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Exclusive: BA to charge for advance seat selection

Published: 24/09/2009 - Filed under: News »

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BA is to allow all passengers to select their seats at the time of booking, but there’s a catch: the carrier will be charging for the privilege, starting from £10 per sector for Euro Traveller passengers, rising to £60 for Club World customers.

From October 7 customers will have the option to select their seats when they book tickets, for the following charges:

  • £10 per person per sector in Euro Traveller and on domestic routes
  • £20 per person per sector in Club Europe, World Traveller and World Traveller Plus
  • £60 per person per sector in Club World

Customers in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus will also have the option to pay £50 to secure exit row seats, from ten days pior to departure.

The fees will not apply to Premier and Gold Executive Club members who are already able to choose their seats for free in all cabins (including exit row seats) at the time of booking. Silver card holders, customers with fully flexible tickets and customers on corporate deals can pre-assign their seats for free and will have the option to buy exit row seats in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus.

While the move will give passengers greater control on seat selection for their flights, it will be seen by many as a full-service airline moving towards the low-cost formula of charging for extras. Those who choose not to avail of the new service will be left to select from the remaining available seats from 24 hours before departure.

BA has yet to publicly announce the new charges, but in an internal memo posted on several frequent flyer forums the carrier said that the move “is in line with the airline’s response to surviving the economic downturn”. It adds that “teams from across the sales & marketing and customer directorate have been reviewing the airline’s entire customer proposition, looking at ways to reduce costs and bring in additional revenue”.

For more information visit ba.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

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COMMENTS » 

Expat_Consultant - 24/09/2009 12:17

That's a pretty big disincentive for me to travel in club world.

BA is just about to remove its service from my home country, so maintaining my silver card will be tough.

So my reward for sticking with BA will then be to have to pay £100 to pre-assign seats on a premium ticket?

I don't think so.

There is plenty of choice out there and BA is nothing special, just a competent airline similar to many others.

Skyobserver - 24/09/2009 12:50

GoodBye Willie Walsh ! You are driving your loyal customers away ......... Charging for seat selection will not save BA ! Perhaps Willie's departure might help .....?

NigelHuggins - 24/09/2009 12:54

What! More ridiculous nonsense from Willy (note spelling Kruggy) Walsh! He seems to be hell bent on destroying BA. Fortunately it is not going to effect Silver members in Club I expect - not many idiots (or companies) are going to pay an extra £120 on top of Brown's outrageous taxes to select a seat!! I have a great idea for extra revenue which his twin brother dreamt up......why not charge people £1 to go to the loo and abolish seats in steerage and make everyone stand....yawn!!

rthonwjb - 24/09/2009 13:05

As I got downgraded to blue a few months ago this eliminates the last reason I fly BA to the US in Club World. This will not help what was once my favourite airline. Next time my wife and I will try Virgin Upper Class!

DAbbott - 24/09/2009 13:32

At present, with my Blue Exec.Club Card, my registered preference for a (non-specific) window seat always seems to get honoured. Sometimes I change myself to a different available window seat when I do online check-in. So will the basic preference allocation continue free-of-charge?

Freedom1 - 24/09/2009 13:39

Forget paying £120 to reserve a seat in club, but who in their right mind would pay £40 to reserve a seat in what has to be one of the most outdated, cramped, totally awful economy products out there! Willy needs to get a grip on reality before BA completely ruins whats left of its reputation!

CrazyCanuck - 24/09/2009 14:06

Farewell BA (and i really like Club World). I try to fly CX to maintain my silver card but whats the point.

mussaman - 24/09/2009 14:34

terrible idea, fair enought they need to recoup costs, but charging on top of an already 'rich' price for the right to select a seat....tut tut.....

mussaman - 24/09/2009 14:37

oh dear. less and less reasons to fly with BA.

HarveyBeaver - 24/09/2009 14:51

Farewell B.A - Welcome Virgin. I always travel with my wife & have no intention of paying an additional £240 return to ensure that we have adjoining seats in Club Class.

