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Last week we discovered that British Airways (together with American Airlines, Iberia and Finnair) will start offering Basic Economy fares across the Atlantic from April of this year. Today the airline has announced that April will see Basic Economy fares rolled out to other markets too.
What Are Basic Economy Fares?
Basic Economy fares are sometimes called “hand baggage only” fares and offer Economy Class passengers a stripped down version of what a regular Economy Class fare offers.
These fares don’t offer a checked baggage allowance, the fares are non-refundable and Basic Economy passengers board last.
On a positive note, oneworld elites keep some of their benefits when booking Basic Economy fares but even these are pared down (more details later).
Here’s what British Airways has had to say:
Following the announcement that we will be introducing a new long haul Basic Economy fare on our routes in partnership with our Atlantic Joint Business (AJB) partners, British Airways and Iberia would like to announce that this new fare will also be offered on selected non-north Atlantic (NATL) routes.
The new fares support our focus on customers; offering customers more choice and a new price point with the ability to personalise their trip with ancillary products based on their travel needs. Customers purchasing Basic fares will enjoy the same great service in our World Traveller (Economy) cabin as those travelling on a Standard Economy fare, with new and improved in-flight meals, a range of in-flight entertainment and complimentary headphones and blankets. The new fares also include our generous hand baggage allowance and allocated seating.
When British Airways mentions “non-north Atlantic routes” it’s referring, in the short-term, to routes from the UK to the Middle East and Asia but the airline has also said that Basic Economy fares will be rolled out “on other long-haul markets over the coming months”.
While no specific routes have yet been announced we know on thing for sure – BA has just taken Basic Economy worldwide.
These are the tables British Airways has issued to travel professionals showing the differences in what each fare type offers (on BA and on Iberia).
What Else Do We Know?
BA hasn’t added any extra details about Basic Economy fares in this latest announcement so, presumably, they will work in exactly the same way as the transatlantic Basic Economy fares outlined last week.
General Features of Basic Economy Fares
- Although there will be no checked baggage allowance with Basic Economy fares customers will be able to pay for additional checked bags any time before departure online, by calling the call centre or at the airport (excludes mixed-metal/codeshare itineraries which can be serviced at the airport only).
- Wheelchairs, mobility aids and children’s pushchairs/safety seats can still be checked-in free of charge
- Basic Economy customers will be able to pay for seating at any time before departure. Those who choose not to pay for a seats will be allocated seats when check in opens.
- Passengers buying a Basic Economy fare will not get a refund if they cancel their tickets (with the exception of taxes). Flights can be changed for a fee.
- British Airways Basic Economy passengers will board in the last boarding group. As Iberia boards passengers based on their seating position on the aircraft this will not apply on Iberia operated flights.
Elite Benefits on Basic Economy Fares
- British Airways and Iberia flyers will continue earning Tier Points at the existing rates
- The number of Avios earned will be calculated in the same way as it is today.
- British Airways Executive Club members will not be able to benefit from their checked baggage allowance when booking a Basic Economy fare.
- Iberia elites (all three oneworld categories) will get one checked bag included in the fare
- British Airways elites (all three oneworld categories) will keep their seat selection benefit
- Iberia oneworld Emerald and oneworld Sapphire elites keep their seat selection benefit
The rules surrounding premium check-in, fast-track security, lounge access and priority boarding all remain the same…thankfully!
There’s nothing particularly surprising here but it’s the same smoke and mirrors story we get every time Basic Economy fares get rolled out anew.
British Airways will sell this as a new “low-cost” offering to passengers who “want more choice” when booking fares while the truth is something quite different.
Basic Economy fares will not be any cheaper than the cheapest fares we have today so the only difference will be that passengers will be getting less than they do now but for the same financial outlay.
BA isn’t introducing Basic Economy to bring prices down for passengers, it’s bringing them in to give itself more revenue streams (passengers choosing to pay for baggage and seat selection) and so that it can compete more effectively with low-cost airlines like Norwegian.
For passengers who are happy traveling just with hand baggage the introduction of Basic Economy fares won’t make too much difference (especially if they have elite status). The people really affected will be families traveling on vacation who will now find themselves having to pay more if they want to take their suitcases with them (either in extra bag fees or by paying for regular Economy Class fares which will now cost more).