For the savvy traveler, booking isn't quite as simple as just finding the cheapest flight that works. Assuming you can find a few cheap flights that all may work, the best one is always the flight that has upgrade space, allowing you to turn that purchase into a more relaxing and perhaps luxurious experience without spending extra money. I love relaxing and luxurious experiences. Here's everything you need to know to upgrade on British Airways...
First Things First
British Airways recently made a very positive change, allowing all fares except the three very lowest economy fares Q, O and G to be upgraded. And yes, before you ask, even those incredibly cheap business class fares that occasionally pop up can be upgraded too! The easiest and most stress free way to upgrade is to book your flight directly through British Airways. As a rule of thumb, you can only upgrade by one class, so if you're in economy, premium is as far as you can go, premium to business or business to first. Simple enough.
Ok My Booking Is Eligible, But How Do I Know If I Can Upgrade?
Upgrades are subject to space that airlines set aside and that space can vary. Fortunately, there's a really easy formula for finding upgrade space. Unlike many airlines, which hide upgrade space from the public and force you to call in to the mystery call center, British Airways puts the space right in front of you. Though you've already booked, to search for upgrade space on your existing booking, you'll search as if you don't have a booking. You simply log in to your British Airways account on BritishAirways.com, click "Executive Club", then "Spend Avios", next "Reward Flights" and then search for the next cabin class from the one you're already booked in, on your dates. If there are seats available on your flight number using Avios in the next cabin, then there are seats available for upgrades, they are one in the same. Easy right?
Example: On a cheap business class fare from London to New York I want to upgrade to First. I simply go to "Spend Avios", enter my cities, dates and search for a seat in First. If there's a seat in First available using Avios, it's available to upgrade. From there, I just go into my current booking and click upgrade with avios or call the British Airways call center to make it even easier.
How Much Is The Upgrade Going To Cost With Avios Or Cash?
Again, this is pretty simple, especially when you just want to use Avios (miles). The cost of an upgrade is all based on the difference in cost using Avios between the two cabins. To calculate the difference, you just see how many Avios your current cabin would've cost and how much the cabin you want to upgrade to would cost, again, using Avios. The difference is what you'll pay for a one way upgrade. It's the same for cash, where you will pay whatever difference the tickets cost between what you paid and what the seat in the next cabin is going for. That's almost always going to be a bad idea.
Example: If Economy class is 20,000 Avios one way and Premium Economy is 40,000 Avios, you'll pay 20,000 Avios one way for an upgrade. For most flights, including between Business and First, the difference is roughly 20,000 Avios.
Ok, Just Get Me To The Point Where I Upgrade Now!
Login to your British Airways account on BritishAirways.com, you'll go to "My Bookings", followed by "Manage My Bookings", then click a specific flight segment, like London to New York on the 22nd of April, click "Upgrade" and you'll be presented with the option to "Upgrade with Cash" or Upgrade with Avios". You're most likely going to want to use Avios since they are always going to be the cheapest solution. If for some reason you get an error message when you click upgrade, saying "contact your local office", do exactly that. Just call British Airways and tell them you want to upgrade. They should be able to sort it out without issue...
Expert Tips To Get The Upgrade...
The best possible scenario is to find upgrade space available on a flight you want to book before booking and then immediately lock it in after booking. That takes all the stress out of things. Assuming you're out of luck at the time of booking, absolutely do not give up. Seats available using Avios come and go much like the wind blows. Sometimes there's no space for months and then all the sudden it's there. That's especially true in the days before your flight. Check back regularly, you'll often be happy you did. Oh, and save your miles!