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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)

  • harry says:

    I bet you BA are not being entirely upfront about seat changes on Plus…’free seat choice from 48 hours before departure’.

    If you want an exit seat, you’ll pay a hefty charge, methinks 🙂

  • harry says:

    Incidentally, I noticed that BA still intend for Silver/ Gold to be able to choose seats incl exits for free – presumably this applies to HBO fares. A reply from BA rep yesterday on this issue (there have been problems booking exit seats for free):
    ‘Hi everyone,
    In the interests of being more transparent I’d like to provide some insight into the delay in finding a resolution to the exit row issue. Not an excuse, more of an explanation.
    Recent changes to the rules that control free/paid seating propositions resulted in exit row seats not being bookable in advance for some customers. Our seating rules are complex and we are working on how to reinstate this facility without impacting more customers either when pre booking seats or checking in. The seat rules also govern seat availability and allocation for check-in.
    It has taken more time than we would like and we understand the frustration but we are focused on resolving it as soon as we can. I’ll repeat my previous assurance that this is a glitch and not a policy change. We would never implement a change to customer benefits without informing you.
    I apologise for the lack of official acknowledgement and I am progressing that with the Executive Club team.’ http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1744510-silver-golds-can-no-longer-select-exit-rows-advance-55.html

  • john says:

    How comes there is no facility to have Basic/HBO outbound and then Plus or CE on the way back when booking? Seems like they could make some more money by upselling the higher fare on the way back. I don’t need flight changes on the way out, but would be more likely to choose it on the way back.. I’d also be more likely to book CE if I could do it in one direction.

    I’m guessing they’d rather you paid for it in both directions, but not giving the option, means I don’t pay for it in either direction.

    • zsalya says:

      On a dummy booking I can combine Plus and Club Europe on different legs, but neither with Basic.

      • harry says:

        Any particular reason – John – you would not possibly make 2 different 1-way bookings? Isn’t it cheaper on taxes & more flexible?

        • Callum says:

          I can’t see any logical reason why taxes would be lower.

          And while it’s more flexible (though not really in a way many people would benefit from), it also means any changes by BA on one flight removes official protection on the other. E.g. if BA cancel the outbound they have no obligation to refund the inbound.

  • Jeff says:

    I’m confused. This article prompted me to perform a dummy flight booking (on iOS BA app)

    I just performed a dummy domestic booking, choosing EDI-LHR return
    (There was no mention of plus, flex fares etc but the corresponding rules ‘appeared’ the same)

    It showed the cheapest flights as being £44 each way. So I (wrongly, it seems) assumed the total price would be £88. How wrong was I. Total price £128.17!

    How, I asked? So I looked at the price breakdown and I simply could not fathom how (or indeed why) the £44 each way price was originally advertised/arrived at. Am I missing something? Was BA always so misleading with pricing – I don’t recall things being quite so opaque (think Ryanair a few years ago…or FlyBe still today!)

    • harry says:

      Fat finger? Going through an intermediary? Adding extras? Not sure what you have done but I have your return flight (out 1/2/17, back 8/2/17) at £44 or so per leg, ie

      Total price (1 passenger)
      £89.17

      Passengers 1 Adult
      Edinburgh – London
      Depart 1 Feb 2017, 08:35
      Arrive 1 Feb 2017, 10:05
      Flight BA1439
      Operated by British Airways
      Cabin
      Domestic
      London – Edinburgh

      Depart 8 Feb 2017, 07:50
      Arrive 8 Feb 2017, 09:15
      Flight BA1434
      Operated by British Airways
      Cabin
      Domestic

      Flights
      £89.17

      Total
      £89.17

      • harry says:

        took it all the way to payment & Mr fghj dftghdfhg still has to pay £89.17 🙂

        • Jeff says:

          Thanks Harry. No fat finger involved. I just re-quoted EDI-LHR to check – same as before £44 each way, total £128.17

          Using the iOS app. 15th May , sameday return 07:45 / 21:50

          • harry says:

            but then I guess you, too, are just looking at dynamic pricing

            15th May is just a few days away – surely you don’t expect £44 per leg on flights that are now nearly full?

            the whole reason I book T-355 days is to get the best Avios redemptions opportunities OR the cheapest flights

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_pricing

          • Kipto says:

            The cheapest flights are rarely T-355. Avios availability- totally agree

          • harry says:

            Kipto – must depend on route – the absolute cheapest fares on my European route – cash – are always, always, always T-355

            Try it on a European route, you don’t usually need to get up at midnight, just look, now, at (say) 26 March 2017. Don’t get into Easter hols pricing (30 March onwards) as prices get nasty.)

            As it happens, back @ T-355 I got us 4 Avios redemptions for 30/4/17 at effectively 26000 Avios + £70 = £239 (ie Avios = 0.67p) whereas the Plus fares would now be £172 x 4 = £688.

          • Jeff says:

            Dynamic pricing?

            I’m just looking at the price quoted! £44 each way. Adding up to £128.17!

            PS 15th May is not ‘a few days away’ either – with all these ‘Celeb’ deaths, don’t be wishing your life away! 😉

          • harry says:

            OK forget my previous post, I just ran your flights on my PC and yes indeed you can get return flights on 15th May for £87.17 total. So it’s your iOS app probably.

            Use a desktop/ laptop! 🙂

          • zsalya says:

            So Device-Discriminatory pricing rather than Dynamic Pricing?

          • Jeff says:

            Just seen this – its not ‘my’ app thats ‘faulty’ – I tried my wife’s also. The same outcome. I’m with zsalya – Device-Discriminatory!

  • harry says:

    Wow there are some major differences in real costs for Easter next year – not sure if this has anything to do with intro of Basic/ Plus/ Plus Flex.

    Because most people don’t book Easter a year in advance, there are still 4 economy Avios flights available OUT on most routes in Europe.

    Yet try comparing them to buying the flights in cash, and you’ll see typically 6500/ 7500 + RFS fee – say, under £100 – vs £200-odd (cash). I’m looking at dividing date 29 March vs 30 March 2017.

    Great reason to have a stash of Avios handy 🙂

  • lebron james says:

    how many you got?

  • Genghis says:

    To be expected but the Ts and Cs seem to include atm withdrawals abroad? Worrying

  • harry says:

    Oh damn the get rich quick scheme seems to have evaporated 🙂