How to earn and use the most valuable British Airways perk: Gold Upgrade Vouchers
Airlines reward their frequent flyers with status — not just to thank them for their loyalty, but also to incentivize them to keep flying. Such status can bring tangible benefits that can save money as well as come with perks to make travel more comfortable.
Status in the British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) is based on Tier Points, which are earned for flights taken with British Airways or Oneworld alliance partners. The longer the flight and the higher the cabin, the more Tier Points earned.
The different status levels are Blue, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold Guest List. In order to move up levels, members need to achieve certain Tier Point thresholds, as well as take a minimum of four flights with British Airways or Iberia flight numbers: 400 for Bronze, 600 for Silver and 1,500 for Gold. In order to achieve Gold Guest List, a member needs to earn a staggering 5,000 Tier Points in one year.
There are additional benefits that can be earned between 1,500 and 5,000 Tier Points, though. And one of those benefits is arguably one of the most — if not the most — valuable perks of the British Airways Executive Club for frequent flyers: Gold Upgrade Vouchers.
What are Gold Upgrade Vouchers?
Gold Upgrade Vouchers are one of the more valuable perks of reaching a certain number of Tier Points. They can be used for a single-cabin class upgrade on a single or return booking.
For example, you can upgrade from Euro Traveller to Club Europe or from Club World to first. The latter of those two is likely more valuable.
Gold Upgrade Vouchers can only be used on British Airways and franchise-operated flights, meaning partner and codeshare flights are not eligible.
Earning British Airways Gold Upgrade Vouchers
At 2,500 Tier Points, you'll earn one Gold Upgrade Voucher for two (generally referred to as GUF2). And at 3,500 Tier Points, you'll earn two Gold Upgrade Vouchers for one (known as GUF1).
How specifically can British Airways Gold Upgrade Vouchers be used?
British Airways recently changed the rules of when and how GUFs can be used. A GUF can be applied on top of the following examples:
A new or existing Avios redemption, provided there is reward or redemption availability in the higher class — So you've scored those Avios seats for yourself and your other half in Club World but noticed that first class reward space has opened up on both the outbound and return flights. A GUF2 will allow you to upgrade that booking into first without needing to spend any additional Avios. The same works for upgrades from World Traveller Plus to Club Wold or even from World Traveller to World Traveller Plus. For upgrades to Club World, additional taxes are payable, as taxes for premium cabins are higher than economy cabins. The GUF2 upgrades two passengers both ways; a GUF1 upgrades 1 passenger both ways.
A new or existing cash booking — This is where it gets interesting. Previously, in order to upgrade a cash booking there needed to be award availability in the higher class. That has recently changed, and now, a GUF can now be used to book into the lowest first, Club World and World Traveller Plus cash classes, which are much more readily available than redemption seats.
You'll need space in A class for first, I class for Club World and T class for World Traveller Plus (rather than Z, U and P, which are the corresponding redemption classes for those three classes). That has dramatically changed the value of GUFs. Whilst A, I and T classes will fill up first so you may not be able to find last-minute availability, with a bit of planning ahead, you'll likely be able to find flights with P, I or A class availability even to those destinations that are notoriously difficult for Avios seats. There's no cost in doing this apart from applying the GUF, though you'll have to pay additional tax if moving above World Traveller Plus.
A new or existing Travel Agent (TA) cash booking — BA used to be unable to upgrade travel agent (TA) bookings, meaning that any flights booked via a corporate travel agent or any other online (or offline) travel agent were un-upgradable with GUFs. That's changed now, and GUFs can be applied on bookings made by TAs — and again, they can take advantage of revenue classes in each cabin.
Planning the best use of GUFs requires some visibility of which flights have those A, I or P class seats available. A great tool to use for checking this availability is ExpertFlyer, which is owned by our parent company and part of the TPG family.
How much is a GUF worth?
Value can be tricky to calculate and depends on the GUF's use. Generally speaking, I'd avoid using GUFs for short-haul flights. In the past, I've used a GUF on a reward ticket to Sydney, and the GUF saved me 100,000 Avios (the difference between Club World and First on this route). I've also applied a GUF on top of a cash booking to end up flying in First even when there was no award space available. So depending on use, you could save up to 100,000 Avios per person — and that's ignoring the value of being able to access A, I and P class seats.
GUFs can also be used together with British Airways Companion Vouchers. For example, a flight to Sydney in first for two people can be had for 300,000 Avios (the cost of a single Club World seat) when used with a Companion Voucher and a GUF2 — of course, you'll have to pay the taxes for both passengers. While not cheap, it's fun to spend 24 hours in first class.
Earning 2,500 and 3,500 Tier Points in a year is no easy task, but the value of Gold Upgrade Vouchers is significant. Arguably, they're one of the most valuable perks of the British Airways Executive Club for very frequent flyers. In fact, they are so valuable that some people actively aim to hit the 2,500 or 3,500 Tier Points threshold to earn them — especially if normal travel patterns bring you close to them anyway.