Cracking the Companion Voucher – Upgrading Using Avios

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I have been running a series analysing the value of the companion voucher offered by the British Airways Premium Plus credit card offered by American Express (BAPP). To catch up, you should re-read the introduction.

I was intending to make my way through a variety of different British Airways destinations, but I had an inspiration and decided to digress slightly. My hypothesis is based on the following:

  • Many BAEC members try to use their Avios to fly in Business or First Class
  • British Airways guarantees to release two award seats in Club World on every flight, although you might have to book them 355 days in advance – so the most likely scenario for using a companion voucher will be Club World
  • However, Upgrading Using Avios (UUA) is often a much better reward option than a straight reward in Club World

So… what happens when you add the companion voucher to the mix? Perhaps you are still better off with Upgrading Using Avios, even when travelling as a couple?

Scenario – You Have 120,000 Avios Already and Want to Fly to Miami on Peak Dates in Club World

Option A – Spend £20,000 on your BAPP to Earn Avios and a Companion Voucher

You will need 150,000 Avios for the paid-for reward ticket in Club World. Because you started with 120,000 Avios and earned 30,000 Avios from the BAPP, you are covered.

You will need to pay £1,057 for two sets of taxes and surcharges.

As a result, you will pay £195 (BAPP annual fee) + £1,057 (2x taxes and surcharges) = £1,252 for two reward flights to Miami in Club World.

Option B – Spend £20,000 on a Cashback Card and Book with Upgrade Using Avios

Upgrading a paid ticket from Premium Economy to Business Class requires 1/3 of the Avios for a full reward in Business Class (on a peak date). As a result, you will need 100,000 Avios to upgrade both legs of a London to Miami itinerary for two people. You already have those…

There are more moving parts with this Option B.

First, you will receive a nice rebate from American Express. By earning 1% on the first £10,000 of annual spend, plus 1.25% of any spend above £10,000, you will earn £225 in cashback from that £20,000 spend. Subtracting the £25 annual fee gives us a cash injection of £200.

Second, when you upgrade a Premium Economy ticket to Business Class, you must pay an additional surcharge. Since two World Traveller Plus rewards cost £838 and we saw above that two Club World rewards cost £1,057, you can surmise that the upgrade will cost an additional £219 in surcharge.

Third, two passengers without elite status travelling on the cheapest World Traveller Plus fares will earn 8,860 Avios each. We mustn’t forget that we started with 120,000 Avios, but only spent 100,000 on the upgrade, so we have 20,000 Avios left over. As a result, the UUA route leaves us with  additional 37,720 Avios, or £377 in value.

Finally, we need to pay for the World Traveller Plus ticket. This is the hardest element to judge, but I can find World Traveller Plus flights to Miami for £750 per person on what should be peak dates booked well in advance.


As a result, you could pay £1,500 (two WT+ tickets) + £219 (to upgrade two tickets) but receive £200 (from American Express cashback) and at least £377 (the value of Avios earned/not spent) = £1,142 for two upgraded tickets to Miami in Club World.

Things to Keep in Mind

Of course, my random choice of Miami might not work similarly for other destinations. The most important items to keep in mind are:

  • How much would two World Traveller Plus tickets cost to my preferred destination?
    • Can I reduce this cost by starting my journey outside of the UK (for example Dublin) or waiting for a fare sale? The companion voucher requires a UK departure but UUA does not (and you can choose to only UUA the long haul portion).
    • You can also reduce the extra surcharge increment by departing from somewhere with low surcharges (i.e. Dublin again)
  • Am I interested in elite status (therefore the Tier Points from the paid flight come in quite handy and have a value in-and-of-themselves)?
  • Do I already enjoy elite status (in which case I will earn substantially more Avios from the UUA option)?
  • If you tend to book 355 days in advance to grab the two Club World seats to a popular destination, you might not find cheap WT+ fares that far in advance. But if you are trying to book on shorter notice, you will also benefit from potential fare sales.
  • The companion voucher rewards are refundable, whereas paid World Traveller Plus tickets won’t be.
  • Upgrading two World Traveller Plus tickets is going to cost fewer Avios than the one full Club World reward required in order to use a companion voucher – important if you are short of Avios or trying to take a family of 4 somewhere in Club World!


I wasn’t sure whether I could beat a British Airways companion voucher with another type of British Airways reward. I guess I was wrong… 🙂  Of course you still might believe in the convenience of the companion voucher or the refundable nature of reward flights, but so far it seems possible to replicate their “outstanding value” with a cashback credit card and some simple travel hacking…


  1. Tom says

    I it possible to use the Companion Voucher to purchase the 2 WTP reward seats with Avios, and then upgrade those with either cash or Avios? Or are Redemptions non-upgradeable?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      In general that’s true, but occasionally you are offered the chance in Manage My Booking to upgrade for cash.

      For example, I just checked in for a reward flight up to London and was offered an upgrade to Club Europe for 140 euros. (what a joke!)

      For Tom’s question, you cannot guarantee at all that this offer will be there, but you might see it. WTP is often the most oversold cabin and BA would be thrilled to get upgrades for cash instead of giving away free operational upgrades. (never with Avios though…)

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