British Airways Takes Back its Offer of a Free Upgrade to First Class. What Gives?

Several readers have written in about an email they received from British Airways — telling them they weren’t welcome to take advantage of a free upgrade offer that had been sent to them — and wanting to know what’s going on.

British Airways sent out this offer, for a free upgrade from business class to first:

It’s actually kind of common for BA to make offers like this. It generally requires the purchase of a full fare business class ticket and there to be availability in a discount first class inventory. Sometimes it can only be booked through a travel agency.

This time, however, the offer was more restrictive. But it was sent out to a very broad base of travelers. And British Airways said “oops.”

Here are the relevant restrictions:

You had to be a resident of the UK or Ireland, departing the UK, and booked in an eligible business class fare bucket (not discounted business) to be eligible.

Sending out the offer to US members was… a mistake.

That’s all. It isn’t that any given member was ‘un-targeted’ but that no US members were supposed to have received the email in the first place.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yeah, I got more curious about the offer after it was rescinded. It didn’t seem like a deal of a lifetime; just your garden-variety premium upgrade offer. I wonder why they didn’t just allow USA residents to book it. Seems like it was a good deal — for the airline.

  2. I got both emails, and I presume they were targeted to me since I have a British Airways reservation later this year, although it’s USA domestic on American Airlines metal. What’s strange is the fact that I’m already flying First class, but there’s no “business” class on the plane I’m flying, just economy and first. However, the first class is coded as business for award redemption purposes (which is how I booked the flight).

    I didn’t get too excited about the emails for 3 reasons. First, (no pun intended), there’s no upgrade possibility for me anyway. Second, there’s no Club World or Business class on the flight to upgrade from, so the second email claiming the first one was sent by mistake made perfect sense. Third, the only reason I even paid attention to the email in the first place was the fact that American has already canceled and rescheduled this ticket 3 times since I booked it, and so I have been periodically checking all emails from BA and American Airlines, as well as checking my ticket status through both airlines.

  3. I received the offer and was inclined to book for the upgrade. How disappointing BA!

  4. I’m assuming that BA are not simply trying to reward people that have booked a Club World seat. They are targeting those people that have booked the more expensive fare bucket seats and giving them a taste of First Class in the hope that they will book First in the future rather than Club. It is likely that they are targeting UK & Ireland as those people are more likely to book with BA again in the future. I could be wrong though and it doesn’t excuse them emailing the offer to people that weren’t supposed to receive it.

  5. Dickheads! I got both emails. But I got the care-o-meter out and it failed to register. BA, yeah right.

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