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How do I upgrade my British Airways flight with Avios points?

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Today I want to give you an overview of how you can upgrade your British Airways flight using Avios points.

If you are flying British Airways, you may be able to upgrade your flight at any point before departure, including at the check-in desk and even in the departure lounge (so long as there is availability) for cash.

In this article we’ll take a look at how and when you can upgrade to a higher cabin with Avios, which has different rules.

How do I upgrade my British Airways flight with Avios?

The rules for upgrading BA flights with Avios varies from those with cash.  Whilst you can upgrade with cash almost up until boarding – British Airways has been trialling in-app upgrades from the departure lounge – Avios upgrades are subject to availability and must be completed before check in.

Upgrades with Avios can only be done before check-in via Manage My Booking or phoning British Airways customer service.

What are the rules for upgrading British Airways flights with Avios?

Here are the key rules you need to remember when upgrading:

You can only upgrade to the next cabin up – it is not possible to jump from Premium Economy to First, for example

If you are travelling in economy, you must be on a flexible or “low” fare ticket to upgrade – “lowest” economy fares are barred from upgrading.  You can read more about the British Airways fare classes here to check your status.  However, if you bought a non-refundable British Airways economy ticket you should assume that it CANNOT be upgraded.

(In any event, economy tickets can only be upgraded to World Traveller Plus premium economy.  This is a very small cabin and few redemption seats are made available.)

Any World Traveller Plus or Club World ticket, even if bought in a sale, is eligible to be upgraded with Avios

Extra taxes and charges may be required on top of the Avios needed

To be eligible for an Avios upgrade there must be reward availability in the selected cabin. British Airways guarantees to make eights economy seats, two premium economy seats and four business seats open for Avios redemptions on every flight, but depending on the route you can often find additional availability.  Search on ba.com for a ‘full’ Avios redemption in the higher cabin to ensure it can be done before you start wasting time trying to upgrade.

The cost of the upgrade is the difference between a standard Avios redemption in the two classes.  A one-way peak Club World ticket to Dubai (Zone 5 in the chart below) is 60,000 Avios for example, whilst World Traveller Plus is 40,000 Avios.  It would therefore cost 20,000 Avios to upgrade the ticket in one direction.

You can do the maths by looking at this chart:

Avios redemption price chart

Do note, however, that you will not earn Avios and tier points at the upgraded rate.

As this is an Avios upgrade, you will only earn Avios and tier points in line with the cash portion of the booking.  If you bought a World Traveller Plus ticket and upgrade it to Club World, you only earn World Traveller Plus Avios and tier points back.  You can read more about earning Avios and tier points on upgrades here.

(This article is part of our ‘BA Q&A’ series which explains how British Airways Executive Club works.  You can see all of our ‘BA Q&A’ articles here. )

(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 2.0 million monthly page views.  Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios?  Click here to read our latest news storiesclick here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.)


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2022)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – the most generous Avios Visa 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 and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

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

There are also good bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These are available to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

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