Japan Airlines Business Class Cabin

Upgrades are understandably very, very exciting. It’s not just that you get a far better flying experience, you also get to earn miles while cashing in miles. As the busiest travel times of the year approach and flights get booked, theres one crucial pitfall to avoid- if you want that magic upgrade.

an airplane with rows of seatsIt’s Where, Not Who

We’ve got a fantastic guide, showing you all the airlines with the easiest and best policies for upgrading with miles, even on international tickets. Once you’ve figured out which of those airlines will work, considering which credit card points or airline miles you can most easily use to upgrade, it’s all about WHERE you book the flight. This is the crucial step, which keeps countless people from being able to upgrade.

Prices Too Good To Be True

Airline partners often sell each others flights. It’s called a codeshare agreement. So if you want to fly on Airline A, you can probably purchase the ticket from partner Airline B, and it may even be cheaper through Airline B. This is where it all goes downhill- sometimes. Airline B may indeed have access to some cheaper tickets, but they may not be upgradeable, or if you can upgrade, it can only be done using Airline B’s points, not Airline A you’re actually flying with.

a row of seats in an airplanePrime Examples

Delta and Virgin, British Airways and American, Qantas and Emirates. These are just a few of the usual suspects. As a rule of thumb- you can generally only upgrade using the currency of the airline you booked with. Therefore- if you booked British Airways flights via American Airlines- you can only upgrade with American Airlines miles, even though it’s a British Airways flight. There are times when this can be beneficial, but it’s crucial to know.

Book With Preferred Points

If you solely care about the best deals, book with whoever is cheapest. But in many cases, prices will be the same with both airline options, and if you book with the wrong airline your chance of upgrading with points is gone. Book your flight via the airline you have points with, or can transfer points to. You can instantly transfer many credit card points into airline miles. Airlines are more relaxed than hotels about upgrading bookings made on online travel agents, but if you can book direct- it’s usually the best way to go.

Have you made this crucial mistake before?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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