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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)

  • peter19 says:

    worth noting that for a UK domestic flight the tier points gained are 5/10/20

  • Davis says:

    Can you change to a flight to/from a different London airport when changing day of departure ? That would be v useful.

    • Ed says:

      I was wondering this, you used to able to do this with the semi-flex, certainly returning to London

    • Rob says:

      The rules are not hugely clear. They say you cannot change airport, but in in airport-land the London airports are generally treated as one entity hence the LON airport code which covers them all. It would be a bit tight if you couldn’t swap City or Heathrow. Swapping London for Manchester would definitely be out.

  • Frankie says:

    Easyjet let you change your flight to an earlier flight for free on the day of your return flight. I use this regularly when visiting family in Belfast. I buy the really late cheap return to Luton then on the day I rock up to airport and change to the one I really wanted at a decent time to Gatwick (which was double the price at time of booking) I just do a few dummy bookings during my stay and on the morning I’m returning to check my desired flight isn’t full. Easyjet don’t seem to advertise this anymore. They used to. But it still is something they offer.

    • Colin JE says:

      Brilliant, thanks for the tip. Never heard that one!

    • Aeronaut says:

      easyJet’s ‘free of charge’ transfer to an earlier flight is detailed here:
      http://www.easyjet.com/en/help/booking/earlier-flight

      “If you arrive at the airport earlier than expected and wish to transfer to an earlier flight we can offer you a “free of charge” transfer on the same day subject to flight availability. You must have already made an outbound flight with us on the same booking and be returning to the original point of departure from the original destination in that booking.”

      It’s worth emphasising this is only available for the return leg of and out and back booking. They do however let you return to any of the London, Milan or Paris airports if they have flights serving them. It’s all detailed on the webpage above.

  • Wz says:

    I wonder what would happen if you want to change your flight on the day of booking and no seats are available on the last flight? Will you have to pay the fare difference and a charge for the next day flight?

    • harry says:

      rules are clear enough, you can only change FOR FREE on the day, for that day’s flights, if there’s availability

    • Brian says:

      I expect so. That must be the element of risk Rob mentions in his post.

    • Aeronaut says:

      Yes, you’d pay.

      If you want to play the game of booking the cheaper flight in the hope you’ll be able to transfer for ‘free’ to another (more expensive) flight on the day, you take the risk that it might not always work out. I’d operate on the basis of being flexible enough to catch the originally booked flight, with any change to a preferred earlier or later flight being the optimum rather than expected outcome.

      Presumably one will be able to make the ‘free’, on the day change from midnight onwards?

  • tony says:

    I’ve been buying some Lufthansa tickets of late and this is sort of the same structure they have. However the mid-ticket costs EUR65 to change, but on the flip side it gives you free seat assignments at time of booking, as well as a free bag allowance.

    For me this is a big benefit. I feel better about paying for the bag because I get the advance seat reservation for free. With BA I don’t.

  • Yan says:

    Surprised you didn’t do a piece for BA J/F sale today…

    • Lebron James says:

      +1

      probably tomorrow raffles? or one of your special mid-day alerts? 🙂

      • Rob says:

        Anika and I were with, ironically, some BA marketing people yesterday and by the time I got back it was too late – these articles take quite a bit of work. Will hopefully get it done tomorrow along with the Virgin redemption sale.

  • Lebron James says:

    no mention of Prince today sadly.

    one of the greats no doubt. rip

    • harry says:

      shouldn’t have overdosed then lol – what a crap example to kids

      honestly, pls keep the non HFP comments off HFP

      • Rob says:

        I did just pull up a few pieces on You Tube as it happens. For some reason I never gelled with him although you can’t deny the quality of what he wrote especially when you factor in stuff written for other people.

        I am more concerned about my kids getting addicted to J/F flying and luxury hotel than drugs 🙂

        • Lebron James says:

          if you can continue the success and growth of HFP at breakneck speed and you can leave them a trust fund, they will probably be addicted to both,

          🙂

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          I worry about that too. On our recent Club trip my 7 year old was complaining that the TV was too small. I had two thoughts:
          1) She will fit in perfectly on Flyer Talk in a few years…
          2) One day she will have sit at the back like I used to. Hope she can stand the shock !

  • Gavin says:

    Totally off topic but noticed I wasn’t charged for using my Amex when booking flights with Aegean yesterday… Always nice when that happens

    • John says:

      You can book A3 on amex travel now, but good to know booking direct no longer has fees