British Airways Quietly Changes How It Charges For Business Class Seat Selection

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One of the more heinous ways in which British Airways gouges passengers for yet more money is by charging for seat selection in the Business Class cabin. Where most airlines allow all Business Class passengers to select their seats for free, British Airways only offers an exemption to select elite flyers.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class
British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Club World

Who Gets Free Business Class Seat Selection On BA?

Passengers paying for non-discounted Business Class, passengers with a disability which requires a wheelchair and flyers with select elite statuses can reserve Business Class seats without charge on British Airways.

Holders of the following elite statuses can select British Airways Business Class seats for free at the time of booking:

  • British Airways Gold Guest List elites
  • British Airways Gold elites
  • British Airways Silver elites
  • Oneworld Emerald elites
  • Oneworld Sapphire elites

Holders of the following elite statuses can select British Airways Business Class seats for free 7 days before departure:

  • British Airways Bronze elites
  • Oneworld Ruby elites

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

British Airways Business Class Seat Selection Fees

Historically, British Airways had three price points per flight for most of its Business Class seats and these were dependant on if a passenger was selecting a seat at the front of the cabin, in the middle of the cabin or at the rear (the upper deck of the 747s has its own pricing). As of the middle of May, this has quietly changed.

Here’s a note the airline has sent out to travel agents:

We’re making changes to paid seating in Club World. From 14 May, we have introduced side and centre seat prices. Currently, we charge the same for the side seats and the centre seats – the side being the 2 by the window, the centre being the 4 in the middle of the aircraft. Our new price points have a higher seat price for side seats than centre seats in the same zone.

Customers who have already purchased seats in Club World can visit Manage my Booking on and won’t see any new price points. All new seat bookings in Club World will see the new price points.

There will be a total of 6 price points – Front Side, Front Centre, Middle Side, Middle Centre, Rear Side, Rear Centre which replace the existing 3 price points of Front, Middle, Rear

Price changes apply to the main cabin only and pricing changes for upper deck will be communicated in due course.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that BA has the gall to charge some Business Class passengers to select a seat, the airline has now implemented a cost structure that penalizes these passengers for avoiding the atrocious seats in the center of the aircraft!

British Airways Club World

Not only does the cost to select a Business Class seat vary depending on where in the cabin you choose to sit, but it also changes depending on the distance of the flight…and the charges can be frighteningly high.

For a flight between New York JFK and London Heathrow here are the fees presented to Business Class passengers who don’t have the right to select seats for free:

a screenshot of a computer screen

In summary:

  • Side seats – between $94 and $122 each way
  • Center seats – between $83 and $111 each way
  • Upper deck – $127 each way

For a longer flight, like Los Angeles to London Heathrow, the fees are higher:

a screenshot of a computer screen

  • Side seats – between $125 and $147 each way
  • Center seats – between $111 and $133 each way
  • Upper deck – $147 each way

What this all means is that, essentially, a couple can find themselves paying over $500 extra just to avoid sitting in the horrible seats at the center of a British Airways Business Class cabin….and almost $600 extra if they want the better seats in the cabin.

It’s a rip-off!

Sadly, short of earning an airline status which allows you to select Business Class seats for free on British Airways, there really isn’t anything passengers can do to avoid these fees unless they choose to fly another airline (not necessarily a bad idea!).

Bottom Line

It charges like these that add to the widely held view that BA loves to gouge its flyers for whatever cash it can.

When you consider the incredibly high Business Class fares BA routinely charges and the atrocious fees it levies on all passengers who dare to redeem Avios for long-haul award flights and then add in the fact that some of those passengers have to pay yet more just to select a seat in the Business Class cabin, you get the picture of an airline and management team that cares more about nickel and diming its customers than providing a genuine premium experience….and that’s just sad.


  1. A touch dramatic there… It’s okay, you don’t like seat fees. As for the line ‘there really isn’t anything passengers can do to avoid these fees’ that’s untrue; they can wait until online check-in, like I do, and still have choices.

    I’ve never paid seat fees, and doubt I will, but they don’t upset me or make me choose another airline… I’ve often had good choices of BA’s seats at online check in; I’ve got bulkheads, or upper deck, or seats together, etc., as and when I’ve wanted them.

