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Do you know the cost of reserving a British Airways Club World business class seat?

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One thing that often surprises people who are travelling in British Airways 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. It also charges for Economy and Premium Economy, of course. Only First Class is free.

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.

British Airways Club World seat fees

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.

Over the last few years, seat selection fees have gone through the roof.  On an A380 flight to Dubai, 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 the best seats next to each other for a return flight.

I should also point out that these are Dubai 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 an Airbus A380 as an example.  Here is the pricing for the upper and lower decks (click to enlarge) for a Dubai flight in early December.

Here is upstairs:

BA a380 seat map

As you might expect, the window pairs are more expensive than those in the middle.

Here is the cheaper downstairs cabin. Again, the window seats are pricier than the middle block unless you want the two pairs at the back.

BA A380 cabin

The price differential from cheapest to priciest seat is £32.

Flying the new Club Suite could save you money

There is some good news.

Seat reservations in business class are becoming less relevant now that the new Club Suite is operating more and more routes. As we covered in this article, you will currently find Club Suite on the new A350 and 787-10 fleets as well as refitted Boeing 777s.

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.

If you are booked on a 777 and the business class layout looks like this:

….. then you are getting Club Suite. Save your money and don’t pay to book a seat.

With Club Suite, the experience becomes more uniform in its offering. 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 in the middle block, even with the divider down, 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 to choose a seat when in Club Suite.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2022)

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses.

There are special sign-up bonuses on both of the BA American Express cards until 28th February 2022. The bonus on the free card is doubled to 10,000 Avios and the bonus on the Premium Plus card is increased from 25,000 Avios to a huge 40,000 Avios.

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

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10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

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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

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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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, along with a sign-up bonus worth 30,000 Avios.

30,000 Avios is a special offer which runs to 4th February 2022.

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 45,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

45,000 Avios is a special offer which runs to 28th February 2022.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

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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 (83)

  • AJA says:

    I can see the pros and cons of charging for seat selection. Plainly so can Qatar and Finnair as they’ve both introduced their ‘business lite’ fares. The pros are that ‘free’ seat selection is a true peak for Silver and Gold BAEC members.
    It should reduce fares overall as the extra revenue for seat reservations means the airlines can offer a lower price to those who don’t need or want to pay.
    It allows non-status passengers to sit together.although as pointed out by others you are actually allocated seats together if on the same booking though that doesn’t always happen.

    The cons are does it really reduce overall fares or is it just a con and means the airlines makes even more money?
    It’s confusing to customers as you don’t know how much you might end up paying.
    It adds complexity to Oneworld FF programmes as you’re never sure if your status benefits will follow through or be recognised (particularly if the ‘lite’ fare excludes lounge access).
    Its confusing as to what happens when aircraft swaps happen or flights are cancelled and getting any consistency out of the airline in its approach to whether seat assignments carry over.
    Its added complexity if you are due a refund due to the airline cancelling your flight.
    And ultimately when you’re paying significantly more than premium economy for a business class seat I’d argue that ‘free’ seat selection for status passengers isn’t really free. After all you are buying the right to sit in a seat and be transported from A to B.

  • Richard E says:

    Seat selection is also free if you are travelling with an infant (a child under 2 years old)- whether or not the infant needs a seat. The free selection applies for everyone in your party (which, I understand, can be up to 9 or 10 people).

    My son has recently turned 2. Last time we flew with him he was an “infant” and the free seat selection gave us enormous peace of mind (although he was 4 months and traveled our laps). We are planning to fly again in a few months and it’s a real pain needing to decide if prebooking seats is worth it. We are flying club on one of the awkward 2-3-2 layouts – so no seats directly next to one another. Our first flight was just cancelled, so glad we didn’t pay in the first instance!

    • Paul says:

      Would adding an infant to a booking work out cheaper than paying for seat selection?

  • Steve R says:

    I wish the CAA would come down on ALL the Airlines that try to charge for families wishing to sit together – Make it mandatory

    “The seating of children close by their parents or guardians should be the aim of airline seat allocation procedures for family groups and large parties of children”

    It is a safety issue – not nose in the trough.

    • Doug M says:

      Children have to be seated next to a parent/guardian. Where/when did you encounter otherwise? In business class ‘next to’ is obviously a bit more open to interpretation.

      • Anna says:

        “Near to” is what’s specified, not “next to” and it is only CAA guidance. This has given the LCCs historically the leeway to seat families in different rows if they didn’t pay for seat selection, unless this has changed recently?

      • AJA says:

        @ Doug M I wish it was a legal requirement for a child to be seated next to a parent. It’s not. A few years ago I flew from SFO in BA CW upper deck on a 747 and had two brats in the row in front of me. Their parents were at the very back of the cabin, so not far away but as far as possible. Sadly they didn’t give a toss what the kids did or how they behaved.

        • Doug M says:

          I was sat next to an unaccompanied child with learning difficulties, probably 30 years ago. It was a short flight, JFK to DCA I think from memory. On several occasion the child would attempt punch and elbow me, and the CC would apologise and moan that she was travelling alone. Can’t believe that would be allowed now. I guess the near rather than next to, comes simply from the layout of business/first class seats where ‘next to’ is quite subjective. But from my perspective the kid was much less of a problem than some of the a**ehole drunk adults I’ve found myself next to.

