British Airways allows you to buy a ticket for cash, and then use Avios to upgrade to a higher class of travel on BA, Iberia and American Airlines. BA call this “Upgrade Using Avios” (UuA). Here is a link to official BA page explaining this concept

Here is a quick picture guide to British Airways’ cabins, pay attention to the abbreviations, I’ll be using them from now on:

World Traveller (WT):

World Traveller Plus (WT+)

Club World (CW):

First (F):


What are the rules?

Here are some of the key rules associated with UuA:

1. You can only upgrade by one class (e.g. from CW to F)

2. You cannot upgrade a discounted WT ticket (i.e. cheap economy tickets).

3. You can upgrade almost any WT+ or CW ticket

4. You will still earn Avios and tier points on the ticket you pay for with cash (i.e. when upgrading from CW to F, you will still earn CW Avios and Tier Points)

How do I book?

Sign into your British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) account, click “Spending Avios” then “Book with cash and upgrade with Avios”


Book your flight as usual, then sign into “Manage My Booking” on ba.com and follow the option to upgrade using Avios.


Call the BAEC

How do I check availability?

You can sign into your BAEC account, and click “Book flights with Avios”. By searching this way, you can see all the redemption availability for each cabin and route. You can also utilise BA’s helpful “availability calendar” to see a wide range of dates. The availability is identical for UuA and booking flights with Avios outright.

How many Avios do I need to upgrade?

Historically the best UuA, and potentially the best use of avios overall was to buy a WT+ ticket with cash, and UuA to CW. However, since the changes to avios programme in April, certain sweetspots have disappeared.

Check out the redemption chart below. You will pay the difference between the Avios price for one class versus the next class up. This varies depending on length of journey and whether you are travelling on a peak or off peak day.

I have put together a chart of how many Avios are needed to upgrade for a range of destinations from London.

These are the amounts for a one-way flight, so double for a return flight.

REMEMBER – these amounts do not take into account the amount of Avios you will earn on the cash part of your ticket. This loophole usually means you will actually pay less overall than the amount shown.

In conclusion

UuA used in the right way used to allow you to extract up to £0.14 value or more from each and every Avios. Whilst not quite as generous now, you can still expect to get good value here and It puts into context the value of your 20,000 bonus points from the Amex gold card. You could use these 20,000 for an upgrade to Club World to New York and back worth over £1,000!

For more information on this process from BA themselves, click here.

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