Yesterday I wrote about snagging a first class upgrade on British Airways. I have an upcoming paid business class roundtrip from the ‘deal of the year’ airfare sale. And British Airways even lets discount business class tickets upgrade with miles (and most discount economy and premium economy tickets as well). There are no cash co-pays.
I’m watching inventory for the possibility of an upgrade on the return.
- First class is wide open. The flight is “F9” meaning at least 9 first class seats are for sale. The seat map shows 2 out of 14 first class seats occupied.
- Other classes are selling out.
With business class selling out, and first class wide open, you might expect an airline to open up first class upgrade seats close to departure. There’s a good chance they’re going to need to operationally upgrade folks for free. So they might as well let customers pay for the upgrade instead.
But British Airways has two interesting anomalies with their upgrades.
- The upgrade availability bucket is the same as the award availability bucket. Making first class upgrades available means making first class awards available. So if they open upgrade space, it could just as easily go to a new passenger for miles instead of rolling forward a business class customer who might have gotten the upgrade for free anyway. They don’t want to give away a free premium seat on a mostly full flight, making it even more full.
- British Airways doesn’t have an upgrade wait list. So when they do open up upgrade (award) seats, it’s first come first served. Instead of prioritizing it based on who has paid full fare and isn’t yet upgraded, or who their top elite customers are, a ‘British Airways nobody’ like me can snag the seat…. especially by staying vigilant, like setting up an Expert Flyer alert.
British Airways may be hesitant to release first class upgrades, when it would make sense for other airlines to do so, since they don’t have separate upgrade and award buckets.
But if they do, I’m likely to score the upgrade even with a full business class cabin of folks who would have a higher priority than me on another airline.