The definitive business class upgrade guide

By David Flynn, July 20 2015
The definitive business class upgrade guide

This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel, and was last updated January 2019.

Your boss or your budget may see you consigned to the cheap seats in economy but there's no reason you have to stay there.

Our expert upgrade guides reveal how a serve of frequent flyer points can bump you up to business class on your next flight with Qantas, Virgin Australia, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. 

Qantas business class upgrade guide

Upgrades are considered one of the best ways to use your Qantas Frequent Flyer points.

The number of points you’ll need depends on the fare you’ve purchased and the distance you’re travelling. Premium economy tickets and flexible fares in economy require fewer points, while the cheaper tickets require more.

For example, a business class upgrade from Sydney-Perth could be yours for 25,000 points on a regular economy ticket, or just 10,000 points on a flexible fare.

Heading overseas? You could be relaxing in Qantas business class from Melbourne to Hong Kong for 22,500 points, or from Sydney to Los Angeles for 40,500 points.


Virgin Australia business class upgrade guide

Upgrades are available on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights with premium economy or business class – cheaper economy Getaway and Elevate tickets need the most points to upgrade (domestic only), while Freedom (flexible) fares and premium economy bookings can be upgraded for less.

A business class upgrade from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Perth will cost you 9,900 Velocity points on a Freedom fare, but 30,000 points on a Getaway ticket.


Emirates business class upgrade guide

Upgrades can be requested on most Emirates economy bookings with a 176 ticket number, including award seats snapped up with Skywards miles but excluding the cheapest 'Special' fares.

That’s a little different to Qantas Frequent Flyer, which doesn’t allow upgrades from economy to premium economy or business class on award flights.

Also in its favour, Emirates upgrades can be confirmed in advance – unlike the Qantas system which more closely resembles an ‘upgrade lottery’ based on seat availability and your frequent flyer status.

Read more... 

Singapore Airlines business class upgrade guide

On most Sydney-Singapore jaunts, 45,000 KrisFlyer miles could see you upgraded from economy to business class on Singapore Airlines.

And if you choose the right flight from Sydney or Melbourne you'll be able to sample the airline's very latest Airbus A350 business class.

From Singapore, longer flights to London and Paris can be upgraded for 65,000 KrisFlyer miles in each direction – only slightly less than 80,000-mile business class award bookings on the same flights.

However, note that upgrades are only available from the most expensive economy fares – and even then, the cost isn’t far from a straight-out business class award booking.

Read more... 

Cathay Pacific business class upgrade guide

If you’re travelling with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and beyond in premium economy, a great use for your Asia Miles is a business class upgrade.

On most Sydney-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong, 36,000 Asia Miles is enough for a return upgrade to business class with Cathay Pacific.

In number, that’s roughly half of Qantas’ asking price for the same upgrade on its own flights.


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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Jul 2015

Total posts 3

Under what circumstances on Qantas international might a points upgrade request be unsuccessful , but a "bid" successful ? If I have also elected "at the airport" option upon initial request, does my request remain "live" until the final momment (boarding) ? I am trying to work out when an initial request might be declined , and a bid "trump" the airport option...I thought the "airport" kept my option open through to boarding in case of a no show.....Many thanks in advance


03 Mar 2015

Total posts 15

According to QANTAS classic upgrade rewards are prioritised over bid now upgrades. 

"Bid Now Upgrades will be allocated after all Classic Upgrade Rewards (points-only upgrades) and ranks below Classic Upgrade Rewards in terms of priority and value."

Most classic upgrades I have been successul with were visible on the morning of my flight and I didn't receive any notification, just the change of seat to the upgraded cabin.  Hope this helps!



12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1518

I post this question before in Q&A, but no-one seems to be able to clarify. David, perhaps you can?

This is the dilemma – should I tick “upgrade to PE if upgrade to business unsuccessful”? I mean that I rather to have upgrade to PE if nothing else available, but will I miss “upgrade at the gates” opportunity if they allocate PE upgrade prior? Or they still will pull me from PE to business at the gate if opportunity occurs? How it work and what is the probability of missing “upgrade at the gate”?

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