BA launches ‘hand-baggage only’ and ‘semi-flexible’ fares from Heathrow and City

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, 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.

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  1. I mostly fly with hand baggage only so it doesn’t make much difference to me. However, it should, I should get a lower fare but in my GLA-LGW experience this has not been the case. Lowest advance fares are still the same at about £80 rtn but you can no longer check a bag. I think the point about overstuffed bins is important. Having experienced turbulence over Bay of Bengal in a late June flight that was so bad it frightened me for first time ever, I cannot say I am very happy anymore about heavy stuff in bins. Yet I am as guilty as next person of tring to get onboard as much as I can., and situation will continue to get worse across more airlines now thanks to LCC. I am now beginning to wish common sense would prevail and new safety regulations would limit cabin baggage to enforcible small lightweight items.

    • Are you saying there was a problem with luggage in overhead bins during your flight over the Bay of Bengal?

      • Bad turbulence makes the luggage bins burst open, showering the bags inside on the heads of aisle passengers.

      • Not in my area on this flight but meals went ‘flying’ as did trollies and flyght sttendant and people up and about lost there footing. On a flight some years earlier I saw a woman take a nasty hit on the shoulder by a laptop bag when a bin popped open in only moderate turbulence.

    • “I am now beginning to wish common sense would prevail and new safety regulations would limit cabin baggage to enforcible small lightweight items.”

      Try flying Thomas Cook! Their hand baggage policy of strictly one item no more than 55x40x20cm (i.e. 30% less volum than BA’s nominal) and no more than 5Kg in weight is overly enforced (no handbags, laptops, briefcases or carrier bags unless they fit inside the one item) . All hand baggage is weighed, anything that looks slightly larger in any dimension is checked and a £29 fee imposed on anything that comes close to breaking the rules. If there is any argument over how they impose this policy the passenger is automatically barred from the flight.

      Thomas Cook is my airline of last resort. I hope you don’t wish all airlines to become like that.

      • Being honest, probably not as I hate checling bags, especially on short haul. However, if regs were changed I would probably not grumble too much. I think all of us are fine with status quo until first time we get hit, I doubt you would be happy with even 5kg hitting you on the head. Solution is probably better bin design.

      • Hingeless says:

        If you are driving to the airport leave your hand baggage in the car when you check in, works a treat

  2. This is undoubtedly the thin end of the wedge and can only be a matter of time before it creeps to other routes.

  3. This will make ex-AMS long-haul positioning flights cheaper!

  4. Sean Brennan says:

    Do these flights earn increased tier points?

  5. I personally don’t remember the last time BA was cheaper than the LCCs. Its got a lot more competitive recently – particularly from Gatwick – but unless you have a requirement to fly at a non-flexible time, the LCCs will almost invariably beat it.

      • Numerous “reports” are put out year after year showing that but I don’t accept them as particularly valid – certainly not for my qualification of having flexible timing. Though looking at the graphs at the top of your article, BA wasn’t the cheapest airline on a single flight – so I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to show with that?

        • BA was cheaper that easyJet on Barcelona for much of the time, and the gap on the other routes is so modest that it can easily be covered by the value of free baggage, free inflight refreshments etc.

          Tube to Heathrow is £4.60 I think, train to Gatwick is at least £10 plus a tube connection (if you live in Central London) etc etc.

          You would expect to pay a premium on BA anyway – if it was cheaper than Ryanair given their inflight experience, disaster recovery and often inconvenient airports, then something would be very wrong!

        • But it wasn’t cheaper than Ryanair… And I generally go without hold baggage and don’t need inflight refreshments.

          Like the vast majority of people, I don’t live in Central London. A coach to Heathrow from the south coast is roughly £15 whereas Southern regularly do advance singles to Gatwick from £3 (same from Victoria as well).

          And yes I would expect BA to be more expensive than Ryanair – that was my entire argument!

        • But then with your preference for business class travel and my preference for “get there as cheaply as physically possible”, I don’t think we can really ever agree on a topic like this!