    Bear in mind that the prices are set to actually *dissuade* advance seat purchases; BA will take the money if it’s given, but it’s completely optional to pay.

    • Your handle includes ‘BA’ and your chosen Avatar is an image of a BA tail so forgive me for not being surprised that you’re attempting to underplay the rip-off that these seat selection fees truly are.

  2. Holy cow! I would never think of flying BA because of this ridiculous price gouging. Sheesh, I’ll stick with Delta or Virgin.

  3. For me, it’s just another reason to avoid BA, but I don’t fly many paid trips, so I generally steer clear of them due to fuel surcharges. But I thought you like BA?

    • I really like BA crews but I really don’t like the airline – it’s a very weird situation to find myself in 🙂

      • Regardless of his allegiance, He does have a point. The choice to pay the fees are optional. It’s not like BA wasn’t charging any fees one day and then began charging fees the next. But then again I’m sure there are people out there who have never paid to select their seat in advance. Like with all businesses if you don’t like the changes then vote with your feet.

  4. That Walsh Cruz Model (WCM) again! This helps to make them the most profitable airline, amongst other ways to extract cash. Senor Cruz still insists that many of their charges, while flight prices remain on the higher side compared to low-cost airlines that he is used to managing, are a perfect fit for the airline and that passengers have accepted them.

    As a BA Executive Club Gold card holder, I have only taken two one-way flights this year, both short haul in Europe. Also, I do not know how much business I will be giving them this year and I am comfortable with this approach as there are other options out there. However I see that not many of their passengers are taking a stand by refusing to pay for seats on Club World and Euro Traveller (short haul hand baggage only fares) and meals on short haul.

    It does not make me happy to talk down this airline, I remember in the 1990s how hard they worked to achieve the flying public’s respect. Yet they have to take responsibility for quickly letting things go in the face of competition mostly from the LCCs and putting in place policies that are often shocking.

  5. Passenger with a disability and needing a wheelchair [like me] get to choose a seat for no charge. So, it’s not just elites.

  6. So, what was the change? It’s been like this for a long time. So, I generally choose Virgin Atlantic for the SFO-LHR route, unless I need to travel onward.

    • The change is quite clearly detailed in the post…and no, it hasn’t been like this for a long time. Per BA itself, the changes kicked in on 14 May.

  7. Just another reason to #flyabba but the issue is that until enough road warriors have tried the competitors BA will persist in exploiting their historic reputation and dominance of LHR slots for EVERY cent /penny they can rip from the travelling public. As ex BA enthusiast I’m genuinely convinced that if all their elite members took 2x longhauls in equivalent cabins on ANY peer airline BA would suffer a defection rate over 50% and changes would have to be made. Perhaps a better motto for 2019 would be #toflytosell?

    • I agree, but for award travel, sometimes the only option American gives you is to fly BA thru LHR. It’s that, or pay for the ticket in toto.

  8. I would pay (practically) anything to avoid the BA business middle seats, but I was pleasantly surprised when I flew BA business last fall, and found I could use points to pay for the seat.

  9. Never fly BA business class. Charging customers to select seats is shameless. And their eight across business class service is an embarrassment.

  10. No mention of how much the fee is if you don’t choose a seat, but let the airline assign it to you. Is that even an option and is there a fee when they choose the seat?

    • No fee if the airline chooses a seat for you at check-in….but then you’re at the mercy of the airline.

  11. Ziggy, I think you are making mountains out of molehills, to use an old expression. I get charged for ALL my seat selections at time of purchase, except when I fly Southwest, just get over it, it just the cost of flying. If you really hate BA so much, stop flying them and write about something else.

    • I’m not convinced you realise that I’m discussing seat selection costs in Business Class.
      Not one US airline (and I’m assuming you’re US based because you reference Southwest) charges for First Class (domestic) or First Class/Business Class (international) seat selection….and Southwest doesn’t even have a First/Business Class cabin.

      p.s I don’t pay for seats on BA because I’m exempt from the charge but that doesn’t make the policy of charging for Business Class seating any less reprehensible.

  12. I fly long haul twice a year via business class. I do not use BA because they charge a fee for seat reservation as my company will only pay the ticket price. Therefore I use another airline that allows free reservation for business class customers. The only loser here is BA!

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