Airline Upgrades Explained – British Airways’ Discretionary Upgrade Tool


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As mentioned in a previous article on Operational Upgrades, gone are the days where customer service agents filter you in to one of two categories SFU or NSFU – or in other words Suitable for Upgrade or Not Suitable for Upgrade – due to a nice suit.

It is important to note that unlike US based carriers, British Airways Operationally upgrades passengers based on necessity rather than because they want to reward loyalty.

Charted out, aside from a regular upgrade, it’s important to note that Proactive Online Upgrade (POUG), PreFlight Upgrades (PFUG) and Airport Upgrade (AUG) are typically offered to passengers to fill unsold seats in premium cabins to maximise passenger spend. Operational Upgrades (OpUps) on the other hand are only offered when a cabin is oversold.

OpUps on British Airways are controlled by a system called the Discretionary Upgrade Tool (DUT). This system, forged by elves of the mystical arts, do the mathematical calculations to determine if someone is to be upgraded to a premium cabin and not by the person at the desk and is not solely factored by Status.

How is it Calculated

As mentioned above, unless you work for British Airways, no one truly knows how DUT is calculated. To British Airways, it is a matter of great secrecy (and frequently speculated among frequent flyers). It is commonly held that that neither your Corporate Individual Value (CIV) or Tier-Staus are ultimate guides to understanding where you are placed in the queue.

The ultimate aim of the DUT is not to reward loyalty; but rather to provide a sample of what a premium cabin offering is like in the hopes that the upgraded passenger will increase spend in future and continue to fly in a more premium cabin.

Therefore, it is believed that the DUT system also takes into account previous upgrades, how many flights a passenger has taken on BA, Checking in online (contrary to popular belief), if you are travelling solo, the fare class you paid, agency/Corp. discounts, the date you booked among other things.

How Do You Know if you have been selected?

Usually, you will know you have been selected when you are boarding and a red beep and the message ‘Seat change’ appears.

Although this is not the only time it can happen.


If you Prebook a meal, are you precluded from the Discretionary Upgrade Tool?

No. if you book a special meal, be it Vegan, Kosher, Diabetic, Etc.  you will still be entered into the DUT system for an upgrade. The belief originated when the DUT was first introduced due to the logistics of making a new inflight meal for a higher class of cabin and not wanting to serve an inferior product in the “better” cabin as a result. Policy changed in 2018 to include passengers who request special meals.

Do you have to wear smart clothes?

This will unlikely have an impact as this is now done by a computer algorithm which cannot tell what you are wearing apart from another passenger, but it doesn’t help your chances if you are not too under dressed.

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