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‘Upgrade Using Avios’ pricing is, oddly, unchanged despite the recent overhaul

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We’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks looking at the recent Avios changes, driven by the extension of Reward Flight Saver pricing to long haul premium cabin redemptions.

If you have a large Avios balance and a low bank balance then these changes are positive. For everyone else, including these people, these people, these people, these people and these people, it isn’t.

One aspect we didn’t look at was how the changes impact ‘Upgrade Using Avios’. This is when you use Avios to upgrade a cash ticket on British Airways.

how to upgrade british airways flights with avios

How does ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ work?

Let’s run over how ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ works on long haul flights.

‘Upgrade Using Avios’ let you use Avios to upgrade a CASH ticket on British Airways by ONE class.

You cannot upgrade from the cheapest Economy ticket types (O, G and Q). This means that, unless your employer is happy to pay for a semi flexible ticket, you are unlikely to be upgrading from Economy to Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus).

You can upgrade ANY Premium Economy ticket to Business Class (Club World). This is the sweet spot in terms of ‘bang for your buck’, going from a slightly larger economy seat to a fully flat bed, often with a door.

You can upgrade any Business Class seat to First Class.

Tickets issued via BA Holidays or travel agents can be upgraded but this usually requires a call to the Executive Club. Tickets which are part of package holidays sold by anyone except BA Holidays cannot be upgraded.

Upgrades use the same reward availability as Avios redemption tickets.  If you cannot book an Avios redemption in Premium Economy or Business Class, you won’t be able to upgrade your Economy or Premium Economy ticket.

Upgrades must be done in advance of travel.  You cannot upgrade with Avios on board or at check-in.

Whilst this article only looks at long haul, you can also upgrade short haul flights in the same way.

How do I book flights and upgrade with Avios?, 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:

You do not need to upgrade at the time of booking – indeed, it might not be possible if there are no Avios reward seats in the higher cabin to upgrade into. You can use ‘Manage My Booking’ online to upgrade later.

However, if you are planning to book an Economy ticket and upgrade it to Premium Economy then I would recommend doing it all at once. The method above ensures you are sold an upgradeable ticket in the first place and not a cheaper non-upgradeable one. It makes no difference in other cabins as all Premium Economy and Business Class seats can be upgraded, however cheap.

Note that, because British Airways has higher surcharges in First vs Business, Business vs Premium Economy and Premium Economy vs Economy, you will be asked for an additional cash payment on top of your Avios if you upgrade at a later date.

What does it cost to upgrade a BA flight with Avios?

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 you originally booked.

In addition, you pay the taxes and charges based on the cabin you fly in.

What changed with the introduction of Reward Flight Saver to long haul?

Intriguingly …. nothing.

It seems that someone at BA has taken a deliberate decision NOT to wreck ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ pricing.

This is a little surprising, given that the airline was happy to use the introduction of Reward Flight Saver to devalue ‘old style’ Amex 241 vouchers, Barclays Upgrade Voucher and Gold Upgrade Vouchers as well as flights from low-tax jurisdictions.

Here’s an example.

The new ‘base’ pricing for Business Class to New York, off peak and return, is 160,000 Avios + £350. The new ‘base’ price for Premium Economy to New York is 85,000 Avios + £280.

On this basis, ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ from Premium Economy to Business Class should cost (160,000 – 85,000) 75,000 Avios on an off-peak date.

Instead, it is unchanged at the old pre-December 2022 price:

You only require 48,000 Avios to upgrade an off-peak New York return flight to Business Class, which is the difference between the OLD base prices of 100,000 Avios for Business Class (Club World) and 52,000 Avios for Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus).

You will see that the ‘taxes and charges’ number is £996. This is identical to what you pay for a CASH ticket in Business Class to New York.

The base cash price shown, £1399, is the base price of a Premium Economy seat on the dates I looked at. The total cash price for Premium Economy, including £536 of taxes and charges, was a shocking £1935. It costs an extra £400 to upgrade to Business Class because BA adds an additional £400 of surcharges in this cabin.

(It’s hard to believe that a Premium Economy return flight to New York in mid February, including a Saturday night stay, costs £1935 but, in the current crazy market, it does.)

The Reward Flight Saver changes do not apply to First Class so, unsurprisingly, there are no changes to ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ pricing there.


As you are paying the ‘full’ taxes and charges figure when you use ‘Upgrade Using Avios’, not the new lower Reward Flight Saver figure, British Airways is – correctly – not asking you to pay the new, higher, base Avios prices when upgrading.

It’s bizarre that I need to run an article to highlight that BA has ‘done the right thing’ but, given some of the other changes in the last month, it wasn’t something to take for granted.

You can find our more about ‘Upgrade Using Avios’ on here.


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 (72)

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

  • Jonathon says:

    Sometimes I read these articles and think “SHHH DON’T TELL THEM THEY FORGOT THIS” because anything that can be changed, will be changed, now.

    • meta says:

      There are much worse changes on the horizon as insiders reported here and on Flyertalk.

      • astra19 says:

        Where can I find those discussions? I can’t see any on FT.

      • sturgeon says:

        What are these changes please? Can’t find anything obvious on FlyerTalk after having a look? I’m thinking of buying the Avios subscription and don’t want to hugely regret it.

