Let’s talk British Airways surcharges and the best value upgrades

redeeming Avios for flights

Some links on Turning Left for Less pay us an affiliate commission to support this blog

We all know BA love to extract as much money as they can out of us for upgrades and Avios bookings!

But are there any tricks and “hacks”? 🙂

Surcharges from Europe going West

The USA used to be a good place for Avios upgrades and using a Gold Upgrade voucher (GUF) which you get when you reach 2500 tier points.  However recent-ish increases in surcharges (known as YQ) and other things have eroded this somewhat.

So let’s take New York as an example- 

In economy we sometimes see fares as low as 50p each way!  Sadly that doesn’t mean £1 returns!

Wow, that’s a long list hey?!

But it’s the “Carrier-imposed surcharge” (YQ) that we are talking about here.  The above is an AA fare (as it was so cheap I had to include it!) but the same is true for BA – 

And the Avios costs to buy the same flights?

And the taxes going up the cabins – 

Premium Economy  



Club World (Business Class) 





So what do we notice?

All the examples above are originating from London.

A few things – the difference from Economy to Premium is horrible.  The reason for this being increased APD (Airport Passenger Duty) as well as the increase in YQ.  From Premium to Business it jumps to several £100s!  And then to First?  No difference.  

Takeaways – 

  • Using Avios/GUF from J-F will cost you £0 extra.  Good use.
  • Going from Premium to Club will cost you dearly – be warned!
  • Yes, you can go from Jersey or Inverness to save nicely on the APD.  Easy enough on Avios tickets – cash tickets it will depend on the fare.


Working out the YQ

Thanks to ITA Matrix, this one is easy.

Pick your route and open up ITA and force premium economy by using advanced routing codes “f bc=t”

Also worth as above, unticking the only show flights and prices box, as frankly, all you care about is finding the YQ cost.  Remember though, this will show fares and seats, that may be unbookable.

Once found you will see the YQ displayed clearly – 

Do the same but “f bc=i”, to find the cost for Club World.


So where are the sweet spots?

Easy – Go East!

I love Premium Economy fares – not because it’s a great product, as it’s not!  But because it can be a very lucrative way to upgrade to Club World, as we shall now look into.

I recently wrote about how you can fly to Abu Dhabi in Premium for just over £300.

But hold on, what about the £200 YQ increase?  Turns out the surcharges differ depending on destination, and origin!

As it shows in this article – the difference to Abu Dhabi is just £105.

Here is a quick breakdown of popular Eastern routes and the YQ difference from Premium to Business (return from London) – 

My personal favourite, Doha – £46.  Yes, you read that correctly.  An Avios/GUF Upgrade to Club World will cost you just £46 extra.

  • Doha £46
  • Dubai – £106
  • Tel Aviv – £28
  • Bangkok – £103
  • Hong Kong – £103
  • Singapore – £103
  • Kuala Lumpur – £103
  • Sydney – £133 – a bargain considering the 4 flights involved!

My last 4 GUFs?

Kuala Lumpur, Doha and Abu Dhabi.


Any hot fares?

Yes – Asia is a gem for good premium fares.  Have a look at starting in Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona.  The Middle East is usually decent out of Inverness.

Have a look at these – 


The YQ difference from Germany is only £92.

Kuala Lumpur 


With a lovely YQ difference from Luxembourg of just over £70.

Hopefully, this has not only given you food for thought but good ideas too! All these fares are available to book on British Airways here.

Remember if you want help with any fares or upgrades like this – email me to be included in our new weekly travel surgery!


7 Comments on "Let’s talk British Airways surcharges and the best value upgrades"

  1. Excellent article today as a committed ex EU ‘starter’.Thanks.

  2. Really enjoyed your article, just one question I booked a BA, WTP, RTN LHR-JFK and thought I would upgrade the return leg from JFK. However I am getting these kind of figures any explanation? The price is about the same in either direction and the cash fare itself is actually a lot cheaper.

    1 Adult 20000 € 1,786.00 € 506.39 € 2,292.39

  3. Like a diff fare. The IT system can’t handle them, so you’ll have to call up.

  4. ps Meant to add….would you consider a print out option of articles?

  5. Great insight as always. My biggest challenge is getting 2500 TPs. I might manage 1500 this year.

  6. Hello Paul, thanks for your very useful article. Are BA obliged to give you a breakdown £1 for £1 of what exactly makes up the Carrier Imposed Charges or can you request this information under the FOI act?

  7. Braiden Woodward | 12 October 2019 at 10:56 am | Reply

    Just booked TXL – SYD for £1200 in June next year and also managed to tag on BNE to it (QF), hopefully J seats will open up so I can upgrade!

Have your say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.