    • Not in my experience when in came to getting away for a long weekend Friday to Monday. Time after time BA was cheaper than the so-called LCCs. Bezides it is absolutely easy to collect enough avios to take advantage of RFS which is fab for us in the regions if we also have time to exploit the stopover in London. It is cool to pop down to London for a few days and pop over to Paris for example for an overnight. Whoever wants them is welcome to LCCs. Only one I like is Air Asia.

      • A long weekend from Friday to Monday isn’t remotely “flexible” though is it. It’s peak leisure time.

        And yes, the RFS is very good for those in the regions. It’s also cool however to pop over to Norway for a tenner (BA wanted £70) or to the Canaries for £80 return (BA wanted £150). My argument isn’t that BA is never cheaper, it is merely that it is virtually never cheaper IF you’re flexible (which I, and millions of other leisure travellers, are).

        • Agreed. If I still lived in Yorkshire I wouldn’t be flying to Europe via Heathrow and a plane change, however pleasant BA was!

        • Ok, understood. It is long time since I checked Ryanair tbh, since then they have many more routes and frequencies so availability to more places at cheaper prices should now be better. I am quite close to PIK so if I ever needed one of their destinations the direct flight might tempt me. That said, I still overlook easyjet from GLA for my positioning flights in AMS in favour of BA RFS because I like to stay overniggt in London (as I suspect Raffles might too if he was living back in Yorkshire!)

  6. Do you have a link to the BA information you quote in the post? It didn’t jump out at me when I went to just now. Interested to know whether there’s any other information, such as whether the semi-flexible fares earn full tier points, and what the “free” change to another flight on the same day actually means. Do you have to pay any difference in fare? If not, what’s to stop you booking the cheapest flight on a particular day and then immediately changing it to the one you actually want (maybe the semi-flexible fare is the same for all flights on the same day)? How late can you exercise the option to change? Can you wait until the flight you were booked on has already left, and then front up at the airport expecting to get on the next one?

    • It was a PDF I was sent. Here are more excerpts:

      What are the fare conditions for the free change on the day?
      Same day is applied when the customer’s original flight and the flight that customer wants to change to are both within 00:00 and 23:59 local time of the departure airport.
       Customers will be able to change to an early/later available flight on the departure day of the original flight for free, providing they give at least one hour’s notice prior to the scheduled departure time of the original flight.
       Changes are subject to availability on the new flight in the same cabin as the original flight.
       British airways will deliver new functionality to enable to you process this type of change.
       These attributes will not apply to bookings made in restricted Club Europe booking classes.

      What is the process to make changes to bookings on the day?
      Changes on the day can be made for customers who have not yet checked in for their flight by following the process below:
       Make a duplicate booking in the same cabin. If the original booking class is not available, book into Y or C/J class.
       Add the appropriate SSR
       This will generate automatically a message to the British Airways queue.
       British Airways will force book into the original fare class and revalidate the ticket.
       Booking status will change to KK.
       A message will be generated back to the agent to confirm.

      What if a customer has already checked in?
      If a customer wishes to make a change on the day after checking in, the agent must enter the appropriate keyword to offload the customer from the flight.
      Once confirmation has been received the customer has been offloaded, the agent can follow the process above.
      Alternatively the customer can make the change at the airport.
      If the customer has checked in a bag, the change must be made at the airport.

      Will a difference in fare apply when changes are made on the day?
      Customers will not pay a change fee or difference in fare unless:
       Change made on a flight from/to a different airport
       Changed flight to other operating carrier
       Changed flight to higher cabin as no availability in the same cabin

  7. Lady London says:

    These seems to be genuine discounts….. FOR NOW.

  8. flyforfun says:

    The Evening Standard article will make people think that BA is INCREASING its fares!! Very poor reporting by someone that doesn’t understand the product or news.

    “British Airways adds £10 fee to check luggage on some Europe flights”

    • By the time the dust settles and the propaganda ends the artcles will be about right. If the small savings are really important to you book them now before they become usual fares that previously included baggage.

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

    • 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….!