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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 – 20,000 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

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)

  • Stuart says:

    On the point of: ‘ 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.’
    I am travelling this weekend and have no status with my 6 year old daughter. BA, around 3 days before the check in opens have pre allocated us seats together.

    • MD says:

      That’s because of the next line Rob wrote:

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

    • Damian says:

      It’s because of Covid PLF requirements and people needing to know seat numbers for the forms.

  • TimM says:

    I found it somewhat remiss of the article not to mention reserving exit seats in economy where the extra legroom can make a huge difference to comfort. I have just reserved mine Kalamata-LHR @ 1.93p per Avios.

    • G K says:

      I thought exactly the same TimM.
      How many avios did you use? About 2000 each way?

      • TimM says:

        The cash price to reserve my seat was €52. I paid 2,295 Avios so that was 2.27 cents/Avios of value. I chose the window seat in a set of 3 where the aisle seat had already been reserved. Anyone would be mad to pay for that middle seat and the plane is unlikely be full, so I should have an almost Club Europe experience except extra legroom 🙂

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Given the double earning promo and reduced target at the moment, £460 might well benchmark against the cost of just earning Silver.

    • Venturelog says:

      Was thinking this. Can attain Silver for around £650

      • Barry cutters says:

        I have good but with no travel for a long time now – fear I will lose it after extensions finish – even if they offer more my long haul business flights will stop .

        Can you explain this method of silver for £650?

        • lumma says:

          Find 3 160 tier point returns for around £200-250 with the current lower thresholds

  • John says:

    You’re getting 2p per avios only if you consider BA’s seat selection fees to be a fair price and would have paid them anyway.

    • BJ says:

      Seat selection fees in premium cabins on any supposedly full-service airline are scandalous IMO. Especially on those like BA that are generally uncompetitive on fares in the first place.

      • CarpalTravel says:

        And aren’t even shown in the booking funnel. VA give you it for free and as part of the booking process. It’s like being mugged at the departure gate and is utterly anti-consumer behaviour by BA.

      • numpty says:

        BA cancelled my KUL flight and then transferred it to Qatar.
        Original BA Business class, no seat selection.
        QR business class, free seat selection on QR flights, but not on the one BA transfer flight! So cheap seat selection offer taken up for that one BA sector. Definitely worth it for me.

        Hoping this is another sign that the days of BA ripping off (business) class customers with such petty charges is coming to an end.

        • Doug M says:

          I believe they’re coming to an end because of club suites. The nature of club world made seat selection valuable, CS mean a much more consistent offering, so seat choice has less value.

      • Lady London says:

        +1 especially as initially there were reports that British Airways was refusing to refund seat reservation fees for seats on flights British Airways had cancelled.

        I really hope BA has stopped trying that on. Otherwise we’ll be needing a few people to make a trip to court to sort BA out on this as well.

        • Carpal Travel says:

          That goes against their own T&C’s:

          Paid seating is non-refundable unless:
          1. We change your seat to an alternative that you’re unhappy with
          2. We cancel your flight
          3. You become ineligible to sit in an exit row and you tell us at least 48 hours before your scheduled departure time
          4. You’ve paid for a cabin upgrade and don’t want to pay the difference to choose your seat in the upgraded cabin

    • cinereus says:

      Exactly.

  • CarpalTravel says:

    These charges are exorbitant and given the refusal to refund in cancellation, little short of theft. I’ve bought the ticket so have a seat on the plane, to want to then charge me (on my current booking) up to £117 per seat, per sector, for the privilege of knowing which of the seats I will be then sat in is outrageous.

    It leaves a very sour taste when booking which is why I always recommend VA over BA. Using my points like this would soften it, but the no refunds policy means I won’t, full stop. I refuse to reward them financially for such terrible behaviour.

    • Pete M says:

      Neat summary and agreed! I find it bizarre how conditioned people have become to accept this…

      • WaynedP says:

        +1

        Have always achieved better results by some pleasant human engagement at check-in desk, pointing out an aisle seat suits my long legs better.

        Also don’t understand the attraction of front of cabin seats. Surely these must quickly become the most tired, worn seats if repeatedly booked by pax ?

    • BJ says:

      And on top of that paying up still does not guarantee the specific seat you choose because BA reserve the right to change it if required for operational reasons. I doubt these operational reasons thus far have been limited only to equipment changes.

      • Yuff says:

        Only do long haul to UAE and would only fly BA, in F there, if F isn’t available would prefer Etihad, or Qatar, J which both include seat selection.
        However I have a trip booked in October which has just been downgraded to CW from F and have a dilemma.
        I can change all 4 seats, to Easter, in F but options to get out in October are limited if UAE come off the red list and our flight back is with Etihad.
        If it’s club suite I’d probably leave it as I haven’t tried that yet or there are 4 seats in J to Doha the day after our current BA flight……….
        Haven’t flown CW for about 10 years and based on comments here not that keen to apart for the reason mentioned above.
        Decisions, decisions

        • Lady London says:

          Yuff I’d advise you to fly it in J keeping very clear the downgrade is involuntary and hoover up the 75% reimbursement for involuntary downgrade after the flight.

          Note that this 75% of everything back (bar the true taxes of APD and a few airport charges) is due to you for each seat based on the cost of the first seat, if a 241.

          • Yuff says:

            LL
            I know what I’m like and I won’t take it any further because of the hassle.
            I’ll check if it’s club suite as I would like to try that seat.
            Using 2 x 241s
            My wife hates litigation as she deals with it on a daily basis.
            I know you are right 🤣

  • BSI1978 says:

    Wasn’t there a case/situation a couple of years back where someone was able to claim back the costs of the additional seat reservation fee after a flight cancellation?

    • BJ says:

      Yeah but IIRC they had to take legal action to encourage or force the refund.

      • Lady London says:

        Need to do it in court / MCOL a few more times then. It appears to have worked for the ridiculous rerouting limitations (that did not exist in law) BA tried to impose of only 12 months since booking(ticketing) date.

        It’s utterly ridiculous that BA should be refusing to refund seat reservations in flights *they* cancelled. Their excuse is quite gymnastic really to try to justify it. It won’t hold up in court as the seat reserved has become an integral part of the product purchased and BA’s nose needs to be rubbed in it.

  • JohnT says:

    Mainly paid for old layout seats to avoid being a couple in the central 3/4 or having to climb over others. Roll on new club world!

  • JohnT says:

    Mainly paid for old layout seats to avoid being a couple in the central 3/4 or having to climb over others. Roll on new club world!
    However risk of having to canx flights in late Sept still too high…

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