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Have you seen what it costs to reserve a British Airways Club World business class seat these days?

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One thing that often surprises people who are travelling in Club World for the first time is that seat reservations are not free at the time of booking.

British Airways is one of the few airlines that charges its business class passengers an additional fee to reserve a seat.

The only exceptions are if you (or someone in your party) hold Executive Club Silver or Gold status or oneworld equivalent – see details here – or if you have a fully flexible ticket.  Bronze cardholders can select seats for free seven days before departure.  Some people also get the fee waived as part of a corporate deal with their employer.

For the rest of us, all seats are made available at no additional charge 24 hours before departure, but by this time many of the best seats have already been snapped up.  In Club World, you may be stuck sharing a ‘double bed’ middle pair with a stranger.

Reserving a seat is not a particularly cheap affair.  Without Executive Club status reserving a seat used to cost £60+ in Club World, and frequently more.

British Airways appears to have changed its pricing structure in recent weeks.  On a Boeing 747 to New York, there are now SIX different prices available, running from £59 to £91.  This is per person, each way, meaning that a couple is facing a ludicrous £364 cost to reserve upper deck seats next to each other for a return flight.

I should also point out that these are New York prices, for a 6-7 hour flight.  You will pay more on longer routes.

What does it cost to reserve a Club World seat?

Let’s use a Boeing 747 as an example.  Here is the pricing for the front of the cabin (click to enlarge) based on a flight to New York in September 2019.

As you might expect, the window pairs are more expensive than those in the middle, with prices increasing towards the front of the cabin. The price differential is just over £30. On the main deck of a 747 you can pay £87 for front side seats whilst rear centre is £59. On the top deck BA charges £91!

BA Club World Seat reservation prices front main deck

Here is the rear part of the downstairs cabin – some of this makes little sense to me.  Does BA charge a premium for the ‘front middle’ because you have a better chance of getting the meal you want?!

BA Club World Seat reservatin prices rear main deck

……. and the upper deck, all at £91:

BA Club World Seat reservation prices top deck

Flying Club Suite could save you money!

Seat reservations may become less relevant once the new Club Suite starts flying on the new A350s and refitted Boeing 777s later this year:

In theory there are no bad seats with Club Suite.  The current Club World layout delivers a huge variety of travel experiences since the dense layout means many people do not have direct aisle access, are facing backwards or do not have much privacy.

With Club Suite, the experience becomes more uniform in its offering and you may not care as much where you sit.  All seats have aisle access and someone in the middle block is sat totally separately to their neighbour.  You can’t easily talk to your partner even if you are sat side by side, so it doesn’t matter much if you are separated – and other passengers should have few problems moving to help you if you are.  Unless you are obsessed with having a window seat, there seems little to justify paying.

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Comments (179)

  • Nick_C says:

    Even if you are willing to pay, BA block some seats for their most loyal customers, or those paying for a full price ticket. I’ve never managed to get a window seat upstairs on the 747 as Blue on a redemption, even though seats have been available.

    Its not just about sitting together, I hate the aisle seats in Club World. Absolutely no privacy. I feel so exposed. So on my last solo flight to NY I paid £666 in redemption charges, and a further £76 to reserve a seat on the return. Plus 52k Avios (and a Lloyd’s voucher).

    I only use BA for voucher redemptions. If I’m paying for a J ticket, I will fly AA. Seat hselection is free at time of booking, and all the seats are good ones with privacy and no need to climb over people.

    No need to pay for seat selection on BA1 though. All the seats are good, and if you are traveling solo and are happy to sit nearer the back you will probably have an empty seat next to you.

    • Rob says:

      Given current loads on BA1 I agree. Flying it in 3 weeks, first time in 10 years.

      • Ed says:

        Be very interested to read an up to date review of service levels now. Also wondering how long it will last?

      • Nick_C says:

        16 pax on 9 May. At least 3 of us on redemptions (Hi Elaine!). I assume Roberto was on a redemption as well, but I didn’t get to meet him. We should have a HfP lapel pin to identify fellow travellers!

