Last week, a question dropped into my inbox from a reader who had already booked flights using his British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher. Although he had already booked flights from London to Canada in Economy, he wondered if there was a way to upgrade them, either for cash or Avios.
Unfortunately, in his scenario, it wasn’t possible. Josh had used a companion voucher earned from the free British Airways American Express Card, which can only be redeemed on Economy flights. The usual ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ benefit is only available on cash tickets and Avios redemptions are not normally eligible for pro-active online upgrades.
Whilst there is no official way to upgrade a companion voucher booking, there are two possible work-arounds available to you if you have the right voucher.
Option 1: If you have a Brtitish Airways American Express Premium Plus companion voucher
One of the benefits of an Avios redemption is the additional flexibility you have over a standard cash booking, and this includes bookings made using a companion voucher.
The additional flexibility means you can:
- cancel your booking up to 24 hours before departure for a full refund minus a £35 fee per person
- change your booking up to 24 hours before departure for a £35 fee
This is incredibly useful if your plans change or if, as can often be the case, British Airways makes more seats open for redemption in higher classes as your flight approaches.
If you need to fly to your destination on a particular date but can only find Economy seats available you can secure the flight, in the hope that British Airways will release more seats in Premium Economy or Business Class later.
When those seats appear – and you can set alerts using a tool such as SeatSpy – you can call British Airways, pay the £35 change fee, additional Avios and any additional taxes and charges, and rebook yourself.
As this is a rebooking, rather than a typical upgrade, there is no limit to how many classes you can increase by. You could change an Economy flight to Premium Economy (a one cabin upgrade) or you could go all the way up to First Class (a three cabin upgrade) – assuming there is availability.
The only way to change your flights after booking is to call British Airways – you can’t do this online.
Option 2: Ask for any upgrade opportunities at check in
The only other option is to chance it at check-in.
You are wasting your time putting on your best jacket in the hope of a free upgrade. However, if there are still seats available in the higher cabins, British Airways will often try to entice passengers to pay for an upgrade at check-in. This is usually cheaper than the difference in fare at the time of booking.
This is particularly true when economy is overbooked and British Airways needs to upgrade people anyway. It would much rather take a token payment from someone at check in and generate a little cash than upgrade a random passenger at the gate for free.
This option is a bit more of a gamble, of course. You are reliant on there being capacity in the next cabin and for British Airways to be offering these cash upgrades. In some cases, the offer may simply not be worth it – which means you’re stuck in the seat you originally booked.
(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 2.3 million monthly page views. Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios? Click here to read our latest news stories, click here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.)
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 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.
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.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
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.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.