British Airways Improves Their Seat Assignment Policy For Hand Baggage Only Fares

Filed Under: British Airways

While airlines globally are getting more aggressive when it comes to charging fees for seat assignments, I don’t think there’s an airline in the world that’s worse in this regard than British Airways. British Airways even charges for seat assignments in longhaul business class.

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That’s right, you could pay $5,000 for a business class ticket, and then be charged an extra $100 in order to be able to select your seat in advance. The exception is full fare passengers and elite members — oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members can select seats for free at the time of booking, and oneworld Ruby members can select seats up to seven days in advance. Other passengers can begin selecting seats for free 24 hours out.

It’s one thing to charge for select economy seats, or even to charge for all economy seats, but charging business class passengers to assign seats is a little crazy, in my opinion.

That’s why I’m happy to see that British Airways is actually making some positive changes to their seat assignment policy. No, not for business class, but rather for their Hand Baggage Only fares. Starting June 14, 2017, elite members will be able to assign seats for free when traveling on Hand Baggage Only fares. British Airways introduced these fares a couple of years ago, and they’re the only types of fares on which elite members aren’t able to assigns seats in advance. They’re similar to “basic economy” fares in the US, though not quite as bad.


So while elite members still get lounge access on these fares, they’ve specifically been excluded from assigning seats. Fortunately that policy will finally be changing. Kudos to British Airways on that — I’m sort of surprised to see this change, as I figured they’d keep it around as a way of forcing people to buy up to a more expensive fare, even if they don’t need it.

British Airways also recently announced that they’ll be improving their longhaul premium cabin product, though at the same time they eliminated free food and drinks in economy on short-haul flights. So it seems their general strategy is to make the economy experience as bad as possible, while somewhat taking care of premium cabin passengers and elite members.


  1. @Chuck For those of us forced to fly BA short haul a lot this is very important….definitely more so than a blog post comment which contributes a sum total of zero.

  2. It would be more helpful if the morons running the alliances would insist that the member airlines provide greater clarity around luggage allowances: Star Alliance is the worst, simply PATHETIC in respect of what is permitted. Some airlines guarentee checked bag for status members, others don’t ; but the information is NEVER clear. And getting an answer about it: forget it. Hopeless. One World is just as bad, Sky Team marginally better.

  3. I’ve done two flights LHR-PRG in the last month with this restriction, so pleased to see that it is being removed. It’s kind of nuts – as a BA Silver member, you have business class check-in, fast track security, lounge access at three different lounges and priority boarding…but can’t choose your own seat unless you pay £13 each way. And this isn’t just on super-cheap fares. The flights have received more than the minimum miles and tier points so it’s not just a problem for the cheapest tickets.

  4. @Chuck:

    a) Don’t read it then

    b) Write your own blog without such horribly offensive articles

  5. Thank you for leaving out the ‘Bottom Line’ in this post. It’s sometimes needless repetition of what you just said a couple of paragraphs earlier.

  6. Nah, as an elite member I could always select my seat on a hand baggage fare though. The change only kicked in around last summer, I was very surprised at being told upon looking at my booking that i needed £15 to select my seat! Ridiculous.

  7. @Ziggy, I had exact same reaction as you so thank you. (And I cannot bear people who start posts with ‘yawn’).

    This is good news, as my husband and I travel on hand baggage fares all the time.

    I wouldn’t say BA is ‘taking care of premium cabin passengers and elite members’ entirely. My husband has been gold for several years and NEVER gets an upgrade ever unless he pays or uses points. I flew Club Europe the other day and the meal size had shrunk considerably. And there’s the jam-packed Club World cabin – those rear facing seats! If they got rid of those and had a more spacious business class then we’d be onto something!

  8. I wish to fly BA soon in J, I’m sapphire in oneworld but wish to credit to miles to alaska, you think I’d beable to book and assign my seats on my QF number then on the day of flying change my FF# over to AS????

  9. I used to travel frequently with BA and held Gold for several year and notched up close to a million avios. The avios are all but useless as I can never find a flight I want to fly that is available wih avios. Im going to try KLM and Lufthansa on a few of my routes as I have heard they treat customers better overall, even if they are a bit more expensive.

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