British Airways extends ‘hand baggage only’ fares to all short-haul fare classes

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The ‘hand baggage only’ experiment is clearly working.  This was initially trialled at Gatwick, offering a £10 discount each-way on non-flexible economy tickets to a handful of destinations.

Over the course of the last year British Airways has gradually been extending its coverage.  From July 17th, it is now available on ALL short haul departures in ALL fare classes:


From Heathrow and City airports, you can now save £10 each-way on semi-flexible and flexible tickets in the following fare buckets – L, M, K, H, B, Y.

From Gatwick, you can now save £10 in B and Y  – it was already available in the lower classes.

These tickets are only available for point-to-point trips and will not be offered if you are connecting to another flight.

Whilst this does simplify the BA ticketing structure, I’m not entirely sure it makes financial sense.  Business travellers on flexible tickets are unlikely to be price sensitive to the tune of £10.  It will also require a lot of telephone calls back and forth between corporate travel agencies, PAs and travellers over whether the passenger intends to take any checked luggage or not.

For clarity, a British Airways Silver or Gold member CANNOT buy a ‘hand baggage only’ fare and then try to check in a bag for free on the basis of their BA status.  You are effectively required to give up your right to an additional free checked bag in return for buying one of these tickets.

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  1. Dominic says:

    Understand your point about business travellers but in my experience a large majority of business travellers will use hand baggage only anyway, so I think this is a positive move. I’m not so sure that business travellers aren’t so price-sensitive anyway: my company is being pretty tough right now on saving on travel costs and I can see a rule pretty quickly saying ‘if you’re booked on a simple 1-2 day trip then hand luggage only fares will be booked unless you specifically request otherwise”.

  2. Frenske says:

    Are you not forgetting that most business short haul flights are done in economy on normal tickets?
    For example our company decided it is better to pay the fee for changing flights than paying for flexible tickets.
    Hand lugage only tickets are also great a weekend away tourists. If they make it possible to mix ticket type it would be good for groups who might share check in lugage.

    • In my experience not many companies are so enlightened! I have often said in the past in my own career it would make more sense to buy 3 nonflexible tickets on 3 different return flights because it is cheaper than 1 flexible ticket, but it never got anywhere!

  3. windowseat says:

    The price conscious bit of me approves.

    The worry-guts bit of me is fearful that this will downgrade the experience of travelling on BA even further so that it more closely resembles one of the worst aspect of low cost airlines.

    The Ryanair/EasyJet free seating scrum may now have ended with the introduction of allocated seating — but since the arrival of hand luggage only fares its been replaced by the scrum to find space in the overhead bins.

    Basically, if you are not in the front of the queue to get on, then the risk is your hand luggage goes in the hold (hello waiting for it to appear on the carousel at the other end).

  4. Andy Richardson says:

    May be “working” for BA but for me these hand baggage only fares have turned the boarding process into a farce with cabin crew running back and forwards with cabin luggage desperately trying to get it all put away before they miss their slot time. A shame as it was always what set BA apart for me and made the boarding process as stress free as possible when most people had a checked bag inclusive of cost which seemed to curb the cabin stress levels before takeoff with a decent number electing to check a bag.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      You’d have to pay me to check a bag on most of my shorthaul travel – you end up losing about half an hour dropping off/collecting and there’s the risk it gets lost or damaged.

      To each their own, I suppose!

      • Andy Richardson says:

        Can totally see your point for a business traveller – my few bad experiences were to holiday destinations where I would have normally expected joe public to have checked a bag. Fair play BA though I guess they have done what they had to!

        • Fenny says:

          If airlines actually enforced the size restrictions on hand baggage, much of the issue would go. But especially in the US, I see people rock up to the gate with “hand baggage” the size of a small wardrobe. IMO, they should then be charged at least twice the normal price of checked bags for these, due to the hassle of having to put them somewhere they will fit.

          • MrHandBaggageOnly says:

            Quite right! Also, if those on board first didn’t waste space by thoughtlessly putting their coat alongside their bag, that would save more time.

          • With the wardrobes coming out of short haul planes you will see more of this!

  5. Fiona says:

    As someone living in Scotland I find it very annoying (and can not see why) that they are not offering it on connecting flights. 99% of my BA flights are EDI to LHR/LGW and then onwards to Europe so I can not take advantage of this.

    • jonboy says:

      It would make sense for them to offer hbo if connecting to another route that also offers and hbo fare, I agree.

  6. Richard says:

    Just booked a trip to EDI and the difference between hand baggage only and checked luggage fare was £12. Has the difference gone up recently?

    Also this has been a back door way to price increases. Fares between EDI and London used to be £39 each way. Now only the hand baggage fare let’s you get this fare. So the original fare with luggage has increased. Still, prefer the option to not check luggage and keep the original low fare.

    Worth reminding folk that Avios bookings are all still with luggage.

  7. Lady London says:

    Shurely no one could ever have thought this was anything other than a disguised price rise ?

  8. Simon says:

    Most corporate travel agencies won’t tell their clients about this and continue to charge the more expensive fare (and pocket the extra commission).

    • Stripy says:

      And what happens when their client turns up at the airport with a bag to check?

      • Aeronaut says:

        They’ll check the bag in.

        Simon isn’t saying corporate travel agents are charging clients for the ‘with bag’ fare and then only booking the HBO fare – that’d be outright fraud.

        • Actually this is quite common in some parts of the world – you book a flexible fare with a travel agent, but they may book you into the lowest fare class and pay the change fees themselves. Not good if you’re relying on a certain fare class to get miles.

  9. idrive says:

    does buying the cheap hand luggage only fare allow to pay for the luggage at a later time and benefit of MarcoPolo 2x luggage benefit?

    by the way, thanks to this fare i booked 4 flights that saving lots of money. I usually need the bag on the return flight, not on the outbound.

  10. squills says:

    Just been checking ‘our’ route back from our place in Europe next year – I still need to book the return flight. Actually the hand luggage only discount is £20 and with 5 of us that makes a somewhat appealing £100! Fare’s only £50 if I buy now – so definitely competitive with the discounters.

    Trouble is, we’re going from Gatwick and this return is to Heathrow. If I park the car at Heathrow on the way out, how easy is it to get to Gatwick by public transport?

    • windowseat says:

      It’s not especially easy, no direct rail link – coach service probably the quickest but depends on time of day and traffic. Main problem is that the hand luggage discount will be eaten up and probably exceeded once you add in the cost of parking at Heathrow and then buying ticket from Gatwick

      • Aeronaut says:

        The National Express coach between Heathrow and Gatwick costs £25 for an adult, £12.50 for a child – there are no special advance purchase deals on this route either.

  11. Recently I booked HBO, and then upgraded to Club Europe on MMB; the upgraded fare then showed as including checked bags. I would assume that this is no longer possible but would be interesting to get confirmation once somebody tries the same trick again now that the new fare options have come in.

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