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Bits: BA hand baggage fares, sale, 4000 free Alitalia miles, Finnair starts Dublin

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News in brief:

British Airways makes ‘hand baggage only’ fares less attractive

You will probably have received an email from British Airways yesterday regarding ‘hand baggage only’ fares.  Introduced two years, initially at Gatwick in an attempt to stop the rise of easyJet, they are now available across short-haul at Heathrow and London City.

From March 26th, you can no longer select a seat on an HBO fare.  It is actually worse than that – BA will randomly give you a seat when check-in opens.  This will presumably be a middle seat next to the toilets.

If you don’t like your seat, you need to pay to change it.  Whether this will be enforced onboard by the crew if you decide to move during the boarding process I don’t know!

There is no leeway for Executive Club Gold, Silver or Bronze members.

What you might not have realised is that this policy applies to ALL ‘hand baggage only’ fares, even fully flexible ones.  If you pay £643 for a fully flexible HBO ticket to Hamburg (as opposed to £663 for a standard fully flex) you will STILL be dumped in a middle seat at the back.

It seems that ‘hand baggage only’ fares have been too successful.  Whilst some passengers may have decided not to check in a bag to save money, the majority of users were presumably people already travelling without a suitcase.  They were receiving a discount for no good reason.  BA now wants to persuade these people to go back to paying the higher price and leaving HBO as a niche product.

British Airways 350 3 launches 72 hour flash sale is running another 3-day sale this week, starting today.  Details are here.  Advertised savings are ‘up to’ 50%.

4,000 miles for joining Alitalia’s MilleMiglia

Etihad is now in full control of Alitalia’s MilleMiglia loyalty programme – and in partial control of the airline.  To encourage new members, they are offering 4,000 bonus miles if you sign up before March 15th.

You will need some activity on the account within three months for the 4,000 miles to be awarded, which could be a small American Express Membership Rewards transfer or some SkyTeam flights.

There is no desperate reason to join up – you can’t do anything with 4,000 miles.  That said, if you will have a one-off SkyTeam flight (Air France, KLM, Alitalia etc) coming up, this bonus would push you along a bit.  Some Etihad partners, eg airberlin, can also be credited to MilleMiglia.

Finnair launches Dublin to Helsinki

Something I picked up at the Business Travel Show last week which had otherwise passed me by was the impending launch of a new Dublin to Helsinki route by Finnair.

If you have never been to Helsinki it is a lovely, albeit not huge, city. Summer is obviously the best time to go given the temperatures at other times. It is also a very short hop by ferry to Tallinn in Estonia which is another beautiful place to visit.

The service will use an Embraer 190 aircraft with 100 seats. It will operate six days a week (not Tuesday) from March 30th until October.

Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any Avios redemption seats available –  possibly as this route is operated by the Flybe Finland joint venture.  You would earn Avios on a cash ticket though.  Finnair also flies from Manchester to Helsinki and that route IS available for a redemption.

Comments (48)

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

  • Nick Burch says:

    I can see why BA want to offer HBO on their very cheapest fares, especially on routes where there’s strong competition from lower-cost players, so they look good in comparison searches.

    I can’t work out why they offer HBO on their most expensive fare buckets though? With lots of companies using booking systems/rules which force the cheapest fares, lots of corporate travellers (including status card holders) are presumably ending up HBO on their work travel without any way to avoid it

    • Andy says:

      Agreed – I’ve found myself unwittingly on a HBO fare to London when booking through the corporate travel agent. To be honest, I don’t know how I’d select a non-HBO fare on the system let alone be able to justify it if challenged.

      • Tim says:

        They do it due to IT system compatibility. If the outbound has an HBO fare available but the inbound doesn’t, the system does not compute and won’t allow HBO out and normal back. So in order to get HBO out, you need and HBO back option

        • Calchas says:

          Yes but if your customer is already willing to pay a full Y fare why not retract the option of the cheap HBO, O fare?

    • Calchas says:

      BA make a saving in the charge they pay the airports to handle checked baggage when they sell HBO fares

      • Rob says:

        90% of HBO passengers would never have taken a bag in the first place! I would guess they don’t pay any more than £2 for handling a suitcase either.

  • Riku says:

    BAEC tier points on Helsinki – Dublin seem a poor deal when compared to HEL-MAN or HEL-LHR. You get half the tier points even though you fly further (and probably see Manchester down below on the way from Helsinki to Dublin). This is because BA offer more TP for some far away european places like Helsinki and Finnair match that but ONLY that, so longer Finnair european flights revert to normal TP rates if the airport is not in the UK.

