Are British Airways Basic Economy Fares About To Get Better?

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British Airways Basic Fares were once called “hand baggage only” fares and they started out life as a fare I would never, ever book. BA’s Basic fares only apply to short-haul routes and, when they were first introduced, they stripped elite flyers of their seat assignment benefit. It didn’t matter what status you held, if you booked a hand baggage only fare you did not get to select your seat at the time of booking.

This was an issue for flyers like me who don’t particularly enjoy British Airways’ short-haul seats with their paltry 30″ of seat pitch (with the exception of the exit row and row 1) – we like to reserve the exit rows at the time of booking so, essentially, Basic fares were out of the question.

That was until earlier this year when BA reversed the “no seat assignments for elites” policy.

With seat assignments now available to elite flyers who book Basic economy fares I make use of them as often as a I can when traveling within Europe (as long as I have no need to check a bag).

There is, however, one restriction that comes with booking a Basic fare that can still be mildly irritating – you cannot mix a Basic fare with any other type of fare.

Once you select an outbound fare other than a Basic Economy fare on the option to book a Basic fare for the return journey is removed (and vice versa):

screens screenshot of a flight schedule

In practice this means that if, for some reason, you only want need to check baggage in one direction you’re forced to purchase a “Plus” fare in both directions or book two one-way Basic tickets (which can be more expensive than a roundtrip Plus fare).

It also means that you’re currently precluded from booking a Business Class fare in one direction and a Basic fare in the other unless you buy two one way fares (which can be catastrophically expensive).

But this may be about to change.

In information sent out to travel professionals BA has this to say about some upcoming changes to the way its Basic fares will work:

Fare branding will allow us to make some changes to the way we file our short-haul fares. These changes will be delivered March, 22nd 2018 and will mean [that] In the future, Basic fares will be combinable with other fare types and will be available as half or full round trips.

The good news is where BA says that “Basic fares will be combinable with other fare types” and I read this to mean that passengers will no longer be forced to book two one way Basic fares if all they want is to book a Basic fare in one direction of a roundtrip fare.

The airline also mentions that it will….

[E]nhance its competitive position in the European short-haul market by introducing more price points on British Airways operated short-haul and UK domestic journeys (Basic and Plus fares only)

I could be wrong (it’s happened often before!) but that sounds like the airline is adding more fare codes within each fare type.

British Airways Airbus A319

This could potentially mean that we’ll see a few cheaper fares appearing (in the bottom fare code) and it could mean that there won’t be big jumps in price as one fare class sells out and the airline begins to offer the next one up.

Lastly, and I admit that this could be a leap too far, I’m left wondering if the idea to allow Basic Economy fares to be mixed with other fares types isn’t actually a precursor to British Airways offering Basic Economy fares on long-haul routes.

BA needs to find more effective ways of combating the threat from the likes of Norwegian (an airline that’s still exapanding its routes across the Atlantic and which has just purchased more slots at Gatwick) and offering a variation of Basic fares on long haul flights could well be an option the airline is exploring.

Bottom Line

If I’m reading this correctly (and someone please correct me if I’ve got it wrong) British Airways will soon allow customers to book Basic Economy fares as part of a mixed fare itinerary rather than forcing them to choose between two one way fares or a “Basic Economy only” booking.

We may also be closer to seeing British Airways offer Basic Economy on one or more long-haul routes.


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