Help with upgrade strategy

Old Mar 6, 19, 7:01 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 3
Help with upgrade strategy

Iím new to this so please go easy 😊 Iím planning ahead and canít work out my best way to proceed.
We (2 adults and 2 kids) are planning 2 weeks in Orlando in May half term and the week after in 2020.
We have about 160,000 AMEX membership rewards (so could transfer to Virgin or Avios) and I would love to upgrade us to at least one way upper class.
My questions are this:
Can I only upgrade flights which are reward flights? So it depends on availability of those reward flights? Or can I upgrade any premium economy flight with miles so long as itís the right class?
I was planning to buy premium economy tickets and use miles to upgrade with miles. Can I do this at the same time over the phone as soon as flights release?
Do I need to wait for return flight dates to be released before I call or can I book outward flight first then return a couple of weeks later?
We want to fly direct. Am I likely to be more successful with upgrading with Virgin or BA? I was planning to get a points credit card to boost the miles over the next couple of months but I donít know whether to get the Virgin or BA one!!
Thanks for listening and hope someone can offer some guidance!
seasidesam is offline  
Old Mar 7, 19, 1:17 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
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Sorry to burst your bubble but there are a couple of major issues:

1. You aren't going to find 4 UC seats to Disney over half term. Unicorns are more common. It doesn't matter if you book a year in advance.
2. You cannot upgrade the cheapest K class PE ticket, so you are going to pay substantially more for H or you need way more miles to upgrade from Economy Classic

This post is a bit old, but I tried to analyse the value of upgrading VS flights... https://insideflyer.co.uk/2017/02/up...rgin-atlantic/


It's hard to judge Avios availability vs. Virgin Atlantic. That said, BA do guarantee 2 Club World award seats on every flight, so you can potentially grab those as soon as they go on sale.
craigthemif is offline  
Old Mar 9, 19, 7:57 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
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BA vs VS availability is going to be YMMV. In my experience at my gateway airport in US BA is usually much better than VS. This probably comes down to two flights a day and the fact that with BA I have a shot at both J and F. VS my contrast is one flight and only J.
36902BRF is offline  
Old Mar 11, 19, 12:12 pm
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
I’m new to this so please go easy �� I’m planning ahead and can’t work out my best way to proceed.


Don't worry, we're all friendly here, nobody becomes an instant expert

Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
Can I only upgrade flights which are reward flights?
You can upgrade any reward tickets, at any time. They are really quite flexible. Pending availability in the cabin you wish to upgrade in to and the difference in taxes.

Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
So it depends on availability of those reward flights? Or can I upgrade any premium economy flight with miles so long as it’s the right class?
You can upgrade any Premium ticket, as long as it is fare code H, S or W. Premium tickets with a fare code of K cannot be upgraded with miles. But you can buy cash upgrades at the airport on the day of departure, subject to availability.

Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
I was planning to buy premium economy tickets and use miles to upgrade with miles. Can I do this at the same time over the phone as soon as flights release?
Yes, absolutely. If there are reward seats available in Upper, you can call up and purchase the right fare of Premium and upgrade to Upper all in one transaction. It's multiple parts for the phone agent to do, but this is absolutely fine and happens all the time. If the phone agent doesn't know how to do it (they should), just hang up and call again. The critical thing to do, is get them to hold the Upper reward seats first so you don't loose those as they can be snapped up quickly.

Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
Do I need to wait for return flight dates to be released before I call or can I book outward flight first then return a couple of weeks later?
You can do that with reward seats. Book one way then add a return. But I am not sure that can be done with revenue fares. Someone can correct me if I am wrong.

Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
We want to fly direct. Am I likely to be more successful with upgrading with Virgin or BA? I was planning to get a points credit card to boost the miles over the next couple of months but I don’t know whether to get the Virgin or BA one!!
Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
BA's reward flights are more predictable but I think VS have more direct seats overall to MCO. But as its a popular route, you're almost certainly not going to get Upper seats.
  • For the best value of miles, i'd buy Economy tickets and upgrade to Premium (Unless Premium tickets are a similar price, in which case buy those), that way you can upgrade to Upper later if seats become available. If you see one Upper seat, take it and take more as they come up (if they do).
    • Remember, by choosing the Premium ticket, you loose the chance to upgrade later if the ticket is a K code.
    • Even if the ticket is K, you can upgrade for cash at the airport if there is availability. But the cash upgrade prices for Premium - Upper are usually £650 or more, one way.
  • If there are Premium tickets available for purchase with Miles, that is a good route too as you can always upgrade them to Upper later.
  • Consider a connecting flight via a Delta hub such as JFK or ATL. It costs more miles, but you have a higher chance of scoring Upper seats this way. But it comes with extra hassle of needing to re-check bags etc.
  • You can also get mileage upgrades at the airport on the day, if there is availability. So as a last ditch effort, check that when checking in.
Good luck, and have a nice trip.
CommanderB is offline  
Old Mar 11, 19, 4:18 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
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To add to the above, all other things being equal, even if you get Premium (or even Economy) on VS you're potentially looking at the upper deck of a 747 vs the worst planes in BA's fleet - I've flown that route with both BA and Virgin enough to say that with confidence. Premium with VS is a much better fallback than Premium with BA on this route.
Theirin is offline  
Old Mar 12, 19, 10:26 am
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by Theirin View Post
To add to the above, all other things being equal, even if you get Premium (or even Economy) on VS you're potentially looking at the upper deck of a 747 vs the worst planes in BA's fleet - I've flown that route with both BA and Virgin enough to say that with confidence. Premium with VS is a much better fallback than Premium with BA on this route.
Couldn't agree more.
CommanderB is offline  
Old Mar 12, 19, 3:40 pm
  #7  
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Many thanks all! Bubble well and truly burst! But itís good to get that understood now! Iím thinking now that Iíll just use the miles to buy us PE tickets and weíll save up for a future upper class experience on a less popular route!
Weíve been saving up for ages and theyíre burning a bit of a hole in my pocket!!
seasidesam is offline  
Old Mar 15, 19, 6:36 am
  #8  
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You can get UC rewards to MCO but they are extremely limited in busy times such as school holidays. And remember the 747s only have 14 UC seats

LHR-JFK is a popular route but there is still a lot of availability due to multiple flights for example.

You also need to be flexible and look at perhaps LHR-MIA or LHR-ATL which are on planes with a larger UC cabin (30+ seats) so more chance of rewards. Or a route such as LHR-JFK-MCO. - though of course they are less convenient than a direct flight which I know is your preference but the key to reward flights is flexibility.

I'd even consider sending one 1 parent and 1 child on one one flight and t'others on the next - not ideal but one way of getting 4 of you in UC

There are 2 rules (just like fight club) on getting UC rewards

1. Be flexible
2. See rule 1
UKtravelbear is online now  
Old Mar 16, 19, 11:59 am
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by seasidesam View Post
Many thanks all! Bubble well and truly burst! But itís good to get that understood now! Iím thinking now that Iíll just use the miles to buy us PE tickets and weíll save up for a future upper class experience on a less popular route!
Weíve been saving up for ages and theyíre burning a bit of a hole in my pocket!!
I can't comment on the MCO route, but for years and years I accumulated VS miles without even a sniff of availability in any class over the Easter holidays for any Caribbean destination. Then all of a sudden I managed UC/PE and then PE/PE straight miles redemptions on subsequent years for CUN and BGI respectively. So I guess I've seen my unicorn...
ratechaser is online now  

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