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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.

how to upgrade british airways flights with avios

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 British Airways 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: L’, for example:

Let’s take Amsterdam as an example.

Any Euro Traveller ticket which shows in ba.com as only earns 125 Avios each way is in O, G or Q ticket bucket.  You cannot upgrade such a ticket.

However, tickets which show as earning 250 Avios each way are upgradable, as are full fare tickets, earning 500 Avios each way. The one in our screenshot is L class, so it can be upgraded.

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. You are looking for this:

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 – these can be substantial.

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, arguably, 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 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

10,500 points bonus – 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 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.

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.

Comments (47)

  • Simon Hill says:

    Anyone know whether and in what circumstances you can upgrade an Avios booking in economy to Club Europe? (I know I should not be using Avios for economy Europe flights, but I have 1m Avios which without covid would have been used long haul upper class to visit family – hoping for no de-valuation – or do they call it inflation?).

    • Chris L says:

      Firstly, noting wrong with using Avios for European flights – Reward Flight Saver makes it decent value. Secondly, if there is Club Europe availability you can upgrade online subject to a £35 per person change fee, and you pay the Avios difference plus the additional taxes which I believe is £15 per person.

      • SamG says:

        If it was originally an Avios booking you won’t be able to “upgrade” (actually a change booking in this scenario) online – will need to call. If you paid less than 35 originally better to cancel and rebook due to the admin fee

        You should be able to upgrade a cash booking online using Avios if there are seats online but often doesn’t work and requires a call

        • SamG says:

          Also to add often CE seats appear in the last couple of days before a flight so worth keeping an eye or setting up a seatspy alert

  • Phil says:

    Just priced an economy fare upgraded with Avios for LHR-LIS and the cash portion was ridiculously high. Higher than the cash cost of a CE ticket! What gives?

    • Rob says:

      It is upgrading your economy ticket to a flexible (refundable) one, as these are the only economy tickets that can be upgraded. You would expect flexible Eco to be pricier than non-flexible Club.

      • Phil says:

        Ah! Thanks.
        But since V class is available at a quarter of the price, and upgradable according to the article, why wouldn’t it choose that? Is the system default to always choose a flexible fare rather than any cheaper, upgradable fare?
        Alternatively, if I buy a V class ticket will I be able to upgrade with Avios – preferably on line?

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