In this guide, I will show you how to fly and to experience Business Class using air miles and without spending the thousands of pounds cash fee to do so.
(This post was originally written and published in November 2019 – but has been updated for Spring 2021)
We all have been a little green-eyed watching the Business Class passengers be leisurely whisked from the Business Class lounge, board straight away in the priority lane, and turn left at the plane door to take to their comfy seat. What many people don’t know is how possible it is to use air miles as either payment or part payment towards a Business Class seat in the plane, or how it’s possible to build up enough air miles for the Business Class cabin without even needing to board a plane.
If you want to exchange that cramped economy class seat and experience the exquisite luxury of flying higher up the cabin, then read on. All airlines are different, but many offer similar opportunities. Here on The Points Guru website, I tend to focus on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic for International flights and British Airways and Lufthansa for European destinations.
Both International airlines call their Business Class offering a different name.
- British Airways is called Club World;
- Virgin Atlantic is called Upper Class;
These are the names of the cabins to look out for when it’s time to book your flight.
Now you know the cabin names to look out for, let’s walk through how to earn the air miles needed and use those air miles to book your flights.
Earning Enough Air Miles for a Business Class Flight
The most obvious place to earn air miles is when you fly. This also tends to be the slowest. The average traveler can take up to 20 years to earn enough air miles for that Business Class experience! Who wants to wait 20 years for that luxury trip when we can reach enough air miles in a fraction of the time? Each airline offers different opportunities to earn and spend those air miles. Here I’ll show you some of the airlines, ways to spend, and how many air miles you need for an average return flight to New York in Business Class:
Earn More Avios with British Airways
An off-peak return flight to New York in March will cost 90,000 BA Avios (plus taxes, fees, and carrier charges). It’s a lot of air miles to earn just taking to the skies, but together with the BA Shopping Portal and other opportunities of earning those BA Avios points, we can get to the goal a lot faster. Here are some of those ways:
- 25,000 BA Avios – for taking out the BA Amex Premium Plus Card (and spending £3,000 in your first three months);
- 8,000 BA Avios – for switching your broadband to SSE;
- 8,400 BA Avios – for subscribing to The Economist magazine;
- 10,000 BA Avios – for subscribing to The Financial Times newspaper;
Up to 5,000 BA Avios– for filling up your petrol at Tesco petrol pumps and exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Avios through your Tesco Clubcard online account (as of January 2021 this is no longer possible. Tesco Clubcard points can no longer be converted to Avios Points) Up to 10,000 BA Avios– for doing your weekly shopping at Tesco and exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Avios, again through your Tesco Clubcard online account (as of January 2021 this is no longer possible. Tesco Clubcard points can no longer be converted to Avios Points)
- 2,500 BA Avios – for taking out an ISA through Nutmeg;
- 600 BA Avios – for completing your first survey through eRewards;
- 3 BA Avios with every £1 Spent – for booking an Airbnb stay;
The list goes on. This list of just a few options – there are over 300 opportunities in fact – and this list alone can earn you around 55,000 air miles in one year. Often BA has special promotions where BA Avios rewards are doubled for some providers. Keep your eye on the deals, plus check back here or subscribe to our newsletter where we will keep you up to date too!
Sign in to your BA Executive Club and under the ‘Discover’ menu choose ‘Collecting Avios’ to be taken to the Shopping portal for all your BA Avios boosting extras!
Earn More Flying Club Miles with Virgin Atlantic
With Virgin Atlantic you’ll need 95,000 Virgin Flying Club Airmiles for that return flight to New York. Virgin also offers a number of ways to boost your air miles through their own shopping portal and credit card offers. And just like with British Airways you have the option of exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Virgin Flying Club airmiles and reach your goals faster.
Here are some of the ways to turbo boost your miles:
- 15,000 air miles – for taking out the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card (with any spend, even just £1, in the first 90 days);
- Up to 26,000 air miles – for taking out a life insurance policy with Virgin Money;
- Earn 9 Airmiles with every £1 spent – on Virgin Experience Days;
- Up to 5,000 Airmiles – with a car rental booking through Avis;
- Up to 5,000 air miles – for filling up your petrol at Tesco petrol pumps and exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Avios through your Tesco Clubcard online account;
- Up to 10,000 airmiles – for doing your weekly shopping at Tesco and exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Avios, again through your Tesco Clubcard online account;
- 500 airmiles – for completing your first survey through eRewards (within 2 months of joining);
- 3,000 airmiles – for taking out your first 12 bottle order from Virgin Wines (which also includes a £50 discount too);
- 8,000 airmiles – for taking out a Virgin Money Stocks and Shares ISA through Virgin Money;
Again, like BA, Virgin offers a number of ways to earn air miles and these are just a small selection. These offers alone would earn you 72,500 air miles alone in one year and would be over 75% of the way there to your goal. Sign in to your Virgin Flying Club and under the ‘Flying Club’ menu choose ‘How to Earn Miles’ to be taken to the earning page and find out all the latest deals, offers, and airmiles reward opportunities!
Using Your Airmiles to Book a Business Class Flight
Once you have amassed all the airmiles necessary for your Business Class flight, you’ll need to know where to go to book up your trip! Virgin make this very easy to find, whereas within the British Airways website you’ll have to navigate through a couple of pages first.
