Automatic seat allocation – what are BA doing?

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Polly 5 Aug 2017
at 08:06

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  • DavidGordon10

    Automatic seat allocation seems pretty simple as an idea.

    For example, my most frequent route is London to GVA and return, with Swiss. I don’t have a Swiss FF card, my Star Alliance gold card is with SAS, but I am still treated pretty well. I am signed up to the Swiss “automatic boarding card” routine, and always, even if on the cheapest ticket, I am assigned a reasonable seat.

    Now I am in BDA, and only one European airline flies to BDA, so even though I fly with them rarely here I am with BA, tickets in business, and travelling (surprise!) with someone who bears the same name as me. Now my BA card is pretty minimal but still allows me to choose seats one week before the flight. Does it? no, does it heck.

    The return BDA – LGW is tomorrow, about 22 hours from now.

    Now to my simple brain it would be logical to assign two pax with the same name and on the same booking to two seats next to each other.

    No. Four days ago we were in two seats in the same row but some way apart. Every other seat was occupied so no chance to choose two more logical seats. Three days ago, the assigned seats were different and in two different rows. Every other seat still shown as not available.

    For the last two days we have been shown as having no seats at all.

    This evening, when the online check in opens (allegedly) the message is that online check in is not possible – go to the airport and see what heppens there.

    Two conclusions for me here.
    1. Do they muck about with the sear allocation in the hope that we will lash out with the £68/seat to choose the seats much earlier? Perish the thought.
    2. Does the malarkey with the seat allocation and the online check in mean we will be (a) bounced off the flight (b) upgraded to F (c) downgraded to WTP (d) something else?

    Sorry, three conclusions ….
    3. I should stick with the airlines included in my Star Alliance gold card and my Skyteam platinum card – if only one of them flew from Europe to BDA.

    So – Kenyan and Brussels to Africa soon, United and Air Canada to North America, Air China to the far East later this year. Sorry BA, you are losing business.


    Two conclusions for me here.
    1. Do they muck about with the sear allocation in the hope that we will lash out with the £68/seat to choose the seats much earlier? Perish the thought.
    2. Does the malarkey with the seat allocation and the online check in mean we will be (a) bounced off the flight (b) upgraded to F (c) downgraded to WTP (d) something else?

    A little background. AIUI, from -72 hours, seat control is taken over by the FLY system and it scans through the pax list looking for BAEC status. It then uses seat blocking, where possible, so as a GCH Martyn Sinclair or I will often have a seat kept free next to us (unless the flight is full) and people with lower status levels (silver bronze) won’t be able to book those.

    You probably won’t be able to buy those blocked seats (probably, because who knows with BA IT).

    However, it sounds as if the flight may be full in some classess so upgrades may be needed and this is where it becomes murky, as I have no idea whether having lower or higher (or no) status is an advantage. You may both be upgraded or one of you or even downgraded (though that is probably less likely) or stay in the same class.

    BA does charge for business class seats and I have never agreed with it, so spending your budget elsewhere is the rational action if you are unhappy with the offer.


    BA trying to compete wth Ryanair, and succeeding. The only difference is that Ryanair are a lot more transparent and honest in the way they deal with such matters.

    I paid €228 (for seat selection) when booking my last trip to CPT on BA (in C class) and I have to say that really upset me, but I wanted to be sure to have a window seat so didn’t have much option. I normally do spend my travel budget elsewhere but in this case I had to choose BA so that just this once, as it’s a rarity, I could travel with Mrs. CT! She loves BA as much as I dislike them.

    I think their policies on this and other matters stink.


    I think FDOS is right in that what you experienced is not human but machine-driven. I doubt there is anything sinister at work here.

    I had exactly the same thing with Cathay Pacific this week. We are travelling in a few days and I pre-booked seats (in Y and for free) for the two of us, exit seats as it happens. On checking our seating yesterday, I noticed that I had been moved a couple of rows forwarded and had been ‘rewarded’ with a middle seat while my wife remained in her original seat. I called the Cathay reservations line, pointed out my oneworld status and a most apologetic young man reinstated my original seating and then offered to reserve exit seats for all of our 4 legs on CX. He certainly blamed their technology for the glitch!!


    @david, my last 2 BA flights and my free seat selection, made at time of booking have both been changed from my usual, chosen by me at time of booking, aisle as for forward as possible, to back third of the aircraft, by the window.. On both occasions, have been able to change back at time of check in…

    No apparent aircraft change either…


    Morning David, yes I agree that it might have been an IT glitch.
    But sadly, my assessment is that some team in BA has been targeted to generate a certain amount of revenue .
    Choice can be made to programme software to act in a way a business chooses, hoping that the people who interact with that system will succumb to this blackmailing technique.
    Especially when, those customers don’t have the privilege of having high status, yet have also paid a premium amount for travel.
    As was the case with my mate.
    He’ll never fly BA again after this very issue cropped up, when he and his girlfriend paid a fortune to go to the states, yet if they wanted to sit next to each other they would have had to pay a supplement…….Pure Greed.


    You have answered your own question:

    1. Do they muck about with the sear allocation in the hope that we will lash out with the £68/seat to choose the seats much earlier?

    Even with bronze, you will be stuck with whats left a week out if everyone else has been chipping away at the seat map. BDA is not the usual bucket and spade route for them and suspect that in Club World most would have probably been Silver.
    If you want to guarantee seating together you have to pay, that is BAs attitude. Although I find this absolutely disgusting if in anything other than Economy Class.

