British Airways charge passengers to reserve seats - I'm sorry, what?

25 September 2009

Bitterwallet - Birtish Airways charges for reserving seats Dear British Airways,

We get it. Times are tight. There's not much money to spare, and folks aren't too keen to spend their cash on flying here and there when they've mortgages to pay and businesses to run. We're all suffering. Obviously, you're suffering a little more than most since you somehow lost £400 million last year. We notice if we open our wallet and we've lost a fiver, so fuck knows who was keeping an eye on your money.

Anyway, that's not the problem. Well it is, but it's how you're fixing the problem that is the real problem. See, you seem to be hellbent on taking perhaps the best known consumer brand in aviation history and running it into the ground, but not before tieing it up in a bag full of hammers and kittens and smashing it into an orphanage full of paraplegic children who have just been informed of their parents' horrifying death in a Victorian threshing machine. You're not re-inventing your business for leaner economic times - you're dismantling it.

So far you've asked staff to work for free for a month, stopped serving meals on short-haul flights, grounded 22 planes this coming Winter, announced you're considering charging economy passengers on short-haul flights for food, raising fees for excess baggage and changing charges for sports equipment, plus you've introduced advertising on your boarding passes. And that's just in three months.

But it's still not enough, because you're seemingly hellbent on reducing British Airways to the standard of Lao Che Air Freight in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Maybe you like that film. I prefer Raiders Of The Lost Ark myself. And don't even get me started on the pile of dogshit that was The Legend of the Crystal Skull. A fridge, for fuck's sake. Anyway. Today you've announced that in true budget airline fashion, you're going to start charging passengers to book their seats in advance.

From October 7th, for an economy-class trip within Europe, passengers will pay an extra £10 each to choose their seat. On long-haul economy flight it'll cost £20 per seat, while long-haul passengers in business will pay £60. Sure, you can still select your seat for free 24 hours before take-off, but that's not how it works, is it? A family will only fret over the prospect of having to sit apart so they'll pay the charges to make sure a parent can sit with their child. Except they won't, because you've just slapped £160 on the cost of a longhaul holiday for a family of four.

You seem to be missing the whole point of this residual revenue business. It's vital for budget airlines because they sell the actual flights for considerably less than the likes of you. Passengers benefit from low lost travel and can choose whether to improve the experience by paying more. Do you see the juvenile schoolboy error you're making? Introducing additional charges on top of already expensive flights doesn't really work, does it?

Of course people want cheap flights, but plenty will pay a little more for quality. Cut your loss-leading routes, drop some frequency on others, restructure management - but don't screw with everything people prefer you for in the first place. People don't choose British Airways and pay British Airways prices to then fly Ryanair.

[The Guardian]