          • Mark says:

            Yes, we had a child next to us on a recent Virgin UC flight with learning difficulties, who proceeded to make noises throughout the flight that I can only describe as like a baaing sheep. Tricky one as the family clearly needed a holiday… As you say the a**ehole drunk adults who should know better are the ones who really p*** me off. Although a relatively small proportion of our flights have been in F that’s where the problems always seem to have been, from the DYKWIA in 1A on a flight to Beijing who drunk himself silly and then snored *very* loudly throughout the rest of the flight to the guy on a flight to Miami who invited a random stranger he met in the lounge into the cabin, sat on his buddy seat and proceeded to have a very loud and extended conversation in the seat behind me. At least in the latter the case the crew eventually dealt with it. The former case was obviously a high value individual that was known to the crew, and they didn’t want to risk upsetting.

    • G says:

      It absolutely is not a safety issue. Safety is provided for by the trained cabin crew and if necessary fellow passengers.

      I’d have thought parents would welcome being away from kids on their flights!

      • Steve R says:

        Sorry G

        From the CAA

        This is because the speed of an emergency evacuation may be affected by adults trying to reach their children.

  • SammyJ says:

    What’s the easiest way of working out whether a flight will have club suite or not, before booking? I can only seem to get to the seat map after I’ve booked.

  • ABBA says:

    NEVER pay… simply choose option ‘2’ for assistance for one person in the booking and seat selection is free (except emergency exit rows).. after check-in simply remove the assistance from your booking or at check-in, if asked, you can politely decline the assistance. The WCHR system is widely abused on certain routes where it is booked simply for ‘language’ assistance.. I’ve seen situations where there are 50+ WCHR passengers on one flight.. the crew want to get off and go home and tell the passengers there will be a long wait for assistance and they will miss their connecting flights.. never have I seen so many ‘miracles’ as these WCHR bound passengers run off the aircraft with their large and overweight hand luggage!

    • Doug M says:

      The Miami miracle 🙂

    • Mike says:

      ABBA – where is “option ‘2’” – ie where would i find this when i am booking on line ?

    • Fiona says:

      I am one for ‘language’ assistance as I am profoundly deaf and need my OH to help relay info to me. BAEC should come down heavy-handed on those who abuse the WCHR option by denying them booking rights until T-24. It’s always a few who spoil it for those who really need it. These folk wouldn’t want to spend a day in my shoes or be a wheelchair user and see the obstacles and discrimination we face every single day!

      • Spurs drive me mad says:

        I agree Fiona, but not surprised that people are telling others how to circumvent paying a few quid at the disabled passengers expense. 😡

    • Fiona says:

      ABBA and Mike – Frank Gardner the disabled BBC correspondent once had to wait an hour on an empty flight for his wheelchair to be delivered to him.
      The blatant abuse of the system (regardless of whether it is open to abuse) is astounding.

  • Roger S says:

    In my experience “book with confidence “ at doesn’t cover paid for seats on Avios Redemption.
    2020 six of us paid for window &isle seats for our return flights in E+ To Antigua .
    Complicated story but BA Exec refused to refund the cost of seats, £512 , when I changed the date of travel for the four of us on redemption. Interestingly BA holidays that the other two had booked, did eventually obtain a refund!!

    • Mark says:

      Sadly that’s official policy.

      Paid seating is non-refundable, unless:
      *British Airways changes your seat to an alternative seat and you are unsatisfied with the alternative seat;
      *British Airways cancels your flight;
      *You become ineligible to sit in an exit row and you inform us at least 48 hours in advance of scheduled departure of your flight;
      *Or you have paid for a cabin upgrade and do not wish to pay the difference to select your seat in the upgraded cabin.

      No exceptions around Book with Confidence, so that’s a very good reason not to pay for seat selection at the present time unless you accept that you’ll potentially lose a considerable sum in the event you want to change the booking or cancel for a FTV.

      • Mark says:

        Though there may be a loophole if you’re willing to pay for an upgrade, request a refund on the seat selection fees and then cancel for a FTV… that may tie up a chunk more money the FTV though.

        • Dubious says:

          Or change to a exit row seat before breaking ones arm (at least 48 hrs before the flight)…then request an FTV. Maybe a painful approach though…

  • John says:

    What else are they gonna do?

    On average, at least 50% of passengers in club world have got elite status. Most likely, those 50+ percent are you best customers so you want to give them the best seats. On occasion, you’ll also have a non-elite on a very expensive flex ticket who will also get free advanced seat reservation privileges. Among the remaining <50 percent, not everyone can get a good seat unless the load is sufficiently low.

    What's an economically reasonable way to allocate a scarce resource (i.e., the few remaining good seats)? It is allocate them to those with the highest willingness to pay.

    • Jonathan says:

      Exactly. Remember that those paying the 5 figure flexible fares will also be booking in the week prior to departure so you need a way of ensuring they can get a decent seat ahead of Jo Bloggs paying £1100 in a sale.

      The alternative would be to allow all the less desirable seats to be picked in advance for free & block the decent ones for status/full fare passengers. This is essentially what LH do. At least with BA you have the option to pay for a decent seat if you really want to. As mentioned, you will be provisionally allocated seats next to any companions behind the scenes unless the flight is completely full &/or you move flights late in the day.

  • Beardless Hipster says:

    What is the latest time to make changes to a BA cash ticket? I understand I can request an e-voucher up to an hour before departure but what about changing the dates? Thank you

    • Track says:

      Pretty much the same.

      Had quite a few occasions standing in front of check-in on phone with BA changing a flight.

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