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How do BA’s new short-haul fare classes (Basic, Plus, Plus Flex) price up?

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Back in February, British Airways announced an overhaul of its short haul economy fare structure yesterday.

Then it all went quiet although the fares were available for purchase.

This was because someone at BA decided that the names for the three fare classes – ‘Hand Baggage Only’, ‘With Checked Bag’ and ‘Fully Flex’ – were not catchy enough.

The new ticket class names which have just been introduced are ‘Basic’, ‘Plus’ and ‘Plus Flex’.

What has changed?

The first big change is that Basic (previously Hand Baggage Only) is no longer sold as semi-flexible or fully flexible tickets.  This removed the stupid situation whereby – as happened to my wife recently – someone could pay £500 for a fully flexible short-haul economy flight but, because it was booked as Hand Baggage Only, could not select a seat until check-in opened.  Even status did not help.

The second big change is that Plus and Plus Flex tickets can be changed for FREE on the day of departure.

British Airways 350 2

Ah, but won’t this cost me a fortune?

I am a grumpy old cynic and wrote, back in February:

“the only thing that is not clear is how big the price gap between ‘Hand Baggage Only’ and ‘With Checked Bag’ will be.  It almost certainly will not be the £10 or so currently seen.”

And yet, I am wrong.  Plus tickets do seem to offer excellent value for money, primarily due to the ability to change planes for free.

Here are a couple of examples of varying distances:

Hamburg – Plus is £15 each-way more than Basic

Milan – Plus is £15 each-way more than Basic

Istanbul – Plus is £20-£26 each-way more than Basic

On most routes, an extra £30 per person will get you free seat selection from 48 hours before departure (or immediately if you have status), 1 x free suitcase and the option to change your seat to another flight on the day of departure.

You can play games with this new policy of course.  If you are prepared to live with a small amount of risk, you could book the cheapest flight on any particular day in Flex, knowing that you can switch to another – more expensive – flight on the day.  Unless that flight is 100% full, you can move without paying a penny.  Changes can be made up to one hour before departure.

The new fare classes in detail

Here are the key characteristics of each new short-haul ticket class:

Basic:

Standard hand baggage allowance (no Checked Baggage allowance)

Seating allocated at check-in or paid for seat selection

Flight changes can be made for a fee plus any difference in fare

Plus:

Includes a 23kg Checked Baggage allowance, plus the standard hand baggage allowance

Free seat selection from 48 hours prior to departure

Free flight changes on the day of departure, up to one hour before scheduled flight time

No change fees (a fare difference may apply if flight is changed before day of departure) (EDIT: this benefit was removed in August 2016)

Plus Flex:

Fully refundable

Includes a 23kg Checked Baggage allowance, plus the standard hand baggage allowance

Free seat selection at time of booking

Free flight changes on the day of departure, up to one hour before scheduled flight time

No change fees (a fare difference may apply if flight is changed before day of departure)

On UK domestic routes, Fully Flex fares will be branded ‘Business UK’. These fares include access to British Airways’ lounges and Priority Boarding.

Club Europe fares are unaffected.  Short haul tickets booked as a transfer to a long haul flight will also not be covered by these changes and will be driven by the fare rules of the long haul ticket.

Here are the rules for the ‘free flight changes’ on Plus and Plus Flex tickets:

Flights can be changed on the same day for free to an earlier or later available flight. The customer’s original flight and the flight they change to must both be within 00:00 and 23:59 local time of the departure airport. At least one hour’s notice must be given prior to the scheduled departure time.

The routing (origin and destination airports) must remain unchanged. Routing or date changesmade on the original day of departure may incur fare and/or tax differences, as usual.

Changes are subject to availability on the new flight in the same cabin as the original flight.

These changes are genuinely positive for short haul travellers, especially as the fare difference between Basic and Flex is modest.


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Comments (103)

  • James67 says:

    BA would probably love to charge the huge difference between the two lower fare options you speculated on. That they don’t is proof that intense competition on shorthaul works. It’s a pity the same is not true of longhaul where BA frequently gets away with outrageously high fares, largely due to it’s dominance at LHR (and folks like my partner who still prefer to fly them despite their increasingly lagging products).

  • Pawel says:

    Hm any news about redemption flights?
    Maybe we will can also change for earlier/later flights?

    • Rob says:

      No news. Whilst I didn’t mention this in the article, it does now mean that, in some scenarios, a cash ticket has advantages that an Avios ticket does not.

      • Ralf says:

        this is really confusing for the “regular” traveller that avios flights have different conditions from paid flights. I cannot even find the conditions for avios flights on ba.com (only the cancellation/change fees)

        • harry says:

          Where’s the confusion? No point assuming that Avios redemption must match one of the 3 BA classes in the article – they currently don’t.