    • Calchas says:

      BA only offer extra TPs on their band 4 routes and routes out of the UK.
      They don’t give me extra TPs on my 1600 mile north American flights either. 😉

  • Poincianakings says:

    Is that right Raffles? Isn’t it you can pay to select a seat on HBO at the time of booking As well?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, you can pay to select a seat at time of booking. However, as doing that would take the cost to the same price as a non-HBO fare, it is unlikely your corporate travel department will allow it.

  • al says:

    Re Not being able to choose your own seats. Add this to the recent points changes and I have to ask the question of whether there is a mole working on behalf of the competition in BA’s marketing team.

    How else can you explain a raft of measures that disincentivse me and I am sure others from booking a flight with BA.

  • Paul says:

    I had been pretty sanguin about the BAEC changes that come in April but am genuinely furious at this latest downgrade to BAEC benefits. I could have accepted a number of scenarios with regard to seat selection but the blanket ban on changes without payment is a step to far. I wrote to BA, my first such email with regard to benefit changes. The BA cut and paste department obviously worked overtime during the night to come up with the following nonsense.

    • Paul says:

      I am sorry to hear that this change of seat selection when travelling on our Hand Baggage Only fares is making you reconsider your travelling future with British Airways.

      We believe that these fares continue to offer our customers who choose them excellent value for money, however in order to offer such low fares we have to restrict the terms and conditions on them.

      Of course everyone on our short-haul flights, regardless of the fare purchased, is offered benefits such as:
      – an allocated seat number before boarding their aircraft
      – a generous two-bag cabin baggage allowance (
      – free online, mobile or airport check-in and boarding pass issuance
      – parties travelling with infants get free seat choice at time of booking, and families are allocated seats together (where possible) a few days before departure
      – infants and children on Hand Baggage Only fares may still check in a fully-collapsible pushchair and a car seat.
      – semi-flexible and fully flexible fare choices, offering extra benefits
      – Executive Club benefits including earning Avios points that can be redeemed for flights
      – a unique London proposition – British Airways is the only short-haul airline to fly from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City with fares that can combine choice of airports

      Please be assured that we will share your feedback with our Executive Club team.

      I hope that this will not come as too much of a disappointment.

      • Olivula says:

        BA is doing a fantastic job of making their airline less and less attractive to use. A business that tries hard to disincentive customers has a problem, sooner or later.

      • Worzel says:

        I had a similar response from BA in April last year when I emailed to have a moan about them “forgetting” to make mention, in the Executive Club Members Area, that they were increasing cancellation charges. Not happy I chased it up and got:

        ‘Thank you for taking the time to write back to us. I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to you. I am sorry you felt that our website was not updated with the information related to the increase in amendment charges to your booking. Please accept my sincere apologies.

        I would like to assure you that we do listen and take account of what our customers tell us. I have now recorded the details of your complaint. A group of senior managers from across the business look at the problems our customers face, and how we can improve. Some issues are easy to fix quickly, and some may take a little more time to put right. We want to iron out the difficulties, and our chief executive expects us to make continuous improvements across all areas of our business for our customers.

        Thank you for taking the time to follow up with me again. We hope we will have the opportunity to welcome you on board again soon’.

        • callum says:

          No rational person without vested interests would whine about those responses. Just because they don’t tell you what you WANT them them to tell you, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.

  • Kai says:

    Regarding Alitalia’s MilleMiglia: I had a Tokyo-Paris-London flight three days ago. The ticket is sold by Air France but the first leg is an AF code-share operated by Japan Airlines, which is not a partner of Alitalia. The miles for my second leg has already posted but not the first one, I wonder if the flight being operated by a non-partner means I don’t get the miles?

    • Rob says:

      Potentially. Does SkyTeam work on the operating carrier or the marketing carrier? That would be the clincher.

      For oneworld it is marketing carrier (so you can’t credit the JAL flight to BA). With Star Alliance it is operating carrier.

      • Kai says:

        Thanks! I know FlyingBlue works on the marketing carrier but I’m not sure if it’s the same across SkyTeam. I will probably reach the customer service if nothing happens in the next week. I don’t wanna lost 12k miles!

  • andystock says:

    The orange lot must be loving this latest move by BA.

  • Jovan says:

    Re: Finnair flights – I was on MAN-HEL about four weeks ago and it was operated by FlyBe E190. Has something changed recently and it is operated by the mainline?

    And a thought re: BA HBO fares, would it be better to check in as late as possible, if the allocation of seats will start with the rubbish ones?

    • Rob says:

      Thanks, have tweaked the text as (if Flybe is running Manchester at present) that cannot be the reason for the lack of Avios seats.

    • timezonehopper says:

      This isn’t a recent change – Flybe Nordic have been operating the MAN-HEL route for a couple of years now. You still get tier points and Avios as if flown on AY.

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

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