British Airways Upgrades Using Avios
In this post we'll cover everything you need to know about British Airways Upgrades using Avios to business and first class and how this is a great way to save miles and money. Ah, upgrades. They are the best. Upgrades are a complimentary perk of having airline elite status but they're not always available and most people don't have airline status. Even with British Airways Executive Club status there are many cases where complimentary upgrades aren't offered, including long-haul flights where business or first class is a must. But there are other ways to score an upgrade. Read on for more details on upgrading to premium cabins with Avios.
Which BA Fares Can You Upgrade with Avios?
British Airways offers upgrades into their Premium Economy, Business, and First class products, depending on the cabin from which you are upgrading aka your original ticket cabin. One cool thing is that the majority of British Airways fares are upgradeable. The easiest thing to remember is that only the lowest economy (World Traveler) fares (Fare Classes: Q, O and G) are not upgradeable with Avios. All other fare classes are upgradeable.
When upgrading with Avios, you can upgrade one cabin class from your original ticketed cabin. This means on long-haul flights you can upgrade:
- From economy into premium economy (except fare classes Q, O and G)
- From premium economy into business
- From business into first (if offered on the aircraft)
On short-haul flights you can upgrade from economy into business. But short-haul business class on British Airways and other European airlines isn't anything to write home about so definitely consider do a cost benefit analysis before spending any extra money.
Requirements for Upgrading with Avios
To be able to upgrade a ticket with British Airways Avios, your ticket must be issued by British Airways (ticket numbers starting with ‘125' are BA issued). The ticket can include segments on partner airlines, but you can generally only upgrade the segments on British Airways (there are exceptions for fully flexible American or Iberia flights). If your ticket was issued by another airline, even the British Airways segments cannot be upgraded with Avios.
Here are some additional requirements for upgrading with Avios:
- Seats in the higher cabin must be available for Avios bookings in order to upgrade. (AKA- is there award availability in the cabin you'd like to upgrade to.)
- You can upgrade a ticket on a segment-by-segment basis (you do not need to upgrade all segments).
- If you initially upgrade one segment and availability opens later on another segment, you can upgrade that segment at that time.
- You can only upgrade using British Airways Avios. If you have Avios with Iberia or Aer Lingus, these can easily be transferred into your Executive Club account.
- Upgrades can be done online at ba.com by clicking ‘Manage My Booking' and selecting ‘Upgrade this Flight with Avios'.
- You can even check for Avios-upgradable tickets during the booking process.
- Tickets booked through a travel agent (as long as they are not in fare classes Q, O and G) can be upgraded online at ba.com. However, this does not apply to Bulk Tour and Inclusive Tour fares.
How Will Miles Be Calculated
Your ticket will earn Avios based on the original fare class. Check out this step by step guide to figure out how many miles you'll earn and where to credit your flight. “Easily Calculate How Many Miles You’ll Earn for a Flight”
How Many Avios Does it Cost to Upgrade
The best deals are usually booking a relatively inexpensive business class ticket and upgrading to first class (clearly the most bougie), or buying an inexpensive premium economy ticket and upgrading to business class. Upgrading from economy to premium economy usually isn't a great deal, as you'll be hit with substantial taxes and fees.
To determine how many Avios you need to upgrade a British Airways flight, you'll need to determine the difference in Avios cost between the two cabins.
The formula is: # of Avios required to upgrade one way Equals
(Avios for the cabin you wish to upgrade to – Avios for the original cabin)
Here are a few example Avios upgrade prices:
- LHR to DXB, one-way peak: premium economy (40,000 Avios) to business class (60,000 Avios) = 20,000 Avios.
- CPT to ORD via LHR, one-way off-peak: premium economy (58,500 Avios) to business (112,500 Avios) = 54,000 Avios.
- JFK to LHR, one-way off-peak: business class (68,000 Avios) to first class (50,000 Avios) = 18,000 Avios.
Given the regularity of Avios transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards, some of these prices are even more amazing. The JFK to LHR upgrade from business to first is only ~13,000 transferable points, assuming you catch a 40% transfer bonus! Check out this post for everything you need to know about transferable points like Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and Thank You Points, “Credit Card Rewards: Transferable Credit Card Points GUIDE.”
British Airways Upgrades Using Avios: The Process
Depending on the route, British Airways award availability can range from decent to great. There are some routes where finding first class space is difficult, but you can often find something that works if your travel dates are flexible, or if you're looking for a World Traveller Plus (premium economy) to Club World (business class) upgrade.
To get started, head to ba.com and use the ‘Book and Upgrade' tab to select your route, dates, and initial cabin class to get started. The search will look for Avios awards in the next available class, allowing you to book a ticket and upgrade all at once. As an example, I searched for JFK to LHR in early June 2021 in premium economy, looking to be upgraded to Club World for both the inbound and outbound segments. The prices were for off-peak dates.
Both segments showed availability in Club World (business class). After selecting flights, the next page will display the total for the ticket, including the upgrade with Avios. Alternatively, you can use the Book with Avios search to find the award space and then book the cash ticket rather than trying to do it all at once.
A premium economy flight through Google Flights is only $1,300, however. The cash cost here seems inflated. Alternatively, you can book a ticket with cash at ba.com (or an online travel portal like Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards) and then call up British Airways at 1 (800) 247-9297 to upgrade with Avios. Upgrading this way will require the same number of Avios but likely a whole lot less in taxes and fees. Sometimes I don't buy what the British Airways website is telling me. In this particular case you can purchase a business class round-trip ticket for just shy of $2,500 anyway, so the upgrade isn't worth it.
The benefit of upgrading tickets in cabins other than economy is that the taxes and fees are generally reasonable. Like I said, always check the going prices to see what value you're getting. I personally think upgrading from business to first class offers the best value for sure.
You can also upgrade tickets already booked with Avios. This is one way to lock in a flight in a lower cabin class and then check back later for a flight in a nicer cabin. You'll just pay the difference in Avios, taxes, and fees.
Upgrading with Avios can be an excellent way to use your points to fly up front. In many cases, a business class or first class upgrade using Avios is an excellent deal when compared to the cash cost of the flight, even including the additional taxes and fees. Always double-check the math, though, when booking your initial ticket. Ideally, you can search and book a flight with Avios space available and immediately upgrade the ticket.