British Airways Seat Selection Fees Under Fire
Want to choose your seat in British Airways Business Class? You’ll have to pay extra.

British Airways has come under fire over its exorbitant seat selection fees. Not only are Economy travellers stung with charges to choose a seat in advance, but even Premium Economy and Business Class passengers have to pay!

The British Airways seat selection fees for Club World (Business Class) passengers are not cheap either. On long-haul flights, these fees “start from” $108 per seat for Business Class passengers. This fee is even higher on many routes, including British Airways’ Sydney-London flight.

It is relatively normal for airlines to charge a small fee for advanced seat selection when flying Economy. But we’re not aware of any other airline that charges Premium Econmy or Business Class passengers to choose a seat in advance. Other airlines – quite rightfully – include this in the cost of the airfare.

One AFF member recently redeemed AAdvantage miles for trans-Atlantic flights in British Airways Business Class. The extra charges for seat selection came as quite a shock…

I then went to BA for seat allocations to be advised that I would have to PAY for seat allocations made more than 24 hours out from time of travel. The cost is USD416 or GBP150 for two adjacent (but NOT guaranteed) seat allocations. I can not believe that any airline would charge for Business Class seat allocations – left alone this exorbitant amount!

So, why are British Airways seat selection fees so brutal? Of course, it’s another source of revenue for the airline. But it seems this policy is also beneficial for the airline’s frequent flyers who can select seats in advance at no cost from the time of booking. The fees are intentionally high to ensure that most passengers don’t select a seat in advance. This allows the best seats to remain available for high-spending flyers booking at the last minute.

This is a surprise to many who haven’t dealt with BA before. For BA it’s a business decision and I guess most of their customers in J are regular flyers who would hold some level of status so the charges wouldn’t apply.

This system also allows their regular J flyers, who would often book at the last minute, a wider choice of seats, and this type of PAX is more valuable to them than the occasional non status ones. I agree though, it’s hardly an encouragement to convert those infrequent J flyers to regulars.

There are some ways to avoid paying British Airways seat selection fees. If you have Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status (Qantas Gold or Platinum), you can choose a seat at no cost. Free seat selection also becomes available to Oneworld Ruby flyers (Qantas Silver) 7 days before departure. All remaining passengers (except those with fares that exclude checked baggage) can choose a seat for free when online check-in opens 24 hours before departure.

There are also exemptions for passengers with flexible airfares and customers with disabilities. Mercifully, British Airways First Class passengers don’t have to pay a seat selection charge.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: BA charges Exorbitant for Seat allocation

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]