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GOOD DEAL: Get almost 2p per Avios using them for British Airways seat selection fees

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British Airways has launched a special offer for anyone who wants to use their Avios to pay for seat selection fees.

Using Avios to pay for seat selection is usually terrible value, so British Airways would need to do a very aggressive promotion to make us recommend it. And it has!

The ‘pence per point’ value has been quadrupled but you must book your seats by 30th July.

british airways cost to reserve a seat

Why are all BA non-flight redemptions now terrible value?

Back in January 2021, Avios unveiled its partnership with Nectar.

As we wrote at the time, this move has totally destroyed the value in most non-flight Avios redemptions.

1 Avios gets you 1.6 Nectar points which are worth 0.8p at Sainsburys, Argos, ebay.co.uk etc.

However, virtually all ‘non flight’ redemptions at ba.com are worth just under 0.5p per Avios. Whether you redeem for:

  • seat selection
  • luggage fees
  • wine
  • ‘experiences’
  • car hire or
  • hotels

….. you will get around 0.5p per Avios. Under what circumstances would anyone want to do this when you could get 0.8p per Avios via Nectar?

When you quadruple the value, it gets interesting

Here is an example of the value you can get when you redeem Avios for seat selection under this offer. This is based on 2 x one-way Club seats to the Maldives:

cost of reserving british airways seat

As you can see, the choice is £212 or 11,340 Avios. This means you are getting 1.87p per Avios.

And, yes, it can cost £106 per seat, one way, to redeem a Club seat. Here is our last investigation into the escalating cost of reserving seats on British Airways – back in 2019 it was £91 in Club World. In fact, it can cost £115 each way if you want to sit at the front of the Club cabin on a trip to the Maldives:

cost of british airways seat reservation

You can’t do this whilst booking a flight

This special offer is only available if you add seat selection to an existing booking.

Whilst you can pay for seat selection during the booking process, you can’t use Avios. If you are booking a flight today or tomorrow, you need to book the flight without seat selection and then go into ‘Manage My Booking’ afterwards to add it.

Read the small print carefully

There is a huge, huge problem with paying to reserve seats on British Airways. If you cancel your flight, you lose your money.

Let’s assume you pay £460 to reserve a pair of Club World seats to the Maldives for a return flight, but need to cancel due to new covid restrictions. Your £460 is lost. Irrespective of whether your flight is refunded, you lose the seat selection money.

The only way you can get your seat selection cash back is if a) BA cancels your flight or b) you take a Future Travel Voucher instead of a refund, but even then your seat fees are ringfenced and can only be used to reserve more seats.

Irrespective of this offer, should you pay to reserve seats?

Not in my view, no.

Unlike Ryanair, BA will not deliberately split up your group if you don’t pay for seat selection. If you can be sat together, you will be.

By law children cannot be separated from adults, so don’t be concerned about that.

In Club World, you are in your own little space anyway. If you think your partner would be upset if you weren’t sat next to each other, think how upset they’d be when they find out you’ve spent £460 …..

In Club Suite, the new business class product, there is literally no reason to pay for seating. All of the suites are identical. All have direct aisle access. All are private with closing doors. Spend your £460 on a decent meal or three instead.

Conclusion

If you were seriously considering paying cash to reserve seats on an upcoming British Airways flight, you may want to jump in today or tomorrow and use Avios instead.

1.87p per Avios is an excellent return per point.

That said, please think very carefully before using cash or Avios for seat selection. It is not a great deal in most cases, and if you voluntarily cancel your booking you are not getting a refund.

PS. It is not clear if this offer is open to everyone (well, all non-status members who don’t get free selection automatically) or not. Before you book a seat, check the maths to ensure that you are getting nearer 2p – and not nearer 0.5p – per Avios redeemed.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (58)

  • LDTx says:

    Charging 100+ quid for seat selection, particularly in premium cabins, is nothing short of daylight robbery. Why anyone flying J to the US would choose BA over AA is beyond me. AA’s 1-2-1 J cabin on the 787 is heads and shoulders above BA’s cramped 2-4-2 config, and they let you pick your seat for free when you book your flight.

