It’s the million dollar question isn’t it? Ok, perhaps not a million, but upgrading is the thing people are willing to venture to crazy lengths and expenses to accomplish. It’s understandable. Cabins up front are becoming ritzier than ever, and with a little bit of knowhow anyone can purchase a reasonably priced cash ticket and upgrade to a star worthy experience. With that in mind, here’s how to upgrade your Virgin Atlantic or British Airways flight using miles.

How Many miles You’ll Need For Virgin: here. British Airways: here.

a row of seats with tvs on the side

Step One: Look For The Upgrade BEFORE Booking…

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic make it extremely easy to find upgrade space on your own (most airlines don’t). Login to your account with whichever airline you’re flying and look into making a booking using miles, even though you’ll actually be making a cash booking. Find a flight on your dates that offers a seat in the cabin you want to upgrade to (not the one you’ll purchase), if there’s one available. If not, don’t worry, you’ll get another shot. If you find a flight with a seat available in cabin you want to upgrade to, that’s the flight you’ll book for an instant upgrade using miles.

Both airlines occasionally offer amazing fares from competitive European cities like Stockholm. In certain cases you can save a lot of money, allowing you to book Premium Economy for the same price as economy from your home city. Always worth a look, especially for the chance to upgrade to Business!

a glass of champagne next to a menu

Step Two: Make Your Booking And Call Immediately…

As you may have figured out, both airlines treat upgrades and seats using miles as one in the same, so if you can book a ticket solely using miles, you can also book it as an upgrade to a cash ticket. If you see a flight with space available and can get a good deal using cash for that flight, grab it while it’s hot, as there is often only a very limited number of seats! With British Airways you can only upgrade only one cabin, so you can only go from Economy to Premium, Premium to Business, etc. With Virgin Atlantic you can upgrade from Economy all the way to Upper Class, you’ll just need to use more miles, which sadly can present a bad value. Try to stick to one cabin upgrades.

a bed with a pillow and a tv

Step Three: No Upgrade Available At Booking? No Problem (Hopefully)…

As airlines determine how busy a flight is expected to be they tinker with how many seats become available for upgrade. I’ve seen flights with no upgrades available turn into wide open availability overnight. If you were unable to upgrade immediately when making your booking, check back daily to see if things have changed. if you want to be a real pro, use ExpertFlyer to setup alerts so you get an email if space ever becomes available. You’ll be first to know and don’t have to waste any time looking! Upgrades pop up all the way up to the day of flight, so really keep on it.

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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1 Comment

  1. You can generally cancel the original booking within 24 hours, if the upgrade doesn’t work out. So nothing to lose really.

    I recently upgraded JFK-LHR from WT+ to CW for 24k Avios and £43. Well pleased.

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