TOPICS:   Travel


  • Ponder
    Hear that noise? That was you missing the point. At the moment, about 90% of BA passengers can't reserve a seat in advance AT ALL as it's a perk reserved for expensive, flexible tickets or people with Silver or Gold status in their frequent flyer program. Now they're going to offer advanced seat selection to everyone - if you pay a bit more. If you don't want to pay, then things remain the same - you can pick your seat at online checkin 24 hours in advance. Of course the BA PR people seem to like shooting themselves in the foot at the moment otherwise they wouldn't have announced this in such a poor way.
  • Dan
    You don't have to pay it, so if you don't want a specific seat ahead of time, don't pay for one. It isn't difficult. Despite your prediction, most people won't pay for this and families won't have any issue getting seats next to each other.
  • SJT
    Boooo - I used to like BA, but now they're trying to go down the budget airline route. I think I'll stick with the likes of Continental, Singapore, Malaysian - real airlines
  • Paul S.
    At the moment, if I book two, three or four tickets together, I may not be able to reserve particular seats but they will be seated together on a BA flight. I don't choose where they are, but they are together. Reserving particular seats isn't as big an issue as ensuring seats that are booked together are together on the flight. Charging for reserved seating will fragment the seating, because some people will pay for this. This isn't about charging to reserve seating, as much as it is about charging to ensure booked seats are together. Fear will mean families or groups will pay, if they choose to travel BA at all.
  • Ponder
    @Paul Smith Families with children gets seats together allocated 3 days before the flight, this is mentioned on the BA site and doesn't change. This isn't about extorting money from families to get seats together - it's responding to masses of complaints from passengers who didn't like the last change they made to seating policy two years ago! They've just upset a different group of people, but hopefully appeased the higher-revenue passengers they lost last time.
  • Dan
    @Paul Smith That would assume that a large percentage of people chose to purchase this advance seat booking, which won't be the case. It will only be the rich boys who pay the extra amount. You family types have longer than most others to reserve your seating, so you've got nothing to complain about. It is a premium service for those who choose to pay the fee, not a service that is expected to be taken up by most passengers.
  • Tom
    i think you have missed the point... This is an additional service, that was previously offered previously to a select number of customers free of charge. You have never been able to select seats when booking online until 24 Hours before departure. BA are simply offering this to all customers now, but at an additional fee, so for the first time ever you can select a seat at time of booking when booking online...
  • Tom
    also... i would guess like most airlines they will still try to ensure that people travelling on the same booking will sit next to each other. at the point of booking everyone is 'pencilled' into a seat that only changes if you change it or request at online checkin or at checkin desks.
  • Beard E.
    "People don’t choose British Airways and pay British Airways prices to then fly Ryanair." - this just sum the whol article up for me. Very well written Paul!
  • Beard E.
    ....Unlike my poorly-spelled comment!
  • speedski
    Economy I understand - but CLUB WORLD - come on that DOES take the piss. I mean you pay £2,000-£5,500 for a Club World ticket and you then have to pay £60 to reserve a preferable seat? Ha hear that, thats footsteps to the competition, the one thing you didnt want to do was piss off the income generator for your business, the business traveller, yet you think thye won't notice £50-£100 extra on top? No they won't because they won't book BA anymore - its a slippery slope and BA's wearing a PVC suit.....I am now pleased the three flights I have in the next 15 days are codeshare BA tickets so its not actually BA flying the plane...actually thats a point, wonder how this works for those codeshare tickets....
  • James
    @Ponder & Dan As a family who travel on BA, only one parent will necessarily sit next to children as we found out when BA put my wife and two kids in one row of three and me on a completely different row. This despite there being 12 rows of four completely empty when we managed to book online 24 hours before hand. Families do not get any more time to choose seats, they are just allocated before other passengers and then get the same 24 hours in which to logon and choose where to sit. If we book again to Australia I will definitely not chance the idea of not sitting together and would either have to pay the extra (no chance) or find a different airline which I suppose was the point of the original thread.
  • Duaine D.
    I will never fly BA again. Rip Off. Likewise I will never again use British Telecom or British Gas. It seems anything with "British" in the name likes to portray the perception of a premium service, but in reality it's all a big hairy sham. Don't let these shysters get away with it
  • Scott
    I booked flights with BA a few weeks back for our Honeymoon in January to Japan - does this 'extra charge' apply only to new bookings, or will we now have to fork out extra to ensure seats next to each other ? I just tried doing a search to see if I could find any pics of O'Leary and Walsh in bed together, but nothing yet :o( (actually I'm quite pleased... it would be a horrible sight !!)
  • Dan
    @Scott The service doesn't go live till October 7th, but more importantly, you're in no way required to pay for this. I think you'll find this is a service far more likely to appeal to those up the front of the plane, with maybe a limited few in the back paying for the privilege.
  • tetrytr
    For all its cutting-edge brevity, Twitter has nothing on the creative geniuses of modern history. Hemingway once wrote a haunting story using a mere six words: "For Sale: gucci shoe. Never worn."
  • Alex B.
    In addition to all of the above, you might not be aware of the new extra payment for emergency exit row seat. You can read the wonderful BA Club email introducing it here and sit in amazed silence at the sheer audacity and foolishness of it: A £400m loss? I will put money on it being bigger next year at this rate. Maybe time to short sell BA shares.
  • Beth
    We used this "pay for your seat" service for our recent long haul flight to the Middle East as my husband is 6ft 4ins and needs extra legroom. Two stone cold sober adults viewed the seat selection screen together and reserved for him the one remaining extra legroom seat. However when we boarded the flight the layout was different and there was an additional row in front of him - thus negating entirely the reason for us stumping up the extra cash. Whilst the onboard crew were sympathetic there was nothing they could do. I have since been in contct with BA to try and obtain a refund but they simply refer me to the refund form. This form has only 4 possible options for you to select as to why you require a refund and a curt sentence stating that if it's not one of those options then you won't get a refund. Clearly my issue above isn't listed as an option so now I'm left to do battle with their "customer services" team who send me emails full of platitudes about regaining my trust and not a lot else. I know I'm only one small passenger to them but now I'm one small passenger who will no longer be flying British Airways.

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