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British Airways launches ‘hand-baggage only’ and ‘semi-flexible’ fares at Heathrow

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Earlier this year, British Airways rolled out ‘hand baggage only’ fares from Gatwick.  This was a tactical move to stop the drift of customers to easyJet – now the biggest airline at Gatwick – and judging from BA’s comments it appears to be a success.

The ‘handbaggage only’ fares are now to be rolled out at Heathrow and City Airport as well.

British Airways

These are the trial routes.  You need to look for flights after September 24th to see the fares:

  • London Heathrow to/from: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris CDG and Paris ORY, Rome, Rotterdam and Stockholm
  • London City to/from: Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stockholm

In addition, a new range of semi-flex and fully-flex fares are being trialled, aimed mainly at business customers.  These will be trialled on the above routes plus:

  • London Gatwick to/from: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Rome

A quick look shows that the ‘hand baggage only’ fares are £10 per leg cheaper than the standard fare.  These do seem to be genuine discounts – ie they haven’t simply pushed up the usual fare by £10!  You will earn the usual tier points and Avios on these tickets.

What are semi-flex fares?

The new semi-flex fare will allow you to switch to a different flight, for free, ON THE SAME DAY as your booked flight.

If you want to know how to book the new semi-flex tickets, this is BA’s guidance:

How will customers be able to book these fares?

When a customer books via ba.com, they will see options for the Standard economy fare and the Hand Baggage Only fare. As they go through the booking process the new Semi-flex fare will be offered and customers can choose to upgrade to this fare before they purchase the ticket.

Why can’t the Semi-flex option be selected from the ba.com home page?

We want to be able to offer all customers our lowest available fares on any flight.

Customers can then choose to upgrade to a more flexible fare when they make their booking.

Will customers be able to upgrade to a Semi-flex ticket once they have booked their ticket?

Yes. This can be done via a travel agent or via Manage My Booking on ba.com. A change fee and the difference in fare will be payable, in line with fare rules for the HBO and Standard fare.

Note that Silver and Gold card holders are NOT allowed to book ‘hand baggage only’ fares and then turn up with a suitcase, hoping to get it on for free as a Silver and Gold benefit.

I’m not sure I necessarily agree with this.  After all – to take a hotel analogy – as a Hilton Gold (which gives me free breakfast) I would logically book a room only rate instead of booking a more expensive ‘bed and breakfast’ rate …..

In general, as long as it doesn’t lead to over-stuffed overhead lockers, this is a sensible commercial move by BA.  However, as studies consistently show, BA’s biggest issue is NOT that it is more expensive than low-cost carriers.  The problem is the fact that people assume it is and don’t even bother checking BA’s prices, adjusting for the things BA provides for free.


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

If you have a small business, we especially recommend Capital On Cap’s Visa card which comes with a generous bonus worth 10,500 Avios:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (29)

  • Steve says:

    The Rome route would be of particular interest to us.
    I wonder if the Haribos rate would reflect the 3 ticket types available.

    • Steve says:

      Actually just looked – whilst you can book a hand luggage fair only going out, you can’t coming back. WTF is that all about.

      • flyforfun says:

        Once you select the hand bag only fare, the return leg updates with the inbound hand bag only fare. Don’t ask me why….!