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Old Jan 2, 2016, 6:29 am
Moderator: British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Airlines, Airport Lounges and Environmentally Friendly Travel
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: London, UK
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Upgrading using Avios

Upgrading using Avios (UuA) allows BAEC members to use their Avios points to upgrade either a new or existing cash booking to the next cabin above. Until the April 2015 changes came into effect it was seen as a good use of Avios, particularly in terms of upgrading WT+ tickets into Club World.

You can only upgrade one cabin, however if your particular flight does not offer a WT+ cabin it is possible to UuA directly from World Traveller to Club World. UuA can be used on BA, IB and American Airlines, subject to availability. Note that for EuroTraveller and World Traveller bookings, O, Q and G buckets cannot be upgraded. Generally speaking all paid for WT+ and CW tickets can upgraded, subject to availability. UuA draws availability from the same pool as straight redemptions, so you may find making dummy bookings for redemptions the fastest way to find out whether you can deploy UuA. You can also pay for, and then immediately upgrade it, in the same booking; or UuA an existing booking at a later date, see below. You can also UuA one or several legs of a return or multi-city booking, which may be a necessary strategy if availability comes online at different times.
UuAs can only be applied to tickets issued on 125 stock. In other words tickets issued by BA or BA registered travel agents with ticket numbers beginning 125. Tickets sold by Iberia and American Airlines are issued on different numbered stock and cannot be upgraded using Avios.
The genius of UuA is despite the upgrade being pulled from redemption inventory, the booking retains an underlying commercial fare. This means you earn Avios and Tier Points for your flights in accordance with the original selling fare. If you are a Gold member it gets better as you'll also earn a 100% Tier Bonus on top of the base Avios.

Using London to Chicago booking one way in WT+ and upgraded with Avios to Club World. The upgrade is an up front cost of 20,000 Avios (peak date). The flight earns 3,950 base Avios, a cabin bonus of 1,975 Avios if booked in W class, and for Gold members an additional 3,950 Avios. This reduces the net cost of the upgrade to a pleasingly slender 10,125 Avios. This is a best case scenario - if your flight was booked in T or E class then it does not qualify for a cabin bonus; if an off-peak date applied then the cost to upgrade would in this example increase by 5,000 Avios and if you are a Silver or Bronze member, the tier bonus would also be lower.

01 UuA on BA only flights, booked through a BA sales channel

You can upgrade from economy to premium economy on all published fares except Q, O, and G. You can upgrade any World Traveller Plus or Club World fare to the next available cabin. One-way UuAs are possible at any time as is cherry picking individual sectors for upgrade.

The good thing about UuA is that you’ll earn Avios and Tier Points for the fare you purchased, i.e. the paid fare you are upgrading from. This is about the only visible ‘difference’ in treatment between an UuA (or, in terms of entitlements rather than ‘earning’ anything, a full award ticket too) versus a fully paid ticket for that class. You are entitled to all the benefits of a normal fare-paying passenger in the upgraded cabin (e.g. lounge access, relevant check-in desks, Spa treatments, etc. as applicable).
You can only upgrade one class at a time.
The cost of using this mechanism to upgrade to Club World and First on long haul increased substantially on 28 April 2015 and as the calculation is now based on variable rates, you need to check a) what is the flight distance? and b) does the flight date fall into peak or off peak? Once you’ve established these two factors, you can work out the cost to upgrade your flight. A 12 month forward view of peak and off peak dates is published on See here and navigate to “Working out the cost”.

In addition to Avios, you need to pay the differential in Government taxes and carrier charges.

So for example, let’s say you want to book a return from London to San Francisco, moving from World Traveller Plus to Club World. The basic fare is (say) 900 including taxes. Upgrading from World Traveller Plus to Club World. As this route distance falls into band 6, the upgrade cost will be 30,000 Avios for an off-peak date or 25,000 Avios for a peak date plus any upward adjustment in carrier charges.

When it comes to changing UuA it can get complicated. If you UuA from a restricted ticket, then those restrictions still apply. If you UuA from a full fare, unrestricted ticket, the base flexibility remains BUT to retain the UuA you must find award availability on the flight you change to. After departure, you will lose the Avios (like for a standard redemption) if you make changes.

UuA can be a tad problematic when it comes to actually getting credit for the fare you paid. UuAs are an oddity, as the system needs to track two fare classes, the one you paid for, and the one you booked into. The problem is, the fare class you book into, is the same as for award tickets. So the system can incorrectly log it as an award ticket, and it comes up on the statement as earning no points or miles.

