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:
Seat selection in advance of check-in
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.
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’.
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.