    • Nick says:

      ‘Daylight robbery’ or ‘smart business sense’?

      Unbundling seating helps keep ticket prices lower for everyone. And what a lot of people don’t (or refuse) to appreciate is that it’s actually a significant benefit for Gold customers. Many people travelling for business (or on corporate fares) book last minute, and would be left with only crap seats if cheapskate leisure sale customers were allowed to select the good ones in advance. The way BA does it, a lot of the best seats end up being left until later, for when Golds are booking. Don’t underestimate how much this is valued by BA’s top customers – lots book BA over other airlines for their expensive last-minute tickets as a result. If it also means a few early-bookers who are desperate to pre-select seats give them a bunch of cash for the privilege, even better.

      • KK says:

        I agree w Nick. I’ve been a top tier OW member for a few years now but when some times I have to fly last minute on CX which is pretty much my local airline, I sometimes are left with a useless seatmap to pick seats because the holiday makers or the holiday bloggers would book out all the decent seats 8-10 months out. Most of them don’t pay top bucks either. So what do you think a top buck spender will think when you have to sit next to the loo for 4 or 12 hours?

        • Sam says:

          @KK CX always block a number of seats in Business, Premium Economy and Economy for high tier members until OLCI opens which was around 48 hours before departure. Therefore I am not so sure how last minute you bought your CX tickets that made you miss out on these blocked seats which would have been available for you.

      • Sam says:

        @Nick That you find pay £100 for choosing your seat is not a robbery may be able justify it’s a ‘smart’ business idea but customers just don’t buy it. I don’t suppose there are so many employees travelling in a big corporate are allowed to reclaim seat selection fees as per the expense policies.

        If you compare BA fare in various routes with their competitors it’s not difficult to see that BA are asking for the same fare, if not more expansive, than other competitors which have free seat selection, and the argument for ‘unbundling seating helps keep ticket prices lower’ simply doesn’t quite stand.

        • Genghis says:

          Don’t most employees booking through a corporate travel agent get free seat selection anyway with BA, irrespective of status?

          • kitten says:

            Correct. Even in Economy. Available at time of booking. BA knows its corporate accounts are its bread and butter.

          • MW says:

            Can confirm. When I was statusless, my company booked J tickets and I always had seat selection from the time of booking. They did have a special deal with BA though.

      • Yorkieflyer says:

        Nick only partially true because of the rubbish CW cabin and most of the seats not being an attractive proposition

    • JAXBA says:

      The price is set high on purpose: to discourage people from paying it, but to make a nice amount of money from those who want to spend it anyway…

  • Simon says:

    Having been allocated a pair in the very back row to Palma 2 weeks ago, without even a window to look out of, I’m more than happy to suck up the few thousand avios to get closer to the front.

  • SJB says:

    Thanks for article Rob. Busy flight to St Lucia coming up and happy to use Avios to get good seats.

  • Alexandra says:

    As noted in the chat thread when this promo first came up, I think it has its uses. I have four flights coming up and I used this offer for the one in September and we were in danger of being caught out in some really bad seat options in a long haul overnight where we already can’t upgrade into CW. The other three flights are pretty much empty or I don’t really care if I sit next to a stranger for a short haul business flight, there isn’t much value to taking this redemption or waiting until a week before to book our seats as (current) Bronzes.

    I do wonder if there wont be more opportunities to spend Avios at reduced rates, or a devaluation coming once IAG is on more consistent footing.

    I do tend to agree that the seat selection fee is nonsense, though.

    While mathematically there are good value uses of Avios, inevitably other considerations and factors must be taken into account when looking to spend. This promo came along at the right time for me for a specific circumstance.

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