    What happened in the end? As a Silver member, if the day before I was bumped off the seat I had allocated and couldn’t check in online, I would be getting quite excited as this is a prime recipe for the system auto upgrading you at the desk. This has happened to me before.


    When flying BA domestic connector to LHR I always book seat 2D.
    Not enough overhead locker room in row 1 and bulkhead means everything goes up top.
    Strangely enough, when I checked my booking 2 weeks ago my seat appeared as 2E which is really odd since BA re-instated Club Europe I think it’s called on UK domestic, middle seats don’t exist up front??
    I had to call the call centre on another matter and pointed out my seat change to be told it was “obviously an It glitch” whatever that means?


    I think FDOS is right in that what you experienced is not human but machine-driven. I doubt there is anything sinister at work here.

    It’s not sinsiter, but it is very much to the disadvantage of revenue ticket buyers without status.


    So what happened in the end?

    After I started this thread, a Very Helpful forum member did some detective work, and found that business on the flight concerned was fully booked, that BA were offering three of the seats in F for sale, and that the seats in F (14 in all) were “available to allocate”.

    On arrival at check-in, the agent gave us two blank boarding cards and told us we would be allocated seats later when in the lounge. He explained that “every night” they do this: J is overbooked and the surplus is upgraded to F. (I doubt if it is actually every night, on the outbound flight J was only two-thirds full, so there must also be return flights that are not fully booked in J.)

    In the lounge we were allocated two perfectly suitable seats in J, and many others were given their boarding cards there as well.

    My comments and conclusions:
    1. Captonianm says “BA trying to compete with Ryanair, and succeeding”. The difference is that Ryanair has no business class, but this might be what it would look like.
    2. Why not a bit of honesty from BA? An automated message saying “business in this flight is fully booked, don’t bother to try and pre-select your seat, we will sort it out at the airport” would have helped and would have been good PR.
    3. Surely one of the things we pay for with a business class ticket is to avoid any hassle? So why not just include pre-allocation of seats in the price, the price would be a bit more, but we would know what we are getting at the time of booking. It is not good business to piss off captonianm, canucklad’s friend, and me.
    4. If F on a flight like this is just used as an overflow from J, then what otherwise is the point? If it is not making serious revenue, then run a service with just business, economy plus and economy?

    I am not a routine BA-basher, I simply do not use it because the routes I need are generally better served by various SkyTeam and Star Alliance airlines. On another thread JonathanCohen makes the point that “…there are alternative carriers to every destination that BA flies to…” but not so: from Europe to BDA, BA is the only carrier (as also for many points in the West Indies), and the outcome is that occasional BA-users like me have the chance to sample the BA service.


    BA is not the only carrier to BDA.

    However your choice is whether to go to BDA non stop on BA or via somewhere else on another airline.


    To have made myself completely clear I should have written “… from Europe to BDA DIRECT, BA is the only carrier …”.

    Yes, of course there are other airlines that fly to BDA – American, Delta, Air Canada and others. When I was booking the flights, the prices via (say) Philadelphia or New York were much higher and the total journey time also, of course, much longer. That is hardly a realistic alternative.


    We now choose a fare for a given destination, say £ 400, and then add on, seat choice, checked baggage, meal, drinks if wanted making a total of say £ 500 if you go for all the options.

    What is the airline charged £500 including all the above and then allowed you to remove the options you don’t want reducing the fare accordingly? I wonder if and how that would change peoples perception towards paying extra for seats etc.


    Interesting viewpoint LP…..

    Either way it’s kinda the same thing , and why on principle I’m opposed to these charges is that the airline is drilling down to a particular service level and summarily deciding, and then applying a cost to delivering that level. .

    Would as a customer, you put up with the following scenario…….

    You walk into a restaurant and you’re asked to pay a small supplement to guarantee a seat at the same table as your companion.
    The meal arrives and for a small supplement you can purchase salt and pepper to enhance your experience. .
    Another option is to pay just a wee bit extra to make sure your food arriver’s piping hot as it’s been prioritised at the hatch over other customer’s meals.

    They then give you an option of a small discount if you’re happy to forgo cutlery and crockery and eat your meal of a paper plate and plastic crockery.

    And to add to my analogy LP, what would you prefer……You walk into your local pub and order a pint of your favourite ale…..

    A) He pours you a perfect pint in a cleverly designed glass that enhances the taste /experience of the beer poured and then requests £4.50 from you. You baulk at the cost, and he then says, “well ok, I’ll give it to you in a plastic tumbler (think festivals etc) and you’ll be due me just £4”

    B) He pours it into a the plastic vessel first, charges £4 , and you baulk at having to drink your favourite ale out of a cheap shoddy tumbler. He then pulls out the specially designed glass and gives you the choice to upgrade the experience for only £4.50

    Either way, in my eyes it’s a shoddy way of running a service orientated business, after all , I just want my money’s worth, not a sense of being ripped off. as I sip at my brew.

    And that’s exactly how I feel about certain airlines at the moment.


    I had the strange experience, I booked a CW DXB/LHR/DXB for some welcome R&R back in Blighty. One week before travel I had to change my departure from DXB early by one week due to the other half having to go into hospital in the UK. It was pretty serious so I had to travel. Strange thing was on both legs I had originally booked, the seats were 62A (my favourite on the upper deck), as the change for the DXB-LHR leg was onto a 777 I was able to get 11F, but for some reason the system reallocated my seat for the unchanged return LHR-DXB leg down to the main deck on the 744 seat 10A. As soon as I noticed I went into my booking and saw 62A had gone already and this was within 10 minutes of the change but 64K was free – pheww. Why when the return leg was not changed was my seat reallocated?

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