      • Jake says:

        Yes – would also be interested to hear what people are saying. Do you have the FT link or can you please summarise?

        • meta says:

          There is nothing concrete, but apparently discussions are on the way. They wanted to to introduce it all now, but decided against it yet. It was alluded in comments on the threads when discussing changes. You need to read closely everything as it’s easy to miss those comments.

          • VALittleRed says:

            Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised further changes are in the pipeline, the lack of any detail or links provided by meta suggests they’re just trying to wind us up! Unless you could provide an example of a proposed change?

          • Rob says:

            Nick, who works for BA, posted it.

          • VALittleRed says:

            I Dread to think what these changes could be, if only they could just leave things alone!

          • Clayton says:

            Is said changes on the horizon not the planned future move to “revenue based reward matrix”? Wherein you get X avios on a baseline booking category of say 100 but 400 on semi flex and 1000 on fully flex fare buckets ( random figs for example only).

            Or is it something else just as gauling?

            If it is then we can buy hope, likely in vain, that it’s not as horrendous as many of us fear. That Iberia have brought it in and seem to be getting away with it means the chance of it not happening at BA shrinks by the day.

            As someone who self funds all their travel ( ie no company travel with which to get my status) it will be make or break for us. Sadly I doubt the higher ups will remember it was us premium cabin FF leisure travelers that helped keep them going these last couple years. As we did when the 08 crash happened. As we did when 9/11 occurred.

            I know, for example, all the US big 3 use revenue based systems but BAs attractiveness for non corporate fliers has long been it’s not doing so and if I’m priced out of status due to not buying enough semi/ fully flex fares I have no need for then it won’t be something forgotten.

            Of course if said ‘thing’ is something totally different then I guess this was pointless in a way

          • Jake says:

            @Rob – could you please post the FT link? Thanks

          • Rob says:

            Never seen it on FT.

          • Jake says:

            @Rob. Ahh thought it was on there. Thanks anyway.

          • Jack says:

            people keep posting this without saying what it is they refer to, BA has already shot itself in the foot with the ridiculous change to revenue earning they do not need to further devalue their brand. they should do well to remember that frequent fliers have kept the airline going lose them and there is no point flying them . What so called insiders I would like to see what is being suggested cannot see it on flyer talk but some suggestions people have said are very far fetched

          • Jack says:

            like what? they know people are already fed up with their rubbish performance as of late maybe they can stop trying to cost cut. nobody knows if things will change and they should not whatsoever . No one knows anyone who says they do does not frankly as nothing has been said other than rumors not minimum spend for status or that rubbish should ever happen and it is highly unlikely to. it is a joke BA need to remember frequent fliers keep them in business making the exec club worse with the current and any possible changes will not work

  • Mike Hunt says:

    Does there have to be avios seat availability in the seat class I am using avios to upgrade to, ie if I book and pay for WTP and want to upgrade to CW does there have to be avios availability in the CW cabin ?

  • Yona says:

    Do you get the TPs and avios of the original booking? (Or the new one?)

    • tony says:

      It should be the original booking points that apply. MMB frequently shows the points relating to the rebooked cabin, but it typically then posts as the original cabin. I believe people have also had experiences of it either posting as a redemption booking (no TPs or Avios) or giving points for the upgraded cabin, but as always, the first rule of fight club….

  • Britbronco says:

    The difference between 75k avios + ££70 (difference between the 2 RFS prices), and 40k avios + £400 to upgrade is pretty marginal. You are paying £330 for 35k avios.

    It’s really only the avios and TP you earn on the underlying WT+ fare that makes the upgrade route attractive, vs the flexibility of the RFS booking.

  • Sundar says:

    With WTP to CW upgrade, what would be the baggage allowance ? Would it be the WTP allowance or the enhanced CW allowance ? Mileage earning and Baggage allowances could be the other considerations(obviously other than the lounge/in-flight benefits) for some.

  • Kay says:

    If you upgrade a cash booking with Avios later, do you get all of the tier points for the higher class?

  • stevenhp1987 says:

    BA let me upgrade using Avios from Economy to Business on an AA flight recently for next year despite the flight having a Premium Economy. The flight was HBO.

    I paid 51,500 Avios and £321.38 pp to upgrade one leg.

    Oddly, the expected tier point income has changed. The AA flight was a BA codeshare in class N, earning 35 tier points. Upgrading has changed the flight number on the ticket to an AA one, meaning class N now only earns 20 tier points.

    It has changed the other leg from HBO to one with luggage though.

    • AK says:

      Could I ask what route this was? Did you book originally with cash on

      • stevenhp1987 says:

        LHR to MIA. HBO is only available for cash! Bought on

        AA allows free luggage for status members on HBO fares as well as main cabin extra seats (36″ pitch) so we tend to fly with them in economy across the atlantic rather than BA.

        Plus they operate out of T3…

  • Tom says:

    One issue with buying a cash ticket and then using Avios to upgrade is if you need to cancel the flight later. This happened to me in August. The cash refund was fine but the Avios were never returned to me.

    I rang BA and sent them a letter but, 4 months later, I still do not have the miles back. And I am Gold!

    It is only 9,500 Avios and so at this point I have given up on it.

    • SamG says:

      Yep. Best to call in and have them reverse the upgrade first and then do the cancellation

      If you’re on FT try PM BA Refund Helper

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