Not to worry though, I’ll cover the instructions for both here
Use Avios to Book a Business Class Flight on British Airways
You’ll need to know where you’re looking to find the Avios point deals on the British Airways website. Unfortunately, you’re unable to search on the main home page and see both Cash or Avios prices.
Here is the step-by-step guide to finding those Avios Reward flights:
- 1 – You’ll need to log in to your British Airways Executive Club account
- 2 – Next hover over the Discover menu, and choose ‘Spending Avios’
- 3 – Scroll down the page to find the ‘Reward Flight’ section and click on ‘Book a Reward Flight’
- 4 – Here you will find a different booking search form – go ahead and search for a flight you’d like to use your Avios miles for
- 5 – BA will now show you the Avios miles needed for your booking – if you have enough for your journey, go ahead and book your luxury Club World (Business Class) return flight!
Use Flying Club Miles to Book a Business Class Flight on Virgin Atlantic
You’ll be pleased to hear, the search ability for reward flights is easier on the Virgin Atlantic website.
Here is the step-by-step guide to find those Virgin Flying Club reward flights:
- #1 Visit the Virgin Atlantic website, and choose your to and from destinations as well as your preferred outbound and inbound dates
- #2 – BUT before you press the Search button you will need to click on the ‘Advanced Search’ option to expand the window and reveal the Miles option
- #3 – Select the ‘Miles’ option, select ‘Upper Class’ and now press the ‘Search’ button.
- #4 – Virgin will now show you the Flying Club miles needed for your booking – if you have enough for your journey, go ahead and book your luxury Upper Class (Business Class) return flight!
Using Miles Plus Cash to purchase your Business Class flight seat instead
If you have decided to take that Business Class trip sooner than you had planned and haven’t quite yet accumulated enough Airmiles for the flight in full, there is the opportunity to use the air miles you have built up as part payment and pay with cash for the remainder. This is known as ‘Book and Upgrade’ by British Airways and ‘Miles plus money’ by Virgin Atlantic.
British Airways – Miles Plus Cash
There can be some great upgrades with Avios deals, even from an Economy flight to Club World, but the deals are sparse. You need to be flexible but if you can be it can be much cheaper taking a ‘Book and Upgrade’ with Avios option than a straight booking with Avios. The Avios only price for a Club World booking in the section above is 90,000 Avios plus £674.29 in taxes and fees – but in this example, if we purchased an Economy ticket and upgrade to Club World with Avios, it would cost just 43,200 Avios plus £816.47 in taxes and fees.
Although it will cost an additional £142.18 in cash, it will save 46,800 Avios! And to put this into perspective, purchasing 46,800 Avios direct with British Airways would set you back £815 (to purchase 50,000 Avios)
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to find this offer:
- #1 – You’ll need to log in to your British Airways Executive Club account
- #2 – Next hover over the Discover menu, and choose ‘Spending Avios’
- #3 – Scroll down the page to find the ‘Upgrade with Avios’ section and click on the ‘Book and Upgrade’ button
- #4 – Under the ‘Book and Upgrade’ option choose your flights and dates BUT make sure you keep the ‘Economy’ class selected (BA will show you upgrade potential to both World Traveller Plus and Club World cabins)
- #5 – BA will now show you the Avios miles and inclusive cash needed for your booking – if you have enough for your journey, go ahead and book your luxury Club World (Business Class) return flight!
Virgin Atlantic – Book Using Miles Plus Money
The number of available upgrade and reward bookings with Virgin generally exceeds the number available by British Airways. There are pros and cons of both membership programs but for now, we will focus on the job at hand – and paying for a Business Class flight using air miles plus money.
In order to see which Upper Class seats are available on a Miles plus money booking, and the latest prices, follow the below step-by-step instructions:
#1 – Visit the Virgin Atlantic website, and choose your to and from destinations as well as your preferred outbound and inbound dates
#2 – BUT before you press the Search button you will need to click on the ‘Advanced Search’ option to expand the window and reveal the Miles option
#3 – Select the ‘Miles plus money’ option, select ‘Upper Class’ and now press the ‘Search’ button
Virgin will now show you the cash and Flying Club miles needed for your booking – if you have enough for your journey, go ahead and book your luxury Upper Class (Business Class) return flight!
Flying Business Class Using Air Miles: In Conclusion
There are a number of ways to achieve your business class seat. As we saw in the British Airways example, the cheapest and most efficient way of grabbing your business class seat isn’t always the most obvious. I’d much rather pay the additional £142 and save the 46,800 Avios! It’s a no-brainer! This number of Avios would come in handy for another adventure or used towards your hotel costs for your trip.
Search all options. It takes minutes. Look at the cash price and compare this to the miles-only price – then take both examples and compare them to the miles plus cash price. The end results can be poles apart!
Always look out for special promotions, deals, and flash sales. Those air miles you have collected can be stretched even further for some amazing experiences. Sign up for the airline’s newsletter plus sign up for The Points Guru newsletter where we’ll show you all those hidden ways to try and achieve your goals that are not always very well publicized.
Enjoy your Business Class experience!