Several years ago, BA made no charge for seat allocation at time of booking. Although this was only available on long haul routes. Then they took that option away from all passengers except their most frequent flyers, passengers travelling with infants and some other cases. This was to done to encourage (or force) people into using on-line check in.
When the rules last changed significantly Silver Executive Club card holders and above also gained the ability to pre-assign on short haul routes.
So if you only had no Executive Club card status, even if you were travelling on a fully flexible fare, there was no option at all to assign seats at time of booking. With these changes that option is being made available to everybody, although at an extra fee. You don’t have to pay for it if you don’t want to. You can wait for on-line check-in to open 24 hours prior to departure and choose your seat just like you HAVE TO now.
For long haul passengers this is a previously available service, for many short haul rules this is something which was not available even a few years ago.
Although the free pre-assignment rules have been extended to those on fully flexible fares. So if you are paying top price for ticket in any class, you can now get free seat allocation at time of booking whereas previously you did not. Similar with people who had high tier status with another one world carrier.
I am a Silver card holder and have been using seat allocation at time of booking. There have been occasions when my seat has been changed between the time of booking and boarding the aircraft. There is small print, to say BA reserve the right to change the seats for “operational reasons”.
What concerned me when I first heard of the new rules, is what would happen to somebody who had paid for pre-assignment and then found BA had changed the seat, would the extra fee be refunded? I was actually surprised to see BA have thought that one through. There is a refund policy which will apply in some but not all cases. So I am glad to see that BA have a refund policy in place from the start. Although it would have been better if the refund was automatic instead of the passenger having to apply within 14 days.
While this is a backward step on their policy of a few years ago, it is an improvement on their current policy.