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Which British Airways economy flight tickets can be upgraded with Avios?

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Outside the world of Head for Points readers, where there tends to be a stronger focus on long haul Business Class flying, one of the key wishes of people who have frequent flyer miles is to use them to upgrade from Economy.

Unfortunately, this is rarely as easy as it sounds. I’m not sure which airlines allow you to upgrade a deeply discounted, ‘no refunds’ Economy ticket but it must be a pretty short list.

British Airways has, over the years, made it easier to upgrade Economy flights using Avios.

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. Over time it has become more generous.

how to upgrade british airways flights with avios

You can currently 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, including some non-refundable ones.

Here is the bad news.

You cannot upgrade O, G and Q fare classes.  These are the cheapest Economy / World Traveller ticket types and the types that the majority of leisure travellers will buy.

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: O’, for example:

Which British Airways economy flight tickets can be upgraded with Avios?

As this flight is in ‘O’ class, it cannot be upgraded with Avios.

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 booking page. You are looking for this:

Which British Airways economy flight tickets can be upgraded with Avios?

How can I upgrade an existing booking with Avios?

This is a pleasingly simple process, as long as your ticket is in a qualifying booking class and there is Avios reward availability in the higher class.

You should go to the ‘Manage My Booking’ section on ba.com, select your flight and choose ‘Upgrade this flight with Avios’.

Note that additional taxes and charges will be due. Part of this will be to cover higher rate Air Passenger Duty and part will be for any additional British Airways surcharges added to premium cabins on that route.

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 known 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.

Note that upgrade pricing does NOT use ‘Reward Flight Saver’ prices

Last year, British Airways introduced ‘Reward Flight Saver’ pricing on long haul. This introduced a ‘more Avios, less cash’ redemption option with the cash element being fixed. To New York, for example, the headline one way peak price in Club World became 90,000 Avios + £175 each way. In World Traveller Plus it became 60,000 + £140.

This is NOT the Avios pricing being used for upgrades, luckily. If it was, a one way upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World would cost 30,000 Avios and not the 20,000 Avios given in BA’s example.

An upgrade prices off the Avios charged to a member who does not qualify for Reward Flight Saver pricing. This is usually the 3rd pricing option of the six that ba.com offers you and is what ba.com is quoting in the example above.

Which British Airways economy flight tickets can be upgraded with Avios?

Is it worth upgrading Economy flights on British Airways?

It depends ……

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.

World Traveller Plus attracts the higher rate of Air Passenger Duty so there would be additional tax to pay.  British Airways also adds additional surcharges of its own.

You ARE getting a bigger seat and better food and drink, but you may find the combination of additional Avios and additional cash – much of which, to be fair, is Air Passenger Duty which goes straight to the Government – makes it a bad deal.

On short haul, upgrading from Economy to Business requires a different sort of trade off. There is virtually no difference in the seat (apart from having an empty middle seat) but you are getting lounge access, priority check-in, priority boarding, fast track security and a fairly decent meal with champagne. It’s up to you if this is worth the extra cash and Avios required.

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, or leisure travellers who book at relatively short notice and up with a ticket in one of the pricier (and so upgradable) fare buckets.

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


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2024)

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

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up 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 £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

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

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (38)

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

  • Jonathan says:

    BA’s booking class system in ET / WT is so all over the place, I’ve seen tickets being sold in K / M / V / L / S / N, and it was about £20 (yes, I’m not joking) from Dublin to T5

    The booking code your fare attracts is random at best, at least BA tells you before you though, there’s countless airlines who’re very good at hiding their booking codes as much as they can

  • Olly says:

    In my experience, even calling doesn’t help enable you to upgrade a flight issued by a travel agent. Instead the feedback I’ve had from multiple BA agents is that this needs to be managed by the travel agency themselves

    • VinZ says:

      Not necessarily true. Apparently there are travel agent issued tickets that CS can upgrade. When I’m told they can’t do anything I always try another couple of times to make sure.

