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.
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?
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?
“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 – 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 from UK credit cards (May 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:
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is doubled to a crazy 50,000 Avios! Apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is doubled to 10,000 Avios. Apply here.
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
CRAZY 50,000 Avios for signing up (to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
10,000 Avios for signing up (only to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.
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
60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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.
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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.