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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.

  • Mike Ward says:

    Is it possible to upgrade an Iberia flight booked on BA with Avios? They definitely have availability as they keep emailing me offering a cash upgrade for £200 – I’m sitting on a pile of Avios so would rather use them if possible.

    • SamG says:

      If there is Avios availability in the higher class you can call to change the booking- it isn’t considered an upgrade in this scenario

  • Patrick says:

    Thanks for this article – a subject I’ve heard can be a very good use of Avios (albeit from WTP to CW) – but one I’ve never fully understood.

    One question – when calculating the difference in Avios required, what combination of Avios and cash do they take? The old mid-range value, which used to be published in a table by route and peak/off peak, or the newer headline lowest-cash option? Also, you wouldn’t happen to know if semi-staff travel hotline tickets can be upgraded would you? These are confirmed tickets in regular fare buckets that are often 10% cheaper than Thanks!

    • SamG says:

      The difference between the lowest cash option. So they ended up having a bit of a stealth devaluation on short haul!

      Hotline tickets can’t be upgraded officially, not sure if it is the case in reality

      • Jonathan says:

        Rob has explained above that as long as you haven’t booked the lowest ET/WT then any ticket can be upgraded if there’s reward space in the next cabin, unless you’ve booked the highest available seat

      • Patrick says:


  • Will says:

    WTP to business can be useful. I’ve often got the business TP’s for this when booking through a travel agent and calling to upgrade.

  • Ian S says:

    If you upgrade a cash ticket with Avios how does that effect the Tier Points and Avios you earn? Do they stay at what the cash bought?

    If I find BA Holidays has booked my flights into a bucket earning 20 Tier points each way in Economy (total = 2 x 20 then doubled by promo = 80) but I need to earn 160 TP to retain Gold is there any way of upgrading from the 20TP each way bucket to the 40TP each way bucket (thus earning 160TP in total) or would I have to upgrade one leg to CE (thus earning 20+80 doubled to 200TP)?

    • Rob says:

      BA Hols – Unlikely, to be honest.

    • Thegasman says:

      If you call you can ask them to book in any fare class that has availability. For long haul economy then V would be cheapest option for 35TP’s each way. The next level up is the flexible economy buckets Y, B & H at 70TP’s each way. These will likely be more expensive then a cheap WTP ticket though (90 TP each way).

      For short haul 40TP’s would be flexible economy on a longer flight eg. Athens, Helsinki, Malta, Istanbul. Again, you’d probably find CE one way to be cheaper if I class available.

      • Thegasman says:

        Sorry, missed the bit about Avios upgrade. The TP earning is based on underlying cash ticket booking class.

        If you’ve already booked then a change of fare class would potentially be possible but you’d have to pay change fees specified in the original ticket fare rules. You’d probably still be better off just paying to upgrade to CE one way though.

  • David S says:

    I came across my highest cost for a cash upgrade one way to CE on a short flight in Nov the other day. It was over £1500 for two people. Move the curtain back BA and earn a reasonable fee for upgrades rather than put people off. Following this article I’ll go back and check my fare class and see if I can do an Avios upgrade.

    • Jonathon says:

      Some of the upgrade costs for CE are eye watering. Currently being quoted £896 for two for flights to Paris. Who are the idiots paying this for the same seats, cold food and a few drinks on such a short flight?

      • Thegasman says:

        No one is paying it. You’re seeing a fare difference upgrade & you must have a cheap economy ticket & BA are only selling expensive fare buckets in CE.

        Either BA are expecting cancellations on those dates/routes so deterring new bookings or they expect flights to be very full & keeping a couple of seats available for very late, price insensitive bookings.

        BA’s revenue management team are actually much better than most of the customer facing elements of the airline so there is method to the perceived madness.

        • John says:

          Doesn’t mean they don’t get it wrong sometimes

        • SamG says:

          CE cabins are capacity capped currently so are often only selling in J class. But a long haul fare books the connection into J . So they’re doing it on purpose to effectively stop selling short haul tickets whilst maintain availability to sell the more profitable long haul flights

  • Harry says:

    Good afternoon,
    I am trying to book an avios Am-x companion voucher, your article said they now allow you to book for a single taveller. i have tried and casnnot find how to do this.
    Please can you help
    Thank you very much

    • Rob says:

      Hi Harry

      Only vouchers issued after 1 Sep 2021 can be used for a solo traveller. I am guessing you are trying to use a voucher issued before this?


  • vol says:

    OT hi all, P2 covid docs verified and can check in fine in BA app, my docs: still under review and I cannot check in 🤦‍♀️
    BA CS insists my docs are visible to them and I have been allocated a seat

    Anyone else had any experience of this?

    Not sure why this is taking so long – we both submitted docs at the same time.

    Thanks for help

  • Cwyfan says:

    I believe there is a hidden trap that you did not mention for those who return to upgrade, rather than buying it at the time, and that is you will pay the difference between your original surcharges for the lower class booking, and the current surcharges for the upgrade booking. Specifically, you will pay any increase on your original rate, before having the extra added. A double whammy!

    • SamG says:

      They never used to go up so rapidly for this to be a real issue. Hopefully they calm down soon!

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

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