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British Airways to launch Hand Baggage Only fares on long-haul transatlantic routes

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In a ‘not really unexpected’ move to see off the challenge from Norwegian et al, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and American Airlines are launching ‘hand baggage only’ fares on transatlantic routes.

These fares will be available from April.

For American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia, these fares will be called Basic and on Finnair they will be called Light.

These fares allow you to “personalise your journey”.  That said, very little is actually changing.

Everyone still gets free food

Everyone still gets free IFE

Everyone still gets free headphones and blankets

What you will NOT get on a Basic or Light fare is:

Checked backage

Seat selection in advance of check-in

British Airways launches hand baggage only fares to North America

Where this is going to get confusing is with additional benefits for status passengers.

As we know from the introduction of hand baggage only fares on short-haul routes, British Airways was forced to backtrack on not allowing free seat selection to Gold and Silver members of British Airways Executive Club.

So ….

If you have a Gold or Silver status in Executive Club or oneworld equivalent, and fly BA, it is my expectation that you WILL still get free seat selection if you buy a Basic / Light ticket.  You will NOT get a free checked bag even though one of the benefits of your status is ‘an additional free checked bag’.

However ….

If you have status and fly American Airlines, Finnair or Iberia, it appears that you will get both free seat selection and 1-3 free checked bags.  In which case, there is literally no difference to what you were buying before if you only check one case.

This chart tries to explain it.  The airlines listed on the left look like they should apply to operating carrier rather than whoever issued your frequent flyer card (click to enlarge):

When buying a Basic ticket, a Gold member should look to fly on American where they will receive three free checked suitcases.  If you are Silver, AA will give you two cases, Finnair / Iberia one and BA nil.  If you are Bronze or equivalent, AA, Finnair and Iberia will give you one free suitcase – BA will give you nothing.

Status members will continue to receive fast track security, lounge access, priority boarding etc.

This is, I think, a sensible move by the airlines.  However, due to their unwillingness to go the whole hog and start charging for literally everything, the headline price gap with the upstart carriers will remain.  With many travellers now accustomed to travelling without checked baggage, there is a risk to the airline that many people end up paying less overall.

Further details are on the BA Travel Trade website here.

Comments (88)

  • Paul says:

    American Airlines have confirmed that that chart is incorrect.

  • Cate says:

    I see their still holding on to the seat selection. We booked two tickets on their 321 service to Jordan last week and they wanted £54 each way. It’s easy pickings really.

    Can you upgrade these AA flights with avios does anyone know?

    • Lady London says:

      In general you have to upgrade with the miles that you booked with. So if you made a booking using Avios that happened to give you a flight operated by AA you could only upgrade using Avios. The way to be sure is to upgrade during the booking process.

      • Cate says:

        Thank you Lady London, I didn’t know that. So would book with cash and upgrade with avios on a AA flight would be ok to perhaps?

        • Lady London says:

          I will look up what I might have saved on this but it will take up to a day. It’s tricky and every step has to be done very carefully. Most options won’t let you upgrade but apparently there is a route. If I can find it I will post here within 24h.

        • Cate ⛄ says:

          Please don’t put yourself to any bother as I can look this up myself and rightly should do. I thought you may know the answer off the top of your head hence why I asked. Thank you anyway.

        • Lady London says:

          Rob, 7 January 2018 Avios Redemption University 3

          “Yes. You can upgrade American Airlines and Iberia flights using Avios IF you booked the ticket via British Airways. For economy flights, you need to be holding a fully flexible economy ticket (Y or B class).”

          Personally I’d give BA Reservations a call, tell them what I’d like to do, and ask them the rules. They’ve given me very prrecise answers when I did this recently on “sticky” points.

        • Cate ⛄ says:

          Lady London you are a star! Thank you so much.

  • Hanna says:

    Try to go to Alaska in winter, with tripod and photo equipment without any checked bags. I can go to most places HBO but no to cold countries in winter.

  • jinkssick says:

    I am advocate for these changes. Someone asked who flies with hand luggage?, thatll be me. I am quite poor with accordance with todays standards and managed to fly around Africa, Asia, Middle East, South America on the cheap mostly because of LCCs 10kg bags and open jaws.

    Also it will benefit me as I have accrued most of my Avios from going yearly/twice to the States and dumping my last leg in LHR and hope this change affords me the possibility of actually leaving LHR-USA.

    **btw I am seriously late to this Avios game (was accruing on flights but had no idea what they were for) and want to thank you immensely for this great site. In 24 hours I was able to gain some serious knowledge. Thank you.