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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?


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, you can see your ‘ticket bucket’ by clicking on ‘Flight Details’ on the 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 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 to sell me an upgradeable ticket?, 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 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 – 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

“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 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 card

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 card

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.

Comments (47)

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

  • Sam Wardill says:

    If your flight was booked through a travel agent you can’t process the upgrade online and the call centre is likely not to have a clue what to do. I spent hours being passed between call centres last week trying to process an upgrade for my wife before giving up.

  • lumma says:

    The flight to Amsterdam in the example would be upgradable as it’s class L no?

    • Reney says:

      I got confused by this para too where the words don’t appear to match the screenshot:

      Any Euro Traveller ticket which only earns 125 Avios each way is in O, G or Q ticket bucket. You cannot upgrade this ticket, so if you bought the ticket in the screenshot above you are stuck.

      • Rob says:

        You’re not stuck with the one in the screenshot, just if its O,G, Q. Will reword.

  • The Original Nick. says:

    I like the photo of the 747.

    • Richie says:

      Yes. BA operated B747 flights to Tel Aviv pre-pandemic, I think there were some good avios possibilities for nose cone First, that many avios wealthy redeemed for.

  • G says:

    What’s the likelihood of an avios devaluation soon given the rise of cash fares due to Russian invasion of Ukraine; supply chains, energy prices and global inflation.

    I’m sitting on 200k avios at the moment and waiting to use it for a long haul business redemption to Tokyo or somewhere to that effect.

  • John says:

    “ British Airways should not, arguably, promote the ability to upgrade Economy tickets as a benefit for the average Avios collector, because it isn’t.”

    We used to encounter this problem in work, pre Covid. The travel management company (=💩) would book IT class fares while presumably pocketing the difference between that class and upgradable economy. An obvious fraud but difficult to explain to without sounding precious about business class.

    • RussellH says:

      I imagine that in practice the airline was turning a blind eye to your employer’s TMC selling you IT fares. For whatever reason, airlines have always been much laxer about this than rail or ferry companies.

      As the name implies (IT=Inclusive Tour – or ITX=Inclusive Tour eXcursion) IT fares are a) meant to be sold only in conjunction with accommodation and possibly other components of a package
      b) this means that they should only be sold by Tour Operators (NOT travel agents – Rob, please note, there is a significant difference, though the roles may, a times, overlap)
      c) are confidential – at least according to the contract that the TO will have signed.

      The contract for the IT tickets that I provided as part of holiday packages always specified that check-in staff and ticket inspectors were entitled to ask for evidence of the included accommodation (though I never heard of it actually happening in 30 years).

      • SamG says:

        I noticed recently my travel tool now says not booking a hotel with air travel is a breach of my companies travel policy and requires an explanation. I wondered if this was why, technically it then becomes a package and they can legitimately sell me an IT fare. On the itineraries I usually do this would save (someone) a fortune as they don’t have a Saturday night stay

  • Bagoly says:

    Is this one of the reasons that those airlines previously without Premium Economy are not introducing it (E.g. Lufthansa, Emirates) – to prevent upgrades to Business?

    • Rob says:

      Given that everyone who has introduced PE has raved about how ludicrously profitable it is, I doubt that’s the reason.

  • Jonathon says:

    But… that screenshot *can* be upgraded?

  • Jonathan says:

    CE isn’t really worth bothering with, mainly because you don’t get a seat that goes fully flat (or near enough !

    WTP, on some aircraft the seats difference is barely noticeable when compared with WT, plus the seats are still heavily restricted like in the latter

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