    • SamG says:

      I have upgraded my work travel agent tickets a few times without issue. It’s pretty good value USA to UK as you do not attract additional APD, last time the extra “tax” was £20

  • lumma says:

    As it’s not exactly amazing value, I don’t get why they need to make it so restrictive. Surely someone on a £400 return to the USA is the perfect person to sell an upgrade to? They’ll be using a similar amount of Avios as someone using a Barclays upgrade voucher but they’ll also have a new economy seat to sell again but they also have full control over how many they sell like any regular Avios seats.

    There can’t be many business travellers whose company policy is economy for long haul but full flex tickets

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Nobody would ever pay business fare if you could buy economy for £400 and upgrade…

      • lumma says:

        You can’t upgrade to business from economy anyway. You’d still be paying ⅔ of the Avios that you’d be paying for a regular redemption plus a chunk of extra fees even if they allowed it

    • Chris W says:

      I wish they allowed discount economy to be upgraded for a higher Avios amount. That seems like a fair compromise.

  • Howard says:

    The biggest problem with Ba, among a very long list of problems with BA as an airline is they don’t offer the ability to upgrade at check in/on departure. Cathay, Qatar & Qantas do of the airlines I use

    • Rob says:

      You can do it for cash at check-in, just not Avios. I even saw the signs out the other week in Reykjavik – ‘Ask me about an upgrade’.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        There are such signs all over the network – when upgrades are on offer,

        At LHR for example the screens often show the ‘ask about upgrades’ messages. Even when they don’t no harm in asking and the check in agent will have a quick look.

    • RT says:

      Yea I’ve jumped from BA Economy to Club World for £700 before (long haul LHR to JNB), at the check-in desk at T5.
      Qatar will do cash or Avios at CS at the airport, but the difference can be huge. 5 days ago I was quoted £1900 Economy to Business for Doha to LHR. The CS guys jaw even dropped and he stated that was the highest leg upgrade he’d seen. However, I asked about Avios instead : 40 000…. Yep, done! Only downside is you can only book Qatar Avios upgrades like that 1 hour before the flight (although they operate a “waiting list” too). Cash is 3 hours. So cash upgrades can jump ahead of Avios upgrades (fortunately at £1900 that was unlikely and I was #1 on the waiting list).

  • Osagie says:

    “On short haul, upgrading from Economy to Business requires a different sort of trade off.” If you need to check-in 2 suitcases rather than one in economy, often the price differential of paying for the suitcase or upgrading to business can be minimal, and well worth the upgrade

  • LittleNick says:

    “A BA Economy / Euro Traveller ticket can only be upgraded, if it can be upgraded at all, to World Traveller Plus on long-haul.”
    Think Euro in the first line should be changed to World here?

  • Iain says:

    Is it possible to upgrade a BA holiday flight to CE for just one of the party of 4 passengers on the same booking? And if so, I assume double tier points would apply if the usual BAH double TPs conditions applied?

    • NorthernLass says:

      You wouldn’t TPs for upgrading with avios.

    • silversurfer says:

      Yes you just need to give them a call, i did this recently for 2 out of 6 passengers. Bare in mind they did charge a £65 change fee( although this is listed as £100 online ) on top of the fare difference

    • Rob says:

      No. You’d need to split the booking into two (generating an additional flight booking reference) and then upgrade.

  • Chris W says:

    I hear so many people say they are collecting points (not just Avios) so they can “upgrade to business class” on an upcoming long-haul cash ticket they have booked.

    They believe when they do online check-in, there will be an easy “care to upgrade with points?” option where with the click of a button, a small amount of points will be deducted from their account and they will be moved to a much more comfortable seat.

    As you point out, on BA at least, it is very unlikely they will be doing this. They don’t realise this until check-in, declare loyalty rewards a “complete scam” and never bother trying again.

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