British Airways Flight Upgrade Trick Feature Image

This British Airways Flight Upgrade Trick Can Work A Treat

Who doesn’t want to bag themselves an upgrade every now and then? Let’s be honest – scoring an airline upgrade is a bucket list experience, and there’s so much advice floating around on the best way to do so. 

I’ve spent the last couple of months researching ahead of an upcoming long-haul flight to Miami with British Airways. I’d love to get bumped up a class for the trip. The problem is, I’m not the sort of person who feels comfortable asking for anything — let alone an expensive upgrade. 

A lot of advice on scoring upgrades is along the lines of “complain about something trivial and then ask for an upgrade to compensate”. One article even mentioned bringing a present for the airline staff, which seems a little transparent and icky. 

If you’re in the same boat as me and feel uncomfortable with either of these methods, don’t worry. In this guide, I’ll run over some more subtle ways to increase your chance of an upgrade with British Airways. 

I’ll cover all the recommended tips and tricks (with a few icky cliches for good measure), as well as ways you can guarantee yourself an upgrade independently. Extrovert or introvert, these are the best British Airways flight upgrade tricks.

Snapshot Verdict

You can score an upgrade in one of two ways: organizing an upgrade or getting lucky.

If you want a guaranteed upgrade you could use your Avios points, which would cost you roughly 25,000 Avios to upgrade to Business on a Transatlantic route. You can also look for British Airways promotional offers, especially on the day of your flight – you may be offered discounted premium seating for a fraction of the price.

If you’re feeling lucky or you simply don’t have the Avios, you should book at busy times, fly solo, and only complain tactfully when needed for that possible switch. And don’t forget, always bring your smile and patience. You never know when karma’s going to check in. 

What Upgrades Can You Get With British Airways? 

First Business Class boarding pass

First, let’s establish what upgrades are actually possible with British Airways. There’s no point jumping on a Euroflyer (British Airways’ short-haul fleet) and trying to bag a first-class upgrade, because it doesn’t exist. We’ve got to set realistic expectations. 

British Airways has different fleets for different route lengths, predominantly Euroflyer and World Traveller. These planes have different classes and inclusions, so your upgrade will vary depending on which one you are flying with. 

I’d recommend looking into this to set realistic expectations and see if it’s worth using your Avios to upgrade. Sometimes, it might be worth holding off your Avios for a long-haul flight rather than a short-haul if you want the proper upgrade experience. 

Here’s what you should know. 

Euroflyer Upgrades

Euroflyer is the British Airways flight dedicated to short-haul journeys — think European flights, like London to Barcelona or London to Nice. Euroflyer services nearly 40 destinations and is a great option if you stay in a major European capital.

Euroflyer has two classes, with the following inclusions:

1. Euro Traveller (Economy)

Euro Traveller is the lowest class when flying with Euroflyer. You get a complimentary bottle of water and a snack and can buy extra food and beverages onboard. 

You can opt for additional booking levels of Economy Basic, Economy Plus, and Economy Plus Flex.

However, these economy tiers just give you access to refunds and more luggage allowance. It isn’t really worth paying extra for if you want to invest in an in-flight upgrade experience.

2. Club Europe (Business Class)

Club Europe is the highest class you can fly in with Euroflyer. It has the same seating as Euro Traveller (a point of slight controversy), but the middle seat is kept free with additional table space, so you have more room and privacy during the flight.

You also get an included meal of breakfast, afternoon tea, or dinner.

The benefits of upgrading to Club Europe include:

  • Access to business class lounges
  • Fast-track security at London airports
  • Special check-in desks
  • Priority boarding
  • Extra baggage allowance
  • A meal rather than a snack, with hot and cold drinks included

World Traveller Upgrades

World Traveller is British Airways long-haul fleet. It covers major routes like London to Sydney or London to Miami, and because of this, it has more class options onboard. 

These are the four you should remember:

1. World Traveller (Economy)

World Traveller is the lowest class you can fly with British Airways on long-haul flights. 

It is comfortable and affordable, with one or two meals included depending on the flight distance. You get a private flat screen with headphones, plenty of films, and onboard entertainment.

Luggage-wise, you get 23kg with the Economy standard. 

2. World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)

World Traveller Plus is a step up from World Traveller. The main bonus is fewer rows in the cabin, meaning a quieter and more spacious experience. You also get a guarantee of two meals, no matter the flight length. 

It’s definitely worth the upgrade for a more peaceful flight, and you earn more Avios and Status Points on Premium Economy flights. 

3. Club World (Business Class)

Club World has seats that convert into flat beds and you get cozy bedding to really settle in for your flight.

The food and drink allowance is generous, too, with a starter, main, dessert, and cheese. You can choose from a variety of hot and cold drinks — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

That’s not all; you also get access to lounges prior to boarding, which typically include complimentary food and drink. The pre-boarding experience is further streamlined with priority check-in and boarding.

