How many Avios do you need to upgrade your flight to America with BA?

One thing that never stopped during the pandemic was people spending money. Be it essentials like food, fuel, clothes, or more extravagant purchases like cars or new kitchens people bought and spent more than they ever have. The astute amongst you will have signed yourself up for a credit card which gives you points on purchases, the nerds will have not only signed up for a points credit card but used affiliate links to make the purchases.

18 months later and having nothing to spend the points on, people are starting to accrue decent balances and now is the time to burn baby burn. The USA announced the travel agreement so double jabbed Brits can fly in from November. In my opinion, using points to upgrade your flights is probably the best use for them as you still get the points from the original booking. So, what does it cost?

One Class Upgrade

Firstly, you need to know British Airways limit your upgrade options to 1 cabin (see below) so there’s no chance you’re booking Economy and flying First.

  • Economy, upgrades Premium Economy
  • Premium Economy, upgrades to Business
  • Business, upgrades to First

Peak vs Off-Peak

The next thing to be aware of is that BA offers peak and off-peak dates. East Coast destinations are Zone 5 (3,0001-4,000 miles) like New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta. West Coast destinations are Zone 6 (4,001-5,500 Miles) like Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Houston, Denver, Phoenix. Here’s the Avios required for Peak and Off-Peak flights:

East Coast USAWest Coast USA
Economy13K vs 20K Peak16,250 vs 25K Peak
Premium Economy26K vs 40K Peak32,250 vs 50K Peak
Business50K vs 60K Peak62,250 vs 75K Peak
First68K vs 80K Peak85K vs 100K Peak

Upgrading Economy to Premium Economy

This is perhaps the most difficult upgrade to figure out. First, Economy is the only class that has restrictions on upgrades. If you have a BA ticket booked in either G, O or Q booking class you won’t be able to upgrade. *To find your booking class, in Manage my Booking, press “more flight information”, it will have the letter next to Selling Class*. Then you have an increase in Air Passenger Duty as you are no longer flying economy the British Government deem you to be flying in style. Instead of the £82 of APD you have paid already for Economy to get to the USA, you have to pay £180, an additional £98.

The Cost:

If you’re flying to East Coast America, think New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Washington DC you’ll need to pay 13,000 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 20,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates along with the extra £98 in Air Passenger Duty.

If you’re flying to West Coast America, think Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, Denver, New Orleans you’ll need to pay 16,000 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 25,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates along with the extra £98 in Air Passenger Duty.

Upgrading Premium Economy to Business

This is what I would consider being the sweat spot. Unlike Economy, there are no restrictions so any BA ticket in Premium Economy is eligible for upgrading using Avios. You also don’t have to pay the additional Air Passenger Duty as you have already paid the higher rate of £180 on your original Premium Economy ticket.

The Cost:

If you’re flying to East Coast America you’ll need to pay 24,000 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 20,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates.

If you’re flying to West Coast America you’ll need to pay 30,000 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 25,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates.

Upgrading Business to First

This is for those who perhaps have a bit of money or are flying for a special occasion due to needing to purchase a business class ticket from the get-go. Pulling off an upgrade from Business to first is extremely difficult due to British Airways not guaranteeing any first-class tickets for Avios redemption.

The Cost:

If you’re flying to East Coast America at the pointy end of the plane, you’ll need to pay 18,000 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 20,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates.

If you’re flying to West Coast America you’ll need to pay 22,250 Avios if it’s Off-Peak dates and 25,000 Avios if it’s Peak dates.

Availability

If you’ve already got your tickets booked you’ll want to head over to SeatSpy.com and check your dates for availability to the next class. *If you need help with SeatSpy, I have a post on it here*. If you have yet to book your tickets, you are in the perfect instance for the upgrade route. Before pulling the trigger on the flights you’ve found, have a search on SeatSpy and check if there are seats available in the next cabin up from what you’re planning to book. It could be the case that on that specific day you want to fly there are none but the day before or after there could be some availability. Once you’ve checked on SeatSpy for days that are available, head over to BA and check if the specific flights have availability. It’s the same process you would use when looking for Avios flights.

Upgrading

This is the simple part, as soon as you have found availability for your flights that you have booked or are just about to book flights, give BA a call. If you have tickets, say you want to upgrade them using Avios, if you don’t have tickets, book them first then once BA has confirmed your tickets, as to upgrade using Avios.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this helps some of you with the ability to travel in a way that you never thought you would.

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