Jasgibson - 24/09/2009 15:29

I agree that charging for Exit rows in Economy is good as it will deter people who don't really need the extra room from grabbing these seats, and people who really need the extra room will happily pay a small charge to guarantee the space. But Willie Walsh has really shown here that he has absolutely no idea how to run a Premium Airline and only knows how to down grade an Airline to a Low cost model as he did with Aer Lingus, maybe he's a One trick pony? Firstly getting rid off Catering on European flights and Now trying to Charge for Seat Allocation in BUSINESS CLASS!! Has he lost his mind? Very bad move. I wonder how much revenue will this idea bring in compared to the amount of revenue will be lost from people who would have booked with BA but because of this will book elsewhere? Penny wise pound foolish.

Mach2.2 - 24/09/2009 15:41

So much for the recent advertising campaing trying to set BA apart from certain airlines that charge "extras". That was money well spent then - not.

Binman62 - 24/09/2009 15:59

BA have had some hair brained ideas in the past but the idea that you make club passengers pay for seat selection is simply commercial suicide. Have to agree with other posts that only the clinically insane would pay for a seat in Euro traveller. This also kills off any argument that BA has witht he government over taxation. If BA can impose such charges why not the government?.

HANNANITE - 24/09/2009 17:16

Let's hope this fails. If customers do pay for their seats then the other major airlines will surely follow.

AalAalAal - 24/09/2009 17:38

Great news.... Well done... Customers will now have the option to select their seats, from time of booking.

The fees is just £10/$15 per person per sector in Euro Traveller and Domestics and is it a great option I have and few airlines do not have such options availbable. Just £20/$30 per person per sector in Club Europe, World Traveller, and World Traveller Plus and £60/$90 in Club World. Exit row seats at £50

kmcottrell - 24/09/2009 22:25

Yet one more reason to fly American Airlines. As I am English, I regret being driven away in this way

flyingruby - 25/09/2009 02:08

i was slightly upset when they allowed only 1 check-in bag years ago, the removal of meal service didnt really bother me, but this has killed BA off my list completely...

kin3kin - 25/09/2009 02:24

yes, how sad is BA to have take this money making step,and is a sure way to drive loyal customers away.

kin3kin - 25/09/2009 02:30

this is a way of driving customers away from BA.a very bad move.

Beet1770 - 25/09/2009 07:04

Unbelievable! I consider the red, white and blue tail fin as a source of rescue on frequent trips home to the UK. Is Mr Walsh also planing to change the livery to Orange! I have never written on any forum before but i am quietly angry about what is happening at BA - I have resold so many of their bad decisions to myself in an attempt to understand their commercial position but this and the removal of sandwiches on short haul trips is just a slide towards the budget end of the market. If Willie wants to sort out BA he needs to confront the unions and staff costs ( 4 cabin crew per short haul plane ) and not the consumer - not an easy task I know but they simply won't have any customers left.

BusinessTraveller - 25/09/2009 09:00

Business Traveller update:

Full details of the new charges can now be found on the BA website at:

http://www.britishairways.com/travel/paid-seating/public/en_gb

DisgustedofTWells - 25/09/2009 09:03

Using terms like customer flying experience as an excuse for charging up to £60 for booking a seat is rubbish. Does Willie not understand what customer centric service means? You don’t charge a seat booking fee on top of a premier rate fare. If he wants BA to be a low cost budget airline then let him say so and the passengers paying a premier fare can move across to Virgin and others.

SussexTraveller - 25/09/2009 09:18

I think charging for new services and innovations is fine. I will only resent being charged for services (food and drink, for example) that are presently offered for free.

There is a positive aspect here, the recession is forcing BA to innovate and offer wider services without totally cannibalising the existing service. Good on Willie Walsh for trying this tack first, others would have been panicked into slashing products and services first.

CathayLoyalist - 25/09/2009 09:37

What really makes BA looks stupid is not so much the new policy, that is a huge risk in itself, but the PR release i.e.. "BA is introducing a new service so passengers can take control of their seat selection options". They would have got more respect by being honest if they had just said "Yes it is a back door price hike. We are in the crapper and whilst we don't like doing this it we have to get more revenue; we will do our utmost to mitigate the impact for passengers"

As a loyal CX fan who over 15 years have provided me with excellent service, the last 5 mainly in Economy as I now run my own business, this is more reason to only fly BA as a desparate last resort which is a real shame.I guess ultimately customers will vote or not with their feet and judging by the comments above a lot will. So fly CX to Asia

excessbaggage - 25/09/2009 10:32

So much for BA's "value" calculator then - how can they claim the moral high ground over Ryanair and Easyjet, and then do this?!