Club World is where you really start to see the ‘upgrade experience’, and I’d recommend aiming for this level.

4. First

First class is the highest fare you can travel with World Traveller. It is quintessentially British, with complimentary Temperley London loungewear and Elemis skincare products provided.

You get your own private suite with a seat that turns into a flatbed. Flying First Class with British Airways is the creme de la creme of taking to the skies on a commercial flight.

There’s fine dining onboard with a range of complimentary fine beverages. And just the experience of having your own miniature suite is worth the upgrade alone. 

If you want to aim for the stars, First Class is the upgrade to bag. It offers the most privacy and a real luxury experience. 

Why Would Airlines Offer Upgrades? 

Woman checking in at airport check-in desk

Airlines don’t just offer upgrades from the goodness of their own hearts. Actually, offering too many upgrades can damage the airline’s reputation, which is why an empty seat doesn’t guarantee anyone a spot.

Firstly, dishing out upgrades can make it hard to justify premium pricing to those who’ve already booked upgraded seats when Economy ticket holders are getting free spaces at a cheaper rate.

It brings down the exclusive aspect, which is much of what classes are all about.

Secondly, it reduces the incentive to opt into loyalty programs and point building. Airlines would much rather be able to sell last-minute upgrades at a reduced rate to help make up any potential losses.

So why would airlines such as British Airways ever offer upgrades? There are a few good reasons for them to:

Overbooking in lower cabins

A big reason is due to overbooking in lower cabins. If the Economy is absolutely packed with customers, especially too many customers, the airline may consider upgrading a passenger or two. 

In compensation

You may be upgraded if you are unfortunate enough to encounter a mishap on your flight, such as an airline-caused missed connection or lost luggage. 

To market new changes

There are rumors that airlines will upgrade more frequently when major cabin changes occur. This typically gives people a taste of the higher-fare cabins, making them more likely to splurge again.

So your chances for an upgrade are on the rise when the new British Airways seats roll out.

As goodwill gestures

Don’t feel too enthusiastic about this one – British Airways is not known for upgrading out of goodwill unless there’s a reason, like compensation.

This is more common amongst American airlines like United, who are known to upgrade frequent flyers on birthdays, or simply as a nice surprise if there are seats available. Generally, being offered a fight upgrade just because it’s your lucky day is less likely, but possible.

6 Recommended Ways To Bag An Update 

We’ve covered a lot there. I hope you’ve now got a general idea of what an upgrade with British Airways could look like, and an understanding of why the airline might offer an upgrade in the first place.

Now we’re fully briefed, I’ll take you through the six most recommended ways to bag an upgrade.

1. Be Tactical With Check-In

Did you know that the time you check in can impact your likelihood of getting an upgrade? I didn’t, but you can bet that I’ll be thinking about this moving forward. I’d typically check in the night before — very likely smack bang in the middle of the invisible line. 

But actually, you should either check in extremely late or very early.

If you check in really early, the admin staff are more likely to upgrade you in advance. As they already know where you are sitting and that you are checked in, you are in a smaller pool of the first upgrade candidates.

If you check in late, you may lose your spot if the flight is overbooked, which is incidentally great grounds to negotiate an upgrade or be offered one without asking.

Simply put, check in early to maximize your chances with admin staff, and check in late to maximize your chances with check-in staff.

2. Travel in Peak Times on Busy Routes

This is a crucial tactic when trying to get an upgrade. Overbooking is one of the biggest reasons British Airways upgrade their passengers. So, to maximize the chance of that happening, travel in peak times and on the busiest routes.

Peak times include school holidays, Fridays and Saturdays, especially for short-haul flights between typical business locations. The more likely a flight will be overbooked, the more chance you have of an upgrade.

3. Be Nice

Kindness should not have an ulterior motive. You’ll feel better for it (and less stressed in a busy environment) by being considerate to other passengers and airport staff alike.

And you never know when karma could swing into action. A smile and good, friendly manners at check-in cost nothing.

If a staff member has an upgrade up their sleeve, they’re never going to offer it to the rude and impatient passenger. This is particularly true when things go wrong, like lost baggage or delayed flights.

Patience and understanding go a long way in making your own experience that much better, and increase your chances of an appreciative staff member choosing you when a seat is available.

4. Travel Solo

Traveling solo is a another way you can improve your chances of upgrading. Upgrading one person is much more likely than four or even two. If you can travel by yourself, I’d suggest doing so.

Upgrading one person rather than a group is also much more subtle. British Airways is known to avoid elaborate upgrade announcements, especially since it dishes them out far less frequently than airlines like United.

The less attention it will draw to other passengers, the more likely the upgrade is.

5. Dress to Impress

Sometimes, first impressions actually do count. Nobody expects anyone to be catwalk-ready when heading to catch a flight, but it’s important to look put-together if you want an upgrade.

