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

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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.

From 2016, this changed.  You can 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.

British Airways

Here is the bad news.

You still cannot upgrade O, G and Q fare classes.  These are the cheapest Economy / World Traveller 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 World Traveller Plus or Club Europe, you won’t be able to upgrade your World Traveller or Euro Traveller ticket either.

Can I upgrade BA flights by more than one category?

No.

A BA Economy / Euro Traveller ticket can only be upgraded, if it can be upgraded at all, to World Traveller Plus on long-haul.

You cannot upgrade to Club World unless you buy a World Traveller Plus ticket, and you cannot upgrade to First unless you buy a Club World ticket.

On short haul, you can upgrade from Economy / Euro Traveller to Business / Club Europe as those are the only two cabins available.

What does this mean to me?

On ba.com, you can see your ‘ticket bucket’ by clicking on ‘Flight Details’ on the ba.com pricing screen.  It will say something like ‘Economy selling class: O’, for example:

How to upgrade british airways economy flights with Avios

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, so if you bought the ticket in the screenshot above you are stuck.

However, tickets which earn 250 Avios each way are upgradable, as are full fare tickets, earning 500 Avios each way.

How can I force ba.com to sell me an upgradeable ticket?

ba.com, once you are logged in, has the ‘Book with money, upgrade with Avios’ booking option.

This allows the system to sell you the cheapest ticket in a suitable ticket bucket and immediately process the upgrade.

Note that you cannot do this from the booking screen on the ba.com home page.  You must be logged in and searching from the Executive Club welcome page.

How can I upgrade a flight issued by a travel agent?

If your ticket has been booked by a travel agent, including a corporate travel agent, it can still be upgraded if it is in a suitable ticket class.

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, usually the ones sold by other travel agents) 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”

In simple terms …. the Avios cost is the difference between the cost of an ‘all Avios’ ticket in the higher cabin and the cost of an Avios ticket in the cabin your originally booked.

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

Is it really worth upgrading BA long-haul Economy flights?

Possibly not.

On long-haul, World Traveller upgrades would only get you into World Traveller Plus because you can only upgrade by one cabin.

(Note that Virgin Atlantic does allow multi-cabin upgrades for the right sort of Economy ticket.) 

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 an Avios seat to upgrade into will not be great.

World Traveller Plus also attracts the higher rate of Air Passenger Duty so there would be additional tax to pay.  British Airways also adds additional charges of its own.

At the end of day, for the general public buying its own Economy 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.

This system DOES work for a small number of people.  These are mainly travellers on expensive corporate tickets which are semi-flexible and refundable.  British Airways should not promote 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.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

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:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(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.)

Comments (14)

  • Sam G says:

    One thing to note for ET to CE upgrades is an unannounced stealth/unintended increase in the UUA prices, they are all now 2k Avios higher than before.

    This seems to be due to the system taking the difference between the “+50p” Avios rates instead of the old £17.50/£25 RFS rates

    Unfortunately on examples I’ve looked that this tips them into bad value – especially where O class is still on sale so you are paying the fare difference on top of the points and/or I’m travelling HBO so can’t factor the free bag into the equation

  • Jonathan says:

    Be careful using the Book with money & Upgrade with Avios option for WTP-CW on the website. A lot of the cheap WTP cash fares are Dual Inventory Fares which seem to confuse the booking engine & you end up being quoted far higher cash fares than are available when you just look at buying a ticket without the upgrade.

    Basically look at a straight cash fare first & check that it matches what you’re being charged with the upgrade option selected & if not you’ll have to call up.

    Note that you do have to pay the difference in carrier surcharges as well as the Avios which is typically about £100 each way for a transatlantic flight.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Always best to book the cash fare then call to upgrade.

      Why you may ask? Not only your example above but If you book online with an avios upgrade you give up your 24 hour cooling off period.

  • Happy Tim says:

    As a Business traveller, I have done this a number of times with limited success. I have found four major problems with upgrading using Avios:

    1. As an Agent/Concur purchases my ticket, I am required to contact the BA Call Centre to upgrade. I am unable to do this online and this then takes another 20 minutes going through the details and arguing that it is really YOUR ticket.

    2. Booking at a higher ticket bucket, to counteract the BA rules as Rob as has outlined above, means that for long haul flights there is very limited chance that there will be Avios availability for your upgraded class.

    3. Tickets upgraded using Avios earn only the Tier Points from the purchased ticket and not the upgraded one.

    4. You can only upgrade a ticket on BA metal and not an Avios partner. This is particularly painful for both Madrid and Dublin.

    It would be great if BA could listen to their Business customers and perhaps make it easier for us? Problem number one is a particularly big pain, and can take hours of holding and haggling.

    • memesweeper says:

      +1

      Upgrading for cash is also hard when a corporate agent books the flight. Usually Ok at the airport , but clearly that’s very hit and miss with availability, and too late to sort out things like special meals.

  • Marcin says:

    Are all WT+ fares eligible for an upgrade then? (Even the cheapest cash ones)

  • pigeon says:

    The only time I’ve looked to upgrade out of economy is when I needed checked bags on a shorthaul ET/CE flight back to the UK. Using the avios to upgrade a hand-baggage only fare made sense then, and plus, there was no extra cash amount.

  • ECR says:

    I dislike World Traveller Plus (WTP), so for me it is not something I would personally waste avios and extra charges to upgrade to. With oneworld sapphire/emerald then Club Europe isn’t really worth it as the only real benefit is a guaranteed free seat beside me as I don’t like the meal. The best value for me is to upgrade from WTP to Club World as you can sometimes get good value WTP fares and you get a decent amount of tier points with them.

    • Lord Doncaster says:

      WTP on new aircraft and with status can be a nice experience, especially with a blocked seat next to you

  • Bryanames says:

    I used avios points to upgrade my seats,the holiday was cancelled because of the virus, I received my money back but not my avios
    Disputes many emails to ba customer service I am still waiting one month later,so beware.

  • Dubious says:

    What happens in the event that the flight is cancelled? Do you get rebooked as per the upgraded class or are you treated as having booked the original class and only get re-upgraded if lucky?

    • Lord Doncaster says:

      I imagine you’ll be rebooked in your ticketed class unless they need to downgrade people.

    • Harry T says:

      You are entitled to be rebooked in the cabin you upgraded to. You have as much right to be in that cabin legally as anyone.

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