Answer: It took 24 days in my recent example.
Admittedly, I don’t have a ton of experience flying British Airways. I probably have less than a dozen total flights on BA in my lifetime of flying.
I purchased a ticket to Dublin a few months ago for travel late this year. For those that don’t know, British Airways has a really strong program for upgrades using their loyalty currency (miles) called Avios. If inventory is available, you can generally upgrade to the next class of service for 10,000 Avios.
For this trip, I was ticketed in their premium economy product, World Traveler Plus. That meant I could upgrade to business class, or Club World, for 10,000 Avios plus the additional extortionate premium fees for Heathrow. The caveat? There’s no wait list and no good way to set an alert to check inventory. Their website has improved, but it still takes a few minutes to check manually whether award space is available.
The other plus here is that you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points and they transfer to British Airways instantly, so I didn’t have to make a transfer until I knew I could get the seat I wanted. Flexibility like this is one of the reasons I really do like the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.
I went about checking on a daily basis and right before my surgery award seats popped up on both my flights! I called up to make the change and encountered a fairly short hold time of 20 minutes. This might sound long, but British Airways is known for epic hold times.
The agent was having a bit of trouble getting the reservation to ticket and I was starting to get a bit nervous as I was now in the car on the way to the hospital for surgery. I wondered if maybe there was a problem with the zip code on my American Express card, something that happens to me from time to time. The agent assured me that it was a problem on their end and told me it would take a day or so for them to sort it out. Since the reservation showed correctly online, I decided everything would be okay.
I checked the reservation a few days later and nothing and changed, so I called again. This time an agent told me it could be another 3-4 days. Hmmm, now I was starting to get a bit worried.
I did some searching around the internet and didn’t find anything conclusive so I waited the 3-4 days and called again. Same answer.
At this point, I decided that I needed more expert advice and pinged Gary of View From the Wing. He assured me that this was not a strength of BA, that my reservation was in fact safe, and that they would ticket it. Eventually.
I encountered a similar issue when redeeming a paper voucher that American Airlines sent me earlier this year (yes, they still use paper vouchers). In that instance, the Executive Platinum rep I spoke to said that I needed to mail the voucher in and that the department handling them generally worked on the most timely of flights first. So, I suspected that since there were a few months until I flew, I would hear from BA someday.
And then, a mere 24 days later, I got my ticketing e-mail and was all set!
Just a quick travel tidbit in case you run into the same snafu.