      • Nick_C says:

        Oh and if you want breakfast at LCY, then get there very early! Last year, I walked out of Pilots at 09:20 as my food hadn’t arrived. This year, I went into the restaurant at 08:45 and the “greeter” told me the kitchen was backed up, and I would have to wait at least 20 minutes for food. I asked for coffee, OJ, and a pastry. It took 15 minutes to arrive! Hate to think what Pilots charged BA for that, but BA should seriously review the arrangement.

        I’m not a fan of LCY. The premium check in line moved slower than economy check in, security staff are rude, and security is slow. But I love BA1, and I will tolerate LCY again if BA1 is still operating next time I go to NY. Border Control at Shannon was also a very pleasant experience. The only question the Immigration Officer asked me was about football!

        • Laineyling says:

          Hello Nick! Was wondering if you would post about the flight. We just a great time, the experience is certainly different in a good way.
          Would certainly consider doing it again.

    • will says:

      My favourite seat on BA1 is actually the back row!

  • Oliver says:

    I have seen even worse than this. I flew PHL-LHR on a 747 last month, and at the time of booking (September) all upper deck seats were £100. The lower deck exit seats were also £100, and it was a flat £85 for all others. We only paid £550 each for that leg (BA sale), so didn’t feel too hard done by since we got 64A/B.

  • Eugene says:

    You should have gone Cathay. I use them regularly to Asia. No charges for club seats and a few hours break for good food and a shower at the Pier in HK is a pleasure on the long haul down to Aus/NZ. And the grub is better onboard , and the kit doesn’t break endlessly like on BA.
    Rip off Britain once again

    • Mike Wilson says:

      @Eugene, if the ticket price + seat selection on BA is less than Cathay, how is that rip-off Britain?

    • the_real_a says:

      +1 I would actively prioritise a stop on that length…

      • Lady London says:

        Yes. It means you have a chance of arriving feeling vaguely human….

  • David Allen says:

    I paid £100 each seat for top deck 747 back from Vegas in July, does that mean it’s actually dropped in price for those seats? Crazy price but if people like me are willing to pay it then they’ll continue to do it.

    • Phil says:

      We also paid from SFO in March on a 241 being lowly blue
      We would not do it again but for a one off top of 747 it was worth it to us and we have no regrets at all
      The service was very good and the upstairs is totally different to normal club
      No concept the there are 500 people below you
      Addressed by name
      Tiny thing having drunk 2 Baileys after dinner the steward comes over and says ” one for the road sir?”.
      This kind of thing makes all the difference to the pleasure of a first Club flight

      On the way out to Seattle we were on a 777 and did not pay but then aisle and middle were allocated to us at T-24 but we changed for the middle the aisle remained free so Missus had the middle two that she loved
      Next trip will be new club to Toronto and First back

  • Noggins says:

    I have just paid £110 each for for top deck seats to Miami (63A/B). The cost could be reduced by using avios – I chose not to spend 18,000 avios for a saving of £110. I’m Bronze but didn’t fancy the risk of being left with the scraps at 7 days out. And the upper deck is so much better….. (well, BA style better..!)

    • David Quinn says:

      I’m currently looking at a 2-4-1 redemption to Vegas or similar at Xmas. I’m quite Avios rich but Blue status, so would consider paying for seat reservation by Avios. Do you know if there is a web page showing the approximate costs in Avios? Much appreciated.

      • Anna says:

        I think Rob did a feature in this a while back. But if you’re avios rich and have an alert set up on Redemption Finder, surely F would be a better option?

  • Malcolm says:

    Does anyone know whether BA sit families together in Business Class? We’re travelling to Toronto with our two young children in October using the 2-4-1 vouchers and I haven’t paid the extra for seat reservation with the view that they will sit us together. (I’m a blue card holder so the lowest of the low).
    Any thoughts / views welcome

    • ankomonkey says:

      This is from a few years ago now, but as a family of 4 using 2 x 241s on separate PNRs, but we have always managed to sit together without paying to reserve seats. Flights=4, routes LHRHND/NRT.