http://www.britishairways.com/travel/value-calculator/public/en_gb

SiteAdministrator - 25/09/2009 13:06

And for the forum thread on this, please go to:

www.businesstraveller.com/discussion/topic/BA-to-charge-for-seat-selection

briansalter - 25/09/2009 22:58

Excellent news. Now almost no one will want to fly this awful airline any more and the chances of getting the seat one actually wants greatly increases, Can someone please tell me why British Airways thinks for once moment that they are any better than most other "normal" airlines? Perhaps Willie Walsh should stop believing his own propaganda and just try flying some of the other airlines such as Etihad to learn how they get it right every time!

GreatBlackHawk - 27/09/2009 11:14

BA have really lost the plot this time and they either deserve to be bought out by a more enlightened business or suffer the consequences of many years of poor stewardship. They are so far removed from the World's Favourite Airline it's not true and all they want to do these days is screw every penny out of their customers. By doing this they are also placing themselves in the arena of the budget airlines. So all the millions spent on the BA brand is now money down the toilet. However they do not have some of the advantages of the budget airlines so their business/marketing strategy is shot to pieces. As the reverse of the saying goes if it's broke fix it. BA are trying to put lipgloss on a pig. They should re-engineer the business and come up with a buisness plan which is more in tune with a 5 year vision and implement any changes in line with this. What we have is a knee-jerk reaction to appease the Shareholders but one that will only disenfranchise their customers.

Pat_travels - 27/09/2009 14:08

Yet another distasteful addition to the rapidly diminishing service BA offers.

I am fed up with the continuous BA SALE - why have a sale saving customers a few quid when you are going to rob them in other ways. Forget the sale - sell tickets at a sensible price and offer a decent service!!

I am a gold card holder so not affected by this stupid money grabbing move BUT BA will go bust sooner or later with bright ideas like this and that is surely no good for anyone

providence93 - 27/09/2009 15:20

I never thought I would see ths day when a premier carrier like BA would resort to cheap tactics employed by LCC's! Aren't the high ticket prices and the fuel surcharges charged by BA enough of a payment? If BA is so hard up, perhaps it's time for Willie Walsh to tighten his belt and take a pay cut! Like another irate commenter aptly commented: "BA is not the only Airline out there"! Shame on you , BA!!!

cedarjet - 27/09/2009 16:02

I fly TATL a lot on BA in Club World, but if they think I'm paying to reserve a seat on top of the fare, hey have lost their minds. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

PaulJennings - 27/09/2009 17:54

Great idea to allow passengers to choose to pay extra to pre-reserve their seats. Flybe do this and I take advantage of it. But when I pay several thousand pounds for a (reduced-price) business class ticket for, say, my partner and I to go on holiday, I think I've already paid for advance seat selection, or at the very least the reassurance in advance that we'll be sat next to each other. With many other airlines I have. Maybe it's time for the Value Calculator to expand from Ryanair and the like to include Lufthansa, Virgin, etc.

MarcusUK - 28/09/2009 13:58

Another self propelled nail in BA's coffin from its own management team!

Showing their desperation for gaining more cash, rather than consolidating it's own loyalty & existing business, is a foolish & child like style of short term gain. Walsh could do with reading some Psychology for Management, (Transactional analysis in terms of Adult, Parent, or child like behaviour forshort term gains but no adult, balanced perceptions of consequences. "I want & I want it now"! He & his senior team need to be sacked for blatent negligence.

The staff are dis-affected, the FFP is in array, the economy customers are being discriminated against, food is withdrawn, & the premium custom, expected to pay more for less...certainly LESS than other full service Airlines that are keeping their standards of travel experience level, & high. If you Destroy yr product it no longer exists???

BA have lost this basic quality that a full service Airline must provide. Goodbye BA! The other Full service full quality Airlines are already taking yr business, you just quickened the pace! What an totally incompetent example of how NOT to run a business, & destroy years of hard earned International reputation by many teams within, now out!

Sack Walsh & ALL his team, like they should have been years ago after the only World Airline to have constant major blunders time & time again, without accepting responsibility themselves!

