Bagging a cheap upgrade

However enthusiastic you are about air travel, one thing unites all travellers… the desire to turn left on the aeroplane.

Much of what 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 maximum value for each Avios if done correctly.

Along with paying full whack, shameless begging, and using Avios, there are other methods of bagging an upgrade, and today I will look into Pro-active Online Upgrades (fondly known as POUGs). Just like trying to avoid extortionate UK air taxes, there is no exact science behind chasing a POUG, but there are games to be played!

What is a Pro-active Online Upgrade (POUG)?

After you have booked a British Airways flight, you may be offered to upgrade to the next class of travel through “Manage My Booking” (you can sign into this on the British Airways site to look at details of your flight, select seats, book hotels etc.)

BA will charge a cash fee for the upgrade.

BA may also offer similar cash upgrades in the airport at check in, and a trial of on-board upgrades is also being conducted.

Here is what a POUG offer looks like for an upcoming flight of mine to Madrid:

Now the outbound offer is nothing to shout about, but on the inbound flight, an offer of £79 may represent excellent value. I went on to check how much this upgrade would have been by simply booking business class on the website, and this would have come in at £239. This is £145 more than what I paid for my ticket. By upgrading after booking, utilising this POUG, I stand to save £66.

This is on a short-haul flight. The savings on a long-haul upgrade could be more significant.

So in the first instance, you should always check on Manage My Booking, by clicking on “upgrade using cash” to see if you can have yourself a bargain upgrade.

Can I speculatively chase a Pro-active Upgrade?!

In short, YES! As they say, you must speculate to accumulate.

Here is method that can be tried, but should be exercised with maximum caution. I would only advise doing this with a flight that you definitely want to take anyway, just in case anything goes wrong.

The loophole that shall become your friend is BA’s policy of allowing you to request a full refund of any flight (including non-refundable flights) within 24 hours of booking. This is in place to assist people who have accidentally booked tickets with the wrong name, or for the wrong date.

However, nothing stops you cancelling if you haven’t managed to find a cheap enough POUG!

Here is how it works:

1. Book your desired flight in the class of travel below that you would really like to travel in (you may only be able to upgrade by one class)

2. Immediately log in to “Manage My Booking” using your name and booking reference

3. Follow the links to “upgrade using cash”

4. Check if BA are offering you a POUG, and if so, check the price.

5. If this is satisfactory, upgrade, pay, and you’ve won!

6. If not, immediately cancel your flight (or keep it if you still want it in that class of travel!)

Can this go wrong?

It would be foolish to conduct such a plan with full confidence you will receive a refund. You should check BA’s terms and conditions carefully, and be aware that they may change. To be safe, only try this trick when booking flights you are happy to take anyway, that way, you can’t be disappointed.

How much is the average POUG?

There is huge variation between prices offered (if offered at all). However, the magical world of Flyertalk has a thread titled “Pro-active Upgrade Cost Tracking Thread” (click here to view). There are currently over 1700 posts detailing how much people have been offered upgrades for and is a fantastic place to get a good feel for POUGs. I have put together a few recent offers from the board in the chart below as a quick reference guide:

Route Class of upgrade Price
London – Cancun World Traveller Plus £150
London – Sydney World Traveller Plus £189
London – Madrid (and many other European destinations) Club Europe £79
Houston – Heathrow Club World £525
London – Hong Kong First Class £399
London – Hong Kong World Traveller Plus £199
London – Kingston, Jamaica World Traveller Plus £179

WARNING – you may still earn tier points and miles in accordance with your original booking class.

In conclusion

If you are after an upgrade, this is a method that may well suit your circumstances. It is ALWAYS worth checking both online, and at the airport. You may get lucky and get your upgrade for bargain price.

As always, please feel free to comment with any questions or additional tips you may have. Please follow the blog to get posts straight to your inbox, and follow the Miles Mogul on Facebook!

Nicky

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4 thoughts on “Bagging a cheap upgrade

  1. […] I wrote a post about this. I'm a real amateur compared to you guys so some constructive criticism might be good! https://milesmogul.wordpress.com/2013…cheap-upgrade/ […]

  2. Tom Betts says:

    Worked a treat. Even better – you can check for availability of I class tickets using flightstats.com for free. I checked my outbound and return flights..outbound was showing nothing, return had 9+. Sure enough, the POUG came good on the return, nothing on the outbound.

    Was there right away in MMB. Excellent tip!

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