Spending Avios – Upgrade Using Avios

Following on from the last post about Reward Flight Saver redemptions, today I will deal with one of the ways to get maximum value for your Avios.

British Airways allows you to buy a ticket for cash, and then use Avios to upgrade to a higher class of travel. BA call this “Upgrade Using Avios” (UuA).

Here is a quick picture guide to British Airways’ cabins, pay attention to the abbreviations, I’ll be using them from now on:

World Traveller (WT):

World Traveller Plus (WT+)

Club World (CW):

First (F):

What are the rules?

Here are some of the key rules associated with UuA:

1. You can only upgrade by one class (e.g. from CW to F)

2. You cannot upgrade a discounted WT ticket (i.e. cheap economy tickets).

3. You can upgrade almost any WT+ or CW ticket

4. You can only UuA on British Airways, although if you are connecting onto an American Airlines or Iberia flight, you may be able to upgrade all legs.

5. You will still earn Avios and tier points on the ticket you pay for with cash (i.e. when upgrading from CW to F, you will still earn CW Avios and Tier Points)

What upgrade is the best value?

By far and away the best UuA, and potentially the best use of avios overall, is to buy a WT+ ticket with cash, and UuA to CW.

To best demonstrate why buying a WT+ ticket and then upgrading to CW produces the best value, I have calculated upgrades between all classes for a RETURN flight from London to New York or Tokyo, using dates of 2 – 9 September 2013. All these options are freely available on ba.com.

Destination Type of Upgrade Avios to upgrade Avios Earned on cash part of ticket Net Avios to upgrade Price of original ticket Cash value of upgraded ticket Difference in price Value per Avios
New York WT to WT+ 20000 6916 13084 £1516 £872 WT+ is cheaper! WT+ is cheaper!
WT+ to CW 20000 8646 11354 £872 £2506 £1634 £0.14
CW to F 40000 10374 29626 £2506 £6210 £3700 £0.12
Tokyo WT to WT+ 30000 12444 17556 £2000 £1248 WT+ is cheaper! WT+ is cheaper!
WT+ to CW 30000 15556 14444 £1248 £3242 £1994 £0.14
CW to F 60000 18666 41334 £3242 £6505 £3264 £0.08

This clearly shows how upgrading from WT to WT+ is terrible value, as a fully flexible ticket in economy (only this type of economy ticket can be upgraded) is an absolute fortune!

How do I book?

1. Sign into your British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) account, click “Spending Avios” then “Book with cash and upgrade with Avios”

2. Book your flight as usual, then sign into “Manage My Booking” on ba.com and follow the option to upgrade using Avios.

3. Call the BAEC

How do I check availability?

You can sign into your BAEC account, and click “Book flights with Avios”. By searching this way, you can see all the redemption availability for each cabin and route. You can also utilise BA’s helpful “availability calendar” to see a wide range of dates. The availability is identical for UuA and booking flights with Avios outright.

How many Avios do I need to upgrade?

I have put together a chart of how many Avios are needed to upgrade from WT+ to CW for a range of destinations from London.

These are the amounts for a one-way flight, so double for a return flight. You can also double to get the correct figure for a CW to F upgrade.

REMEMBER – these amounts do not take into account the amount of Avios you will earn on the cash part of your ticket. This loophole usually means you will actually pay about half of the amount shown.

Destination Avios to upgrade
New York 10000
Cape Town 12500
Los Angeles
Las Vegas
Rio De Janeiro 15000
Buenos Aires 17500
Sydney 25000

In conclusion

UuA used in the right way can extract up to £0.14 value or more from each and every Avios! It also puts into context the value of your 20,000 bonus points from the Amex gold card. You could use these 20,000 for a return upgrade to Club World to New York and back worth £1634!

For more information on this process from BA themselves, click here.

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Thanks for reading!


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9 thoughts on “Spending Avios – Upgrade Using Avios

  1. […] the thorn in a miles collector’s side. As outlined in my posts about Reward Flight Savers, and Upgrading Using Avios, taxes can prove to be extortionate, making redemptions in economy terrible value. Avoiding these […]

  2. […] I write on this blog is focussed towards attaining premium classes without paying premium prices. Upgrading Using Avios, as per this previous post, is one of the most cost effective ways of having a fully flat bed in the sky, and will extract the […]

  3. David Gordon says:

    Sorry but there is a misleading section which implies that you continue to earn avios rewards for the cash paid part of the journey.it appears that according to BA that if ANY part of the trip is upgraded using Avios even the whole booking is seen as in eligible for rewards.

    • nickykelvin says:

      Hi David

      If for example you book a cash club world ticket and upgrade using avios to first, you will earn full avios for the club world cash part of the ticket.

      Is it this that you say is not the case?

      With all due respect I think you may be incorrect but please point me in the direction where BA infer this is wrong.


      • David Gordon says:

        Hi Nicky,
        Sorry but that is not what BA is saying to me now. I paid for a full fare business ticket to Canada and upgraded the return leg from Premium Economy Plus using Avios miles. BA says that this counts as an Avios booking and so none of it counts for Avios miles or tier points. (even this was not cheap costing over £2,000!). I think travellers need to know this before they upgrade so they understand the downside of upgrading with Avios.
        I did this to use up some Avios and save money as it can be quite difficult to actually spend Avios (I have over 100 K). In retrospect this was foolish as I need the tier points to maintain my Ececutive Club status.

  4. nickykelvin says:

    Hi David

    Apologies, I’m not sure what you mean by a I’m not sure what you mean by a full fare business ticket. Just to clarify, did you book a cash return in World Traveller Plus and upgrade to Club World using Avios?

    If so, I am almost certain you should earn the Avios on the World Traveller Plus cash bought part of the ticket, and you should pursue the Executive Club to post these avios to your account. You should also earn tier points on the WT+ part of the ticket too.

    Best wishes

  5. David Gordon says:

    We bought a FUll fare business ticket from London to Vancouver, Canada and a World Traveller Plus Ticket from Montreal back to London. We upgraded using Avios the leg from Montreal to London. As this was all one booking they now say that this is in eligible for Avios and Tier points on the outward Business Class Leg and for Avios and Miles and Tier points appropriate to World Traveller Plus on the return leg. I know this is not what we expected hence my comment that you need to change your article. We have pursued Avios to get these points and Tier points posted and they say NO and do not want to enter into any further discussion on the matter. It appears to be a change in policy.

    • nickykelvin says:

      Hi again

      This is from the executive club conditions of use under the upgrading using avios section:

      “4. Tier Points and Avios Points will be awarded according to the commercial ticket purchased.”

      I would cite this in your next correspondence with them.

      I’d be really interested to see what they have said to you. Is there any way you could post it? It’s really cheeky what they are doing.

      If you continue to have problems let me know, I will take the issue to flyertalk where some very knowledgable frequent flyers may have some further information.


      • David Gordon says:

        Hi Nick,
        Thank you for your views and offer of help. I fear this is BA changing the rules as they wish. I will quote the paragraph to them again, though they have said the matter is closed so I will have to open a new complaint with them. I have very little hope of them honouring their so called rules.

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