          Simple enough, eg for Europe: you already said about the cancellation fees etc – then you get 1 x 23 kg checked luggage plus standard cabin luggage, + free seat selection @ T-24hrs (but exit seats are extra). Currently no indication that Avios redemptions will include anything else as per the Plus seat change benefits.

      • Will says:

        Last time I asked whether I could move my CE ZRH-LCY flight to an earlier one at the airport they quoted CHF 63. No thanks.

  • Nick says:

    I can’t help but immediately think this is soooo Ryanair naming it yet again devalues the brand. Then again what is the value of the brand that promises the earth on the website but only half delivers at best

    • Nick says:

      I’m not sure there is much to whinge about here. This new fare structure looks great to me, and the flexibility of plus could be enormously helpful when booking positioning flights for ex-EU tickets.

      BA are a fair target for criticism on some things (I’m about to fly cw on an old 767 which looks horrible), but I don’t see that these fares are one of them. It looks like a genuine enhancement to me.

    • Callum says:

      If this genuinely devalues the brand in your eyes then I pity you.

      The names are simple and easy to understand – exactly what people like.

      • Richard says:

        I agree that it’s just a name, but I do think it’s a shame. At the start BA did a good job (at least in my eyes) of positioning the HBO fare being a discount on the “normal” fare, which you got because you weren’t taking a bag. Over time that’s eroded, to the point now where the HBO fare is “normal” and taking a bag is an add-on..

        Perhaps it’s just the way of the world now, but to me it does put BA in the same bucket as Flybe or EasyJet, rather than in a separate category of “full-service airline”. That has nothing to do with the actual offerings – just the way they’re marketed. Which in turn is a problem because BA is usually still a bit more expensive, at least on the routes I know.

        • Callum says:

          BA short haul IS in the same bucket as those airlines. Most differences between them for the average flyer nowadays are merely perception.

          If you don’t like the content of the fares then fair enough, but Nick was whining about the names sounding too “Ryanair”. Someone that desperate to feel superior to a Ryanair flyer deserves pity in my book!

          • Richard says:

            “Most differences between them for the average flyer nowadays are merely perception” – exactly. And the language they use affects the “average flyer’s” perception, doesn’t it?

          • RIccati says:

            He is talking different and important thing.

            HBO fare was a discounted option compared to the normal fares at which majority of people bought tickets (booking classes for which have snobbish name from the airlines as Economy Discounted).

            Now, HBO fare became Basic fare and old ‘normal’ has more expensive alternatives. There is nothing in between.

            It’s all about yield and revenue management: to extract £10-30 each way from pax compared to the previous prices. These new fares which will cost passengers more and Raffles shows how to get (recover) some value.

            There is also argument about treatment of status passengers who earned benefits (e.g., luggage, lounge) but have to pay for an even more expensive ticket to get them.

            Regarding bag being an add-on. American Airlines has no free bag allowance on domestic travel (except for status) for a while. This is all good and well to look at that example but the size of domestic US carry on is a few inches larger and at least notionally overhead bins are prepared more these larger bags. By introducing HBO-type fares, European airlines conveniently overlook that US carry on allowance is more generous.

          • Callum says:

            They don’t overlook it, it’s merely utterly irrelevant what the American carriers do. And given many Ryanair flights only have 5% of passengers bring a bag, I’m not sure they’re wrong.

            As to the claim they’ve hiked fares, that’s a) not something you can ever prove and b) even if you could, you can’t prove they wouldn’t have done so anyway. It’s all just speculation.

          • Fenny says:

            Americans will try to take something the size of a small wardrobe on as a “carry on”, despite knowing that it is well over the size and weight allowed. Most are too tight to pay for checked baggage and will complain loud and long at the gate when they are told their bag needs to be put in the hold.

            USians think that something is only worthwhile if they have to pay for it, but trying to get away with not paying for it is part of the “American way”.

          • Callum says:

            A rather bigoted view. You’ll see the same thing happening at European airports (I often see it when flying to a sun destination with Ryanair etc.) despite it being the norm for us for much longer than it has been for them.

          • RIccati says:

            BA knows what they are doing:

            It’s forcing a customer either to suffer Procrustean bed of a middle seat at the back or pay up for new Plus/Plus Flex fares.

  • Richard says:

    What is the point of no seat selection (even at check in) for the Basic fare? It would not cost BA anything to allow it and certainly drives me away from these fares.
    AY have hand baggage only fares and for status card holders there is advance seat reservation and even one free piece of luggage (for a HBO fare). Extra suitcases are only 15euro. That’s the way to do HBO tickets.

    • harry says:

      But there IS seat selection, you just need to pay for it. Why should you get it free when you have paid less? BA are trying to give justifications for the next level of pricing.

