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.
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?
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:
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?
“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?
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.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (April 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.)