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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)

  • simon says:

    What ever happened to the last minute offer of upgrades on the BA app that was discussed last year?? My brother in law was offered one to Mauritius last week at check in – £500 from econ to Club World. He snapped it up!… is this something new ??

    • Mikeact says:

      And will this somehow apply to Avios redemptions going forward ?

    • Bonglim says:

      Will that be the end of free upgrades?

      2 years ago I was upgraded to CW from premium economy at check in, for free, without asking.
      It was lovely.

      That was before I found this website, so will probably never pay for a long haul cash ticket again. Still it was nice.

      • simon says:

        I am in the same position. Been lucky enough to redeem in CW for the last few years. But the thought of being offered an upgrade to First for eg 25k avios at check in would be great….

        • Rob says:

          Very difficult due to catering because BA now loads very little spare, hence the difficulty of getting your first choice if you are not Gold.

          Upgrades due to overbooking are different because those are known in advance, even if the exact people involved have not been selected, and catering adjusted.

  • Go says:

    Just received an email from Iberia. 20% bonus on transfer from Amex MR to iberia during March

    • Rob says:

      Read the small print. From SPANISH Amex cards only. This is going to be a mess.

      • Go says:

        And I was getting excited by a big bonus ☹️

      • Scott says:

        Glad you pointed that out. I scanned the small print but missed the bit about it being Spanish card-holders only. Why on earth has this been directed to UK card-holders?

        • John says:

          Probably because it came from IB and they don’t know what cards anybody has (quite possible to have a Spanish Amex even if living in the UK and vice versa)

  • paul says:

    This is not customer driven, it is driven by IAG dominance in the markets its serves and the because of the commercial arrangements it has in place which curtails customer choice and competition.

    It interesting that where there is competition the carrier has had to continue offering a free bag AA AY and IB. Where there is little or no effective competition, ie the UK there is no free bag.

    This is simply rip off Britain at its worst and BA needs to be broken up at LHR. Its the second time in two day that anti competitive behaviour by IAG/BA has been clearly evident in the market it serves.

  • VWWV says:

    Quick question about group bookings.
    I am “meant” to be on a flight tomorrow to Geneva from Heathrow for a weeks skiing. It was booked as part of a package so we are in group booking for BA. As a BA gold does my fiancé and I get an extra checked in bag? Do the whole booking get it or not as booked as a group?
    Also I tried to remove myself from the group as easier for rescheduling in case of cancellations but BA won’t do it due to being booked by a travel agent and the travel agent can’t be bothered. I doubt BA prioritise a group booking (10 of us) for snow cancellations. Hopefully all better tomorrow!!!

  • r* says:

    Surely BA cant actually compete with norwegian until they change their model and start selling one way tickets at appropriate prices rather than charging more for a one way than for a return.

    • John says:

      But how many people only fly one-way? If BA offers one-way tickets cheaply this will just incentivise people to fly DY on the way back if that’s cheaper

      • Lumma says:

        It makes it easier to create complex itineraries and open jaws and you’d be able to use BA to get back from a one-way avios redemption rather than having to rely on an airline that will allow you do book one way (Norwegian or Wow?).

        I see it as being similar to short haul now. For a few days away, I often book BA outbound and low cost on the return. At the start of my trip I can often find a decent departure time from a central airport with BA and get my status benefits at a reasonable premium over easyJet/Ryanair who seem to have the very cheapest flights either stupidly early (first day is ruined as I’m too tired) or very late (have to pay for an extra night) or can use avios if the cash price is expensive.

        For the return it just a case if whoever is the chespest, I find Heathrow a depressing experience to come home to. Sitting on a tube train for over an hour. It doesn’t bother me as much at the start of my trip

    • Cate ⛄ says:

      Plus you can get 20% rebate on Norwegian flights to use against future flights. It’s a tough arena BA’s found itself in that’s for sure.

  • Tom Cook says:

    Must say I haven’t taken checked baggage for a while, my Mrs hates that I push for this but she’s finally getting used to it. Not sure I could blag her to do this on a 2 week holiday though!

  • Alan says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever travelled hand luggage only. The problem we have is that my Mrs packs so many potions and lotions that we can’t put them in to hand luggage.

    Would probably work for us if we booked 3 of these tickets and one suitcase. We’ve done that on Ryanair a couple of times.

    I know I’m in a minority but I really like “all-inclusive” fares. You now how much you will pay and what you will receive.

    • Anna says:

      If you have room in your carry on/handbag your Mrs could buy a few of those potions after security. You can usually squash them in between your clothes or stash a few in your pockets! I think you can even buy jackets now with multiple pockets for this purpose ????

  • Mike says:

    On LH I now tend to check a bag on the way out, then HBO on the return. Makes it easier with liquids too and no long wait at LHR for my bag,