How to Receive an Upgrade on a British Airways Avios Domestic US Ticket

One of the greatest uses of miles is to fly 650 mile or less routes using 4,500 British Airways Avios in economy class. For example, a flight from Washington Reagan to Philadelphia typically costs upwards of $300 one-way on American, but for only 4,500 miles and $5.60, you can get a seat on that flight for free (remember, you can use Avios on oneworld partners, such as American). If you had used American AAdvantage miles, you would have had to have paid 12,500 miles for the same seat. So, by using British Airways Avios you save a ton of miles.

Popular sub 650-mile routes include:

Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points
  • Washington Reagan to JFK
  • Dallas to Austin
  • Los Angeles to San Diego
  • Los Angeles to San Fransisco
  • Washington DC and New York to Boston
  • Washington Reagan to Chicago

According to the AAdvantage terms and conditions, one cannot receive an upgrade on an award ticket. In my experience, that certainly holds true when using AAdvantage miles but not when using Avios. In fact, on my domestic US trips (where I used Avios) with planes equipped with a First Class cabin, I’m at a 100% upgrade rate. That’s fantastic, and yet AAdvantage says I can’t do it.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to have status on American Airlines to receive these upgrades, however the good news is that your upgrade will be free for flights under 500 miles.

Find Your US Airways or American Record Locator

To find your record locator on your AA/US segment, take the British Airways reservation number you were provided when booking there, and go to

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On the top right, you’ll see an area to plug in your record locator. Enter the information and click the arrow.

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You’ll be presented with your flight information, including your American or US Airways record locator.

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Add Your American AAdvantage Number to the Reservation

To do this, call American or Tweet them and give them the record locator as described above. Ask them to add your AAdvantage number in place of your British Airways number. It’s an easy swap and should be done in a matter of moments.

Request the Upgrade

You won’t be able to request this upgrade in advance, unfortunately, so calling reservations or Tweeting @American will not do you any good. You’ll need to wait until the airport to request the upgrade. To do this, make sure you see an agent at the ticket counter and have them add you to the airport upgrade list, which I’ve always had success with. I’ve never had an airport agent deny me to be placed on the upgrade list. If you’re concerned, show them your frequent flyer card. Many times (though this may be because I’m an Executive Platinum), the upgrade will clear instantly. For the times it doesn’t, head through security and check in the club or at the gate.

While it is technically in the terms and conditions that upgrades aren’t offered on mileage tickets, because your ticket was purchased on British Airways, I believe the agents see this differently in their system, vs. had you purchased it with their own AAdvantage miles. Because of this, it provides an opportunity for you to be placed on the upgrade list without the system kicking it out. Presumably the same theory would hold true for any length Avios flight, though if you’re a Platinum or Gold, you’ll need to have enough sticker upgrades in your account to do so.

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Have you ever received an upgrade on an Avios award ticket for a domestic US flight?



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  1. HAROLD says

    JAMES — Very helpful information, not the least of which is a decent way to find my AA record locator for my trips paid for with Avios!! Many thanks!

  2. Mel says

    Thanks for the post. I just got my CSP and am building up my URs for future short-haul travel. I travel on AA/US from IAD to JAX and the total mileage comes out to 650 miles (yay!), but the flight connects through CLT. My question: would I use just 4500 Avios for the total trip or would I need to use 9000 Avios for both segments?

  3. Kevin says

    As a data point, I tried this last Friday flying LAX-PHX which I used Avios to purchase. I had already had the AA Twitter team put my EXP number into the frequent flyer field weeks before travel. At LAX, three different agents tried to add me to the upgrade list only to have all three tell me the system was rejecting it, and then they each would go in and look at the ticket and see it was an award ticket. Not sure if the IT behind this loophole has been fixed.

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