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How to upgrade your British Airways flights using American Airlines miles

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This article looks at how to upgrade British Airways flights using American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer miles.

Being able to upgrade British Airways tickets using Avios is a well known feature of the programme as I wrote in this article.  There is also a full page on explaining how it works.

Whilst upgrades from World Traveller / Economy are restricted (the cheapest ticket class – Q, O and G – cannot be upgraded), virtually any ticket in World Traveller Plus or Club World can be upgraded using Avios.

How to upgrade british airways flight using american airlines miles

The only condition is that an Avios reward seat must be available in the class to which you want to upgrade.  The upgrade comes out of the same ‘bucket’.  The only other rule is that you cannot upgrade at the airport or on board with Avios – it must be done in advance.

As an example of pricing, it currently costs 40,000 Avios to upgrade a return World Traveller Plus ticket to New York to Club World on peak days or 48,000 Avios on off-peak days.

What fewer people know is that you can also upgrade British Airways flights using American Airlines miles.

Our full guide to earning American Airlines miles from UK credit cards is here.

Upgrading British Airways tickets using American Airlines miles is not as lucrative, because you are restricted to upgrading full fare tickets except in Club World.  It CAN be done, however, which makes it an option for using up any AA miles you have accrued.

All the details can be found here on the American Airlines website.

Only full fare World Traveller (Y, B class) and World Traveller Plus tickets (W class) can be upgraded using AA miles.  Whilst it says ‘full fare Club World’, it also says it includes C, J, D and R booking classes – and R is one of the non-refundable Club World booking classes.

How to upgrade your British Airways flights using American Airlines miles

Here is another snag:

You must book your BA ticket via American Airlines in order to be able to upgrade it using AA miles.  Alternatively, there must be one AA flight (which can be a codeshare, but must have an AA flight number) in your booking.

The pricing is reasonable and on a par with using Avios.  A World Traveller Plus to Club World New York upgrade would be 25,000 American Airlines miles return as the chart shows.

One other benefit (admittedly of less use if you live in the UK) is that AA lets you upgrade up to three flights per upgrade ‘fee’.  If you are flying from the US via London to, say, Athens you could upgrade both for the cost of just one.  British Airways would charge you for each leg separately if you upgraded with Avios.

Iberia flights can also be upgraded using the same method.

This is clearly not something that would interest everyone, but if you travel for work on flexible fares, have a few American Airlines miles sitting around unused and have the ability to ticket your British Airways flights via then it may be of use.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (March 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.

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 famous annual 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel 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 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) 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.

Comments (20)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • riku says:

    >>If you are flying from the US via London to, say, Moscow
    When you are copy/pasting articles from 2020 (first rule of blogging.. create regular posts even if they are copies of old posts) then you might check if things in the article are still valid.
    Are there still flights from London to Moscow?

    • Erico1875 says:

      So where does this masterclass on blogging you have written reside?

    • ChrisC says:

      Does it actually matter?

      It’s only an example.

    • Alan says:

      I was more chuckling at the travel for work on flexible fares bit – can’t imagine many of those nowadays!

      • Brian78 says:

        I can imagine the reaction from my employer if I tried to book a fully flexible fare when they’ve got double digit cost inflation 🥲

        • Rob says:

          Flexible fares are fixed well in advance via some odd IATA mechanism IIRC – this is why, at present, some fully flex tickets are very close in price to non-refundable ones at inflated prices.

          • Jonathan says:

            I’ve noticed before on the BA app that selecting fare type ‘lowest possible’ then on the results page it gives you a fare code that’s for flexible tickets

            Anyone else noticed this at all ?

          • Brian78 says:

            Doesn’t matter if they’re very close. I’m not allowed to book fully flexible tickets according to the company’s policy.

            The high fares have worked out well for me though as I can’t be arsed to travel to a nothing part of Germany for work and I use cost savings as an excuse. “I really want to go but an £800 flight can’t really be justified” 🥲

          • RussellH says:

            What is a nothing part of Germany?

          • Rhys says:

            Presumably Germany’s equivalent of Watford?…

    • Rob says:

      We don’t ‘copy’ old posts, we take an old article, strip it down, refurbish old parts, give it a polish and publish it.

      Takes FAR longer than cutting and pasting a press release in many cases (not this one admittedly!)

      Moscow line should have gone though 🙂

      • Brian78 says:

        “What is a nothing part of Germany?”

        A one horse town two hours away from the nearest airport, which has two restaurants and one hotel

  • Milaneser says:

    A good AA miles sweet spot is redeeming for flights in South America on Gol. Not as glamorous as Europe to Dubai on QR (which is probably the best option) but there is huge value to be had. I recently booked a domestic flight in Brazil in January (peak season) for 7,500 miles and USD8, against paying approximately USD500 outright. The tickets also book into economy plus but you have to pay for any hold baggage (USD5 extra so not bad at all). It’s a worthwhile option to have given how hard it is to redeem on LATAM since their Oneworld departure.

  • AJA says:

    Since you have to book via AA do you also earn EQMs and AA miles on the fare that you upgrade from?

    And it looks like you can upgrade flights to the US, ie starting in the UK or Europe?

    Also looking at the web page it seems you have to call to upgrade.

    It might actually be a useful, if relaively expensive (based on flexible fares required), way of extending any stash of AA miles.

  • Simon says:

    “As an example of pricing, it currently costs 40,000 Avios to upgrade a return World Traveller Plus ticket to New York to Club World on peak days or 48,000 Avios on off-peak days”
    I think you mean 48,000 on peak days and 40,000 off peak.

    • Rob says:


      The gap between PE and Club is bigger off peak so the upgrade costs more.

      • RussellH says:

        Indeed. Got caught out by that when flying LGW-OAK in 2017. We upgraded the return at the time of booking, which was in peak season, for 80 000 (2 pax).
        I decided to do the outward too, but had not expected to be left with an almost empty avios a/c at the end!

  • A says:

    Can you upgrade an AA seat using BA miles?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, we have an article on this if you search (playing golf with my son at present!) but only on fully flex.

      • A says:

        Thanks Rob – a double hit I guess as suspect you get the drinks in at the clubhouse whether you win or lose! Enjoy

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