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How To Upgrade British Airways Bookings Using Avios

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Avios are often a much-maligned currency due to the high surcharges that are usually added to most long-haul awards by British Airways. Using Avios to upgrade a cash fare, however, can be an excellent way to get great value out of the currency so I’ve put together a brief post showing just how easy it is to upgrade a British Airways booking using Avios.

Upgrade Using Avios – Basic Rules

  • You can’t upgrade your flight using Avios through British Airways if your ticket was issued by another airline (e.g. Iberia, American, etc…) even if you’re flying on a British Airways aircraft.
  • Travelers can only upgrade their tickets by one cabin of service.
  • You can only use Avios from a British Airways Executive Club account to upgrade a British Airways booking.
  • You can only upgrade if there’s reward flight availability in the cabin you’re upgrading into.
  • The cheapest Economy Class fares (fare classes G, O, & Q) cannot be upgraded.
  • Most World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and Club World (Business Class) fares can be upgraded.
  • Tickets can be upgraded either at the time of booking or at a later date but not onboard your flight.
  • Multi-segment tickets can be upgraded one segment at a time as availability opens up.
  • Not all segments of a trip have to be upgraded.

Upgrading British Airways Flights Using Avios

Don’t forget: If you’re booked into the lowest Economy Class fares (fare classes/codes Q, O, or G) you cannot upgrade your trip using Avios.

How To Check Upgrade Availability

This is a lot simpler with British Airways than it is with some airlines because on British Airways, upgrades use the same inventory as reward seats.

This means that if you can see availability for an Avios redemption on BA.com (for the cabin you wish to upgrade into), you can also upgrade into that cabin as long as it’s only one cabin above the one you’re already booked to fly.

So, in the case of the flights below, a traveler who was already booked into Premium Economy would be able to use Avios to upgrade into Business Class (because BA.com is showing 1 reward seat available)…

Click to enlarge

…but a traveler booked into Economy Class would not be able to upgrade into Premium Economy because there are no reward seats available in that higher cabin.

How To Upgrade An Existing Booking 

  • Log in to your account on BA.com
  • Access your booking via “Manage My Booking” or via your BAEC account
  • Select the specific flight you wish to upgrade:

  • Scroll to the bottom of the page where you should see the option to ‘Upgrade Using Avios’. If the option doesn’t appear it almost certainly means that there is no award space in the cabin above the one you’re booked into so an upgrade is not available.
  • Follow the instructions from there.

The Cost To Upgrade With Avios

To work out the number of Avios you’ll need to upgrade a flight you can use this simple formula:

Avios needed for reward flight in destination cabin less the Avios needed for reward flight in the cabin originally booked = Avios needed to upgrade

You’ll need the British Airways reward chart for this:

Click to enlarge

So, to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class on a flight from New York to London (zone 5) during peak season, you would need to pay:

60,000 Avios (reward flight cost for Business Class) less 40,000 Avios (reward flight cost for Premium Economy) = 20,000 Avios to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class

To upgrade a roundtrip booking would therefore cost 40,000 Avios.

If you take a close look at the reward chart you may notice something that appears to defy logic. The way British Airways has structured its reward chart means that it costs more to upgrade using Avios during off-peak dates than it does during peak dates. 

Be aware that as well as the Avios needed to upgrade, most upgrades will also require a flyer to pay additional taxes and/or surcharges. Upgrades from Economy to Premium Economy out of the UK will have additional taxes added as well as an additional BA surcharge, and upgrades from Premium Economy to Business Class will incur an extra British Airways surcharge.

Bottom Line

Upgrading a World Traveller Plus fare (Premium Economy) to Club World (Business Class) can be one of the very best uses of Avios around. World Traveller Plus cash fares are often considerably cheaper than Club World fares so as the number of Avios needed to upgrade from one cabin to the other can be very reasonable, using Avios to upgrade can be a very economical way to fly in a lot more comfort than most people do.

The upgrade in service and quality between Club World and First Class is nowhere near as big as the upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World, but First Class is still a big draw for a lot of people. The cost of a First Class ticket will probably always be beyond the means of most of us but the miles and points world can be a great leveler, and using Avios to upgrade into First Class (from a Club World fare bought in a great sale) is one of the very few ways to experience First Class without breaking the bank.

Tip: Don’t forget that you don’t have to upgrade all the flights in your trip – upgrading just one flight is fine. I often book roundtrip World Traveller Plus fares for travel across the Atlantic and then I just upgrade the overnight flight (USA – UK) as that’s really the only segment on which I need the lie-flat bed. 

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