For example, a normal UuA from WT+ to Club, should appear on your statement as J/T (i.e. you sat in J but paid for T). Most of the time, it comes up as J/U instead. To correct this, you need to speak to someone at the service centre. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to credit.

02 UuA on BA only flight, booked through a travel agency

The ability to upgrade Travel Agent (TA) issued tickets is possible since 17 July 2012, with corporate net tickets from 24 July 2012. Unfortunately, marine fares are not eligible. There are a number of criteria, and broadly follow the same terms and conditions as Upgrade Using Avios (UUA) on a normal booking:

  • The country in which the TA is in must be the same as the address in your BAEC profile for you to be able to UUA. So if your TA is in the USA and booked the tickets from there, and your BAEC profile is in UK, unfortunately you're out of luck.
  • Tickets can be upgraded into the next as long the fare was in the following classes: Y, B, and H (Economy); W, E, and T (Premium Economy); J, C, D, R, and I (Business)
  • The flights must be BA-coded and on BA metal. For example, a QF-codeshare on BA metal will not be eligible. If your booking includes non-BA flights, it will not be eligible for UuA
  • A booking that has already been part flown will not be upgradeable.
  • You can upgrade using the Manage My Booking (MMB) facility and select the Upgrade this flight using Avios.
  • Upgrades are only possible if there is redemption availability in the cabin you want to upgrade into. Bulk Ticket and Included Tour tickets cannot be upgraded.
  • You will pay for the fees associated with the upgrade using Avios, eg, additional taxes.
  • Once the upgrade takes place, BA re-issues the ticket and is then responsible for servicing the ticket for any changes for the re-issued ticket, not the travel agent.
  • This means BA will be the contact for communications regarding any changes to the upgraded tickets. However, BA will not take ownership of the PNR and any other non-flight arrangements.
  • If the upgraded ticket(s) need to be cancelled, then the passenger must contact their local BA centre.
  • The travel agent cannot make changes on behalf of the passenger unless the TA is a nominee on the passenger's BAEC account.
  • Generally, if any changes are to be made to an upgraded ticket, it is advisable to contact both BA and the travel agent, in case there are elements of the PNR that require action by both parties.
  • If you change your flights, your upgrade will be preserved if there is award availability in that class for the new flight, even within 24hrs.
  • Otherwise, miles will be refunded, subject to "redemption charge" if outside 24hrs, or tough luck; nada within 24hrs.

03 UuA on BA, AA, and IB flights

UuA can also be applied to American Airlines and Iberia flights and/or tickets combining travel on either of these airlines plus BA. The rules that apply to upgrading BA flights generally apply to AA and IB flights, albeit with a few differences.

  • Flights must be booked directly through BA. Flights booked through a travel agent are not eligible.
  • Flights booked as part of a package holiday (even if booked through BA) are not eligible. This includes bulk tickets and Inclusive Tour (IT) tickets.
  • UuA is permitted on eligible published fares only. Those fare classes are: J, C, and D (Business); W (Premium Economy); Y and B (Economy).
  • If you cancel an UuA booking, the whole journey must be cancelled.

Current rates for upgrading AA and IB flights

04 Calculating the amount of Avios needed to UuA

Sample routing: Washington DC to Stockholm via London

Using IAD-LHR-ARN as an example, we can review a couple of different scenarios to give you an idea of how UuA are calculated. Like standard redemptions, each flight is considered separately and in turn.

  • Underlying fare combination: IAD-LHR (T fare class) plus LHR-ARN (Y fare class). With these examples the old rates are used.

    Flight 1: IAD-LHR
    Upgrading the long haul sector, flight 1, from World Traveller Plus to Club World is calculated on similar lines as ARN-LHR. The flight distance in this case is 3,677 miles (Band 5 at 24,000 Avios on off-peak dates).

    Flight 2: LHR-ARN
    To upgrade flight 2 from Euro Traveller to Club Europe. LHR-ARN at 911 miles falls into Band 2, at 6,250 Avios (off peak date). Note, as progressive fuel surcharges apply to BA flights, you will also need to pay the difference between the fuel surcharge paid and that assessed for the upgraded cabin of travel.

    Therefore 30,250 Avios Points will be needed to upgrade both sectors. It is possible to upgrade just one of the flights. This decision can be involuntarily taken (i.e no award availability on one of the sectors) or voluntarily (i.e. at your choosing)

Introduction | Standard reward flights | Multi-Partner reward flights | Reward Flight Saver | Avios & Money | Upgrading using Avios | Avios part payment | Using your companion vouchers | Additional Gold benefits | Hotel and car rental redemptions

Last edited by Prospero; Feb 6, 2016 at 4:51 am
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