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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.

  • Johnny Cash says:

    I have always had excellent cash upgrades on Q and O classes in short haul. £90 only.

  • Erico1875 says:

    It was about 8 years ago, we upgraded a cheap economy Emirates Trivandrum to Dubai for £69 each.
    The Dubai to Glasgow leg was available for £269 each.
    Received the offer 3 days before flying

  • Andrew. says:

    So if I buy an economy ticket from London to JFK in class K, L, M, N, S, or V, I’d normally earn 35 tier points e/w.

    If I then upgrade to WTP using Avios, will my ticket switch to class E/T and earn 90 tier points or do I remain in the original tier class with the Avios upgrade?

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      Your avios & TP earnings will be for the underlying cash booking.

      Of course errors sometimes happen but it’s not something you can rely on.

    • CheshirePete says:

      It’s not generally ‘an error’ as such. All bookings have many codes in them to do various things. If the upgrade was done via self service, you can more or less guarantee that the auto system will apply all the necessary codes to ensure the TPs credited are for the original booking class. If, however, it is done manually by an agent then it depends if they follow the procedure to also manually add the necessary codes, and these also apply per passenger. They may ‘forget’, be unfamiliar with them, or some other reason. But this is never really an IT ‘error’ as such. It’s all about whether the correct codes are in the booking! Same applies when the wrong TPs credit for GUFs, especially, as they are almost always manual, and depends on the agent to know about it, or do the entires.

      • David P says:

        Out of curiosity, if an agent forgets to apply the correct codes when doing one of these avios upgrades, does the higher level of avios and TPs show in MMB before the flight, or does it just appear afterwards as an unexpected bonus?

  • John says:

    “ However, package tour flights (technically known as ‘IT fares’, usually the ones sold by other travel agents) cannot.”

    We discussed that our TMC in work had been booking “IT” class while describing them as something upgradable. It took months to explain the problem to procurement, and a year to dump the TMC.

  • Sam Wardill says:

    I wish that travel agent booked fares could be upgraded without having to call. This seems like something they should be able to fix.

    Secondly I wish they would have an upgrade waitlist program that allocated empty seats for Avios upgrades just before departure (like that operated by Qantas). There is nothing like getting a text just before departure saying that your points upgrade request has been successful .

    • Duncan says:

      Oh no. That’s the similar to the US way.
      On pretendy I mean domestic first, it’s a bit rubbish getting a full cabin full of upgrades.

  • elguiri says:

    If I upgrade a BA holiday from economy to CE with avios, do I get the increased tier points?

  • Dale says:

    Hi all – I’m assuming the following is not possible:

    1. I have 2x reward flight tickets from Heathrow to Singapore booked in Economy (WT), now wanting to upgrade to CW/Busines
    2. Can I upgrade reward flights to WT+/Premium Economy via avios upgrade
    3. And then upgrade WT+ seat again via Avios to CW/business?

    Would love to know if this is possible, although I fear I already know the answer…!

    Many thanks!

    • Rob says:

      You can do it, because it’s a reward flight – the call centre simply rebooks that leg. Obviously you need reward seats to open up.

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

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