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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 BA London City Airport

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, 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 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 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 UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

Comments (29)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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….!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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