      • Spurs Debs says:

        We flew to New York in April in club a family of 4 2 adults 2 children had pre booked the middle four seats but for some reason BA split them up.
        Other passengers offered to move so they were sat together. So even if you book nothing is guaranteed.

    • Lady London says:

      I’d make a point of phoning BA reservations on that and ask how it will work.

  • Stu N says:

    Just a few thoughts on this.

    1) It’s really not worth paying for seats in Club Europe. Row 1 is blocked for Golds and will almost always be occupied at OLCI; even if only one seat is occupied, theoretical seating will usually block the other one. Every other row is the same, you maybe have slightly more chance of getting your first choice of meal the further forward you are, and slightly more chance of stowing bags the further back you go. But it really makes no real difference.

    2) If you fly more than one long haul return a year, you’re probably going to be Silver anyway (4x140TPS = 560, plus a few short haul economy or a single CE flight will do the trick). You might even push a few flights towards BA to ensure you obtain or retain silver. BA is now (slightly) interested in you as a customer and will start to do things to make your life (marginally) easier. This includes a few things you don’t get just from paying for a business ticket – free seat selection, priority phone lines and bonus Avios. Doing something for loyalty members introduces a differential between them and non-status passengers but that’s just how it is.

    3) If you fly less than one long haul a year, you’re probably of limited interest to BA. There’s some concessions for high fares – e.g. the free seat selection for flex and semi-flex fares mentioned above – but otherwise you’re just a bum on a seat to the airline. They may never see you again, you’ll take your next flight with whoever is cheapest or you have no control over your travel policy anyway so why bother keeping you sweet?

    4) If you’re on a redemption then you’re essentially filling a seat that would probably fly empty or go to some other low-margin route – e.g. staff travel, op-ups or airport upgrades. If you’re a redemption-only customer then BA has little interest in you; they aren’t making much money from you and you’ll have no real loyalty to the airline – as soon as the supply of either non-flying Avios or redemption seats dries up you’ll be looking elsewhere. If you’ve got status from revenue flights then you’ll get the perks of status including seat selection as BA wants to reward your loyalty and keep you sweet so you keep spending money with them.

    All very cynical? Probably.

    Correct? Probably, yes.

    • Jim Thompson says:

      @Stu N, spot on.

      I have no problem with non-elites paying for seats at time of booking as I see it was an excellent benefit for Silver/Gold/GGL/Prem. Bronze still get some benefit at 7 days from departure with free seat selection, and yes, the best seats will likely be taken but you still get a decent pick of the rest.

      I’d much rather this than BA put fares up by £100 per sector and everyone having free reign on seats at time of booking.

      • AJA says:

        Agreed. Otherwise the only incentive for having silver status or above is earning more avios per flight and lounge access if not flying in a premium cabin.

        If you’re paying for CE, CW or First you get lounge access anyway so even the lounge access isn’t the greatest benefit.

      • James says:

        Good point

    • meta says:

      Not sure which routes you are flying, but my experience of flying CE is that I can get row 1 90% of time at 24h (and I am only Blue). Since last year, I have also noticed that I can select the seat for free 48 hours before the flight whether in ET or CE, even row 1.

    • Anna says:

      OH and I are only Blue but found ourselves in row 1 on our MAN to LHR connection tomorrow (not that it’s an issue for a 40 minute flight but I was quite surprised). Not sure that it’s due to our onward F flight (though on a 2 4 1 redemption!). Also my 13 year old was put in row 1 at Easter – and flatly refused to give it up for me or his dad 😂

      • Liz says:

        When we checked in for our connecting EDI-LHR last week OLCI selected row 8 but we were able to change to row 1.

  • AJA says:

    O/T I read the article about earninv 560 tier points flying Qatar Airways to the far East as you change flights in Doha.

    If you fly Qatar metal all the way but the first leg is with a BA flight number ie is a code share marketed and ticketed BA, does that flight count as an eligible flight towards the 4 you need to fly to get BA silver status? Or must the flight be on BA metal?