BinLiner - 29/09/2009 09:25

Well done BA. Keep this up & you will be out of business sooner than later. I for one will not fly BA having already PAID 'top dollar' for my seat. Offer your customers something different not the same as Low Cost Airlines. Dinosaurs die eventually...!!!

karenberg - 29/09/2009 16:24

Now I know Willy has lost his marbles! At one time he jacks around with his customer strategy like this, low-cost-carrier nickle-and-diming his customers to death. At the second time he institutes his (also ridiculous) all C class LCYNYC flight with the pit stop in SNN. Whatever the guy's smoking I wish he'd give me some!!

chinafam - 17/10/2009 09:30

I tried to book my seat preference yesterday, only to be told these seats were not available. OK, i don,t need the leg space, but prefer it. I thought that was what the booking was all about. Why bother then booking, as you only pay for seats you probably would have been allocated had you booked in online 24 hrs beforehand.

Ithoughtryanairwerebadbut - 08/11/2009 13:48

Oh and by the way BA haven't bothered telling all the passengers who booked earlier so only new bookings get this option. Those who still think that all the seats will be up for grabs at check-in will suddenly find that they have been penalised for booking early. Knew I should have booked Virgin to Australia like I did last time. BA have no idea what Premium Economy means.

armyflyer - 11/11/2009 14:38

Following message sent to BA in moment of anger - maybe if they get enough of these the policy might reverse?

************************* Dear British Airways,

I am writing to you today to let you know about my outrage and disgust at your new policy to charge for seat selection prior to the online check in available twenty-four hours before.

My wife and I are both Executive Club Blue members (11200773) and fly with BA mainly for pleasure although I will admit we are not the most regular of flyers with BA by comparison to some business flyers, hence the Blue Membership. As such we choose BA for a superior quality of service, and to start our holiday off on the right foot.

I am a serving British Army Officer and have spent the last seven months in Afghanistan so was unaware of the policy change on seat reservations when I booked Club World tickets to New York for our holiday. I was angered to find out later when I tried to reserve seats for the two of us to sit together in out preferred seats (10-14 E and F) I would have to pay an additional £60 per person per sector at a total cost of £240!

Whilst I recognise the harsh economic times we are in I do not understand the rational behind this policy. Whilst I agree with it for Economy and Economy Plus travellers, as their fare rate is consistently low, the club world tickets are already a high-end market product that you expect a high-end value service after paying over £4000!

I have researched your policy extensively and my wife and I don’t fall into any of the categories for exemption of the new seat reservation fees and as such feel undervalued and ill treated by BA, a brand I have preferred to fly with for years. Surfing the online forums and speaking to friends and family who fly BA there is considerable backlash from this policy and you have succeeded in driving many of your remaining loyal customers away. I myself will look at flying with Virgin Atlantic for our next Holiday who will not charge me extra on top of a business class ticket to allow my wife and I to sit together.

Regards,

armyflyer - 11/11/2009 22:10

BA's response is below and hardly answers my complaint.

Not good customer relations.

********************** Dear Mr ?

I am sorry you are unhappy with the charge for selecting your seat on your upcoming flight to JFK, New York. The fact that you were unable to chose together must have annoyed you. I know this is not the kind of service you would expect from British Airways. Thank you for contacting us about it.

We constantly review our service and have found that many of our customers wanted to select their seats at the time of booking. In response, British Airways has launched a new service to give our customers more control over their seating options. Customers are now able to choose to pay for their general seating any time from the time of booking. They can also secure exit row seats between 4 and 10 days prior to travel.

We introduced a charge so that those choosing to use this additional service were able to do so without passing on extra costs to those who don’t. Seat selection is also available free of charge 24 hours prior departure through online check- in, or at the airport on the day of travel. For more details see the Manage My Booking section on ba.com.

British Airways is committed to being a full service airline and providing improvements to our service for our customers. However, in the current economic climate we have also had to consider ways of generating revenue and at the same time as listening to what our passengers have asked for.

Thank you again for your comments, I do hope you and your wife will continue to choose British Airways in the future.

Best regards

Bijoy Kannamkunnel British Airways Customer Relations Your case reference is:7779458

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