      • RIccati says:

        You get a bag for free because it was a promised provision for your frequent flyer status.

      • Wilz149 says:

        To be fair, I was pretty annoyed at paying £200pp for HBO Eurotraveller fares return LHR-ATH and not getting seated together with my girlfriend. I understand the need to pay a premium for exit row seats with extra legroom, but not being seated together at all is pretty silly.

      • Keith says:

        I’ve just tried to book LHR-AMS return, in Basic, and it says that Seat Selection is available for a fee, but doesn’t state how much this fee is – anyone know, or seen it? I’ve gone through to the price page, but how do I decide whether to stump up the extra £30 for Flex if I don’t know how much Seat Selection is as a separate item??

        • harry says:

          varies but typically £8 for any old seat, £18 for exit seats

        • Keith says:

          OK – found it! Had to go all the way through the booking/payment process to find that it’s £14 each way 🙁 So then I had to back-up through all the steps to change to Flex and go through again.

          What a palaver – why not indicate the price at the beginning so that you can make a choice then?

    • Susan says:

      I agree. They are (or were) Hand Baggage Only – NOT hand baggage and a middle seat at the back only. Given that the absence of hold luggage was supposed to be advantageous to BA then adding on something that drove people away from choosing that option seemed rather silly.

      • RIccati says:

        It’s not silly, BA knows what they are doing:

        It’s forcing a customer either to suffer Procrustean bed of a middle seat at the back or pay up for new Plus/Plus Flex fares.

    • RIccati says:

      The point is to extract cash from customers, particularly for the benefits they used to as part of the frequent flyer status.

    • Callum says:

      It drives you away from them to where? A more expensive fare? Why ever would BA want such a thing to happen…

      • Susan says:

        You ignored my point that HBO was supposedly a mutual benefit to passengers and BA as BA saved money on baggage handling, weight etc and passed some of this to the customer as the discount. No-one thought HBO was introduced out of the goodness of BA’s heart – it was, of course and rightly, a commercial decision and in the beginning also represented a real saving for the HBO-opting customer over previously available fares. BA may now get a slightly higher fare if customers opt for plus over basic in order to choose a seat but it will also have to assume those plus passengers will bring hold luggage. I know basic passengers can pay separately to book a seat but this is usually comparable with choosing plus in the beginning.

        • harry says:

          Actually it’s been allocated seating on HBO flights for fares booked after March 26 2015. More than a year now.

    • Aeronaut says:

      “What is the point of no seat selection (even at check in) for the Basic fare? It would not cost BA anything to allow it and certainly drives me away from these fares.”

      That’s the whole point – BA want to encourage you to choose the more expensive fare!

  • bill says:

    Very similar to Flybe

    • Richard says:

      …although Flybe (you have to suspect deliberately) make on-the-day changes very inconvenient, particularly if you’re switching to an earlier flight and have to go to the airport on-spec. Assuming that BA still let you change online, then that’s a whole lot better.

  • Sasha says:

    I understand that if you book a flight with a stop (HEL-LHR-MAN, for instance) you’re automatically booked into the ‘With Checked Bag’ (or Plus) class, so you can change both legs on the day of departure? Is that the case?

    They also should have allowed Golds to choose seats on Basic fare. IMHO.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, these rules only apply to point-to-point bookings.

      • James S says:

        for clarity a HEL-LHR-MAN would not allow on the day changes as it is not point to point

    • Sandgrounder says:

      A quick check of HEL-LHR-MAN shows that you do get a bag, but changes are 80 euro plus fare difference. No mention of free same day changes.

  • harry says:

    Anybody looked into whether RSF (Avios redemption seats) are going to mirror any of these classes? Obviously with the checked bag included, it would be Plus. The final 3 points would all be great improvements & I don’t see why avios.com/ BAEC should make their loyalty schemes less appealing by not including them…

    Free seat selection from 48 hours prior to departure

    Free flight changes on the day of departure, up to one hour before scheduled flight time

    No change fees (a fare difference may apply if flight is changed before day of departure)

    • harry says:

      Currently no mirror on on Avios redemptiopns but the RFS vs Plus class comparison runs as follows:

      6500 Avios + £ 17.50
      5200 Avios + £ 32.50
      4600 Avios + £ 37.50
      3900 Avios + £ 42.50
      3300 Avios + £ 47.50
      2150 Avios + £ 52.50

      vs same fare on BA, Money + Avios
      £85 cash only
      £48 + 5625
      £60 + 3750
      £70 + 2250
      £80 + 750

      • harry says:

        I think this gives cause for thought on what you would choose, depending on whether you are Avios-rich or not/ love the idea of seat selection @ T-48hrs vs T-24hrs/ love the idea of free change of flight time on the day/ how much you value Avios/ whether you need that checked luggage or not – HBO flight being £20 cheaper than Plus on my route.