Remember that airlines won’t want you to stand out, as that attracts attention to someone getting upgraded for free while other higher-fare customers pay full price.

You should be able to blend perfectly into the general attire of someone already planning to fly Business or First Class.

6. Complain If Necessary, But With Discretion

Unnecessary or obnoxious complaining isn’t a good way to get in anyone’s good books. However, discreetly and politely speaking up if there is a genuine issue can be an excellent and fair way to get an upgrade.

For instance, if you have a real issue with a seat neighbor, you can approach an airline steward and explain the situation. It may be necessary for you to be moved or even upgraded.

Please remember that airport staff are very switched on to passengers conjuring up fake complaints. It doesn’t work, and will only make you look petty. If there’s a genuine issue, they’re there to help you, and it may involve a much better seat.

How Likely Are Flight Upgrades? 

The official stats say 1 in 5 people got upgraded across all airlines in the last two years. Of course, this covers many different upgrade policies, and British Airways won’t be as generous as other airlines.

However, that’s actually still a pretty high chance, and that stat doesn’t include the amount of people who upgrade through Avios. 

It isn’t like you are trying to get struck by lightning; getting an upgrade with British Airways is actually feasible.

A 20% upgrade rate in two years sounds good to me. You can also increase that chance even further by abiding by our tips and tricks, like dressing the part and traveling on tactical routes. 

How To Guarantee an Upgrade

If you’re anything like me, you prefer some things set in stone. Promotional sales and points are two ways to guarantee an upgrade without forking out the standard fare price.

This way, you won’t have to rely on remembering to smile when you’re actually quite stressed, or checking in at a time you wouldn’t usually, or strangely hoping for a nightmare seat neighbor to get that upgrade.

If you want to set out for the airport already knowing you have an upgrade waiting for you, these are your best two choices. 

1. Use Promotional Sales

Cabin upgrade sales often become available on the actual day of travel or occasionally the day before. You can ring before setting off to the airport or enquire at the check-in desk. You can also check online on your Manage Booking page. 

It runs on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it only runs when there are spaces that are actually free. You can buy an upgrade at a reduced price and get all the entitlements of the upgraded cabin, including lounge access.

It’s a great way to guarantee an upgrade if it’s available.

2. Upgrade With Avios

Upgrading with Avios is one of the main benefits of the British Airways reward program. By collecting Avios through things like credit cards, eligible flights, and hotel stays, you can quickly accrue a lot of reward currency.

One of the things you can redeem this currency on is flight upgrades. 

For instance, if you are flying in Economy Premium, you could use Avios to upgrade to Business Class. It’s a great way to get value for money. I’m saving all my Avios for this, as I want to upgrade on a Transatlantic flight before the end of the year.

You should note that you can only upgrade to the class directly above you when upgrading with points – for instance, upgrading from Premium Economy to Business. It also relies on Avios Reward Seats being available on the flight; nobody can help you if no seats are available.

It is still a first-come-first-served process, but it is about as guaranteed as British Airways upgrades can get. You can also upgrade with Avios way in advance, either when booking or managing your booking, which is handy.

How Many Avios Do You Need For An Upgrade? 

So, you’ve decided that upgrading with Avios is your jam. How many do you actually need? I’ll break it down for you.

Of course, it depends on what you are upgrading from and which class you’d like to upgrade to. Here’s a rough breakdown of what you could expect to part with on different routes, for an upgrade from Premium Economy to Business:

  • London to Abu Dhabi: 37,500 to upgrade
  • London to New York: 32,500 to upgrade
  • London to Sydney: 65,000 to upgrade

As a general rule, you’ll need a minimum of around 20,000 to 35,000 Avios to upgrade on a mid-range flight. 40,000 to 70,000 points is a better goal for super long-haul flights.

Final Thoughts: Do Flight Upgrades Work? 

Yes, flight upgrades definitely work. I know I’ve heard plenty of anecdotes about upgrades over the years, and there are lots of interviews with airline staff who ‘spill the beans’ on what prompts them to upgrade passengers.

The stats don’t lie, either; 1 in 5 passengers gets upgraded in a two-year period. 

I’ll be trying out these tricks on my next BA flight — and you guys will be the first to know if I hit the jackpot. I am also heavily investing in upgrading via Avios. Instead of spending on Reward Flights, I am concentrating on saving to upgrade my flight class. 

People hyper-fixate on ways to trigger the secret upgrade button and woo the airline staff into giving that magic ‘yes’. Yes, it’s worth hedging your bets by abiding by those top six tips and tricks we covered earlier.

But you can also be proactive by saving your Avios and simply guaranteeing yourself an upgrade. 

British Airways isn’t known for lavishly dishing out upgrades. Still, I’d definitely recommend that you cover all bases, just in case. You never know when you might get lucky with an overbooked flight or a particularly cheery staff member.

And in the meantime, get collecting those precious Avios.

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