        Eg I’m an Avios-squillionaire, so I want to burn them instead of cash.

        1. First scenario: @ 0.67p it’s BAEC RFS Avios redemption ticket (£43.55 + £17.50) = £61.05
        vs
        BA ticket £48 + £37.70 (ie the 5625 x 0.67p) = 85.70

        Conclusion – big enough difference in cost for me to go for the RFS redemption, despite losing Plus benefits. Travelling on my own, I would value the change of flight time option & seat selection @ T-48hrs as enough to justify £25 difference; as a family of 4 or 5 flying, no thanks.

        2. Second scenario: @ 1p it’s BAEC RFS Avios redemption ticket (£65 + £17.50) = £82.50
        vs
        BA ticket £48 + £56.20 = £104.20
        Same conclusion as (1)

        3. HBO ticket £65 – tempting as always but we really need luggage @ Xmas & Easter, not all 5 of us, granted so a mix of ticket classes works reasonably well.

        4. Not forgetting you might not live in Uzbekistan so £5 on top per ticket from BA.

        • harry says:

          6500 being off peak. Another 1000 for peak RFS, whilst BA pricing stays the same.

          The £6.50-£10 difference reduces the gap between RFS & BBA tickets.

          ***

          On my European route at least, the Plus & HBO flights are priced so keenly (if you buy @ T-355 days as we generally do) that it almost makes collecting Avios pointless if you can only achieve a ‘buying cost) of 0.7p-ish. Luckily I tend to acquire a fair bit lower than that, overall.

        • Callum says:

          You don’t have to live in Uzbekistan, just tell them you do (though I use Ukraine through habit – does it work on all non-UK options?).

          • Lebron James says:

            how many avios do you have Harry? if it really is squillions, any top tips you like to share?

  • Jordan D says:

    Erm. Not so. Take this week – LHR-CPH. Difference between Basic & Plus. £76 on some flights £83 on others.

    Give me the old fare rules any day.

    • Callum says:

      I can’t see a single flight with a £76 difference?

    • Sussex Bantam says:

      I’m with you Jordan – £50-£60 difference on my usual route to Basle.

      I’m a bit annoyed about this change – I’m effectively being pushed into either buying flexibility that I don’t want or giving up my seat selection.

      • harry says:

        it’s £20 difference between Basic & Plus on LHR-Basel eg look @ 22 Feb 2017.

        the reason you’re getting £50-60 difference is just down to dynamic pricing, ie you’re not looking far enough ahead to get the cheapest flights

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          That’s fair enough – but sadly I can’t book my work flights 11 months in advance… Prices I quoted were for mid May when I am next planning to go and hence a very real decision point !

          • harry says:

            OTOH your initial point was not entirely valid. You can buy HBO then choose seats for a modest fee @ T-24hrs. In Europe it’s £7-20 or so depending on flight. On my route it was £18 for an exit seat and a lot less for non-exit seats, ISTR £8.

            That still leaves you much better off than buying Plus at short notice. Ie your LHR-Basel HBO flight is £50-60 cheaper in HBO, add on your seat selection fee & you’re quids in.

          • Sussex Bantam says:

            Seat selection is £18 each way on this flight (or at least it was last time – I haven’t booked May flights yet). The real test of course, for me at least, is whether the “HBO plus seat selection” cost is more than the “base” cost I used to pay. It’s too early to say yet but my gut feel is things are £20-£30 more expensive. Not huge money but still about a 10% jump on what I used to pay.

    • harry says:

      same as my reply to SB ie
      it’s £20 difference between Basic & Plus on LHR-CPH eg look @ 22 Feb 2017.

      the reason you’re getting £50-60 difference is just down to dynamic pricing, ie you’re not looking far enough ahead to get the cheapest flights

      • Jordan D says:

        Dymanic pricing is all well and good, but work trips aren’t planned for Feb 2017. If I need to book for next week, under the old HBO fare structure, it would be £15, maybe £20 less depending on the route. Now it is £76 (or it was for flights on Monday of this week).

        Try next Monday – £72 difference in costs. Mon 09 May? £57.

        Booking a business flight today for next week or two weeks time is “normal” – booking it 11 months out, is a little unusual to say the least.

        • harry says:

          Looks like they have made some changes to the dynamic pricing model, if those differences are generalized across many/ most routes. All our flights are leisure (ie can be booked a long way in advance) so it doesn’t affect us too much – apart from for ’emergency’ short notice flights.

          • John says:

            Some of us can only plan our leisure flights 1-3 months in advance.