Should You Pay for Seat Assignment on British Airways?

Jun 8, 2019

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While you may be accustomed to paying for your preferred seat on low-cost airlines like EasyJet, if you have paid thousands of pounds or points for a business class seat on a full-service airline, you might expect to be able to sit anywhere available without having to reach in to your pocket even further.

But British Airways is unique in that it charges for seat assignment on all flights, on all aircraft in most classes. That’s right, even on £4,000+ business class seats to the likes of Singapore and Sydney.

The airline is fairly unique in taking this approach, and it is irritating to many passengers. When booking, you should consider if the additional cost is worth it to you, as you may have already spent a significant amount of money on the ticket.

First of all, remember that if you have Bronze, Silver or Gold status with Executive Club, the loyalty programme of British Airways, you can select seats for yourself and anyone on your booking on British Airways-operated flights as follows:

  • Bronze members (or Oneworld Ruby), up to seven days before the date of your flight
  • Silver members (or Oneworld Sapphire), anytime from when you book the flight
  • Gold members (or Oneworld Emerald), anytime from when you book the flight

For all other passengers, you can select any remaining seats for free during the online check-in process 24 hours in advance, with the exception of hand-baggage only fares in Euro Traveller and World Traveller who will be allocated a seat at random by British Airways.

Let’s have a look at each fare class and the price to select seats in advance if you don’t hold the necessary status, per passenger, per flight.

Euro Traveller — From £7

In economy on short-haul European flights, most are only a few hours in length at most. It is up to you whether you value sitting close to the front or in an exit row. If you tend to nap or listen to music or watch movies for most of the time on flights like these, you may not care too much about which row you are seated in.

Exit row seats are a good investment if you are tall enough that you struggle to fit into a regular economy seat.

British Airways Embraer Euro Traveller. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Club Europe — £14

All short-haul business class seats are virtually identical — you’ll have the same amount of legroom and there will be a blocked seat next to you. If you really value an aisle seat over a window seat or vice versa it can make sense to pay, but if you’re not fussed, it’s unlikely to be a significantly different experience if you wait until check-in to select a seat for free.

British Airways Club Europe (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)
British Airways Club Europe. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

World Traveller — From £20, Exit Row £50

Some long-haul flights on British Airways to the likes of Asia and South America can be 12+ hours in length, so it can make sense to choose a preferred seat, especially for exit rows that will have significantly more legroom. Although you’ll want to note the cost of selecting a standard seat for flights of this length will be significantly more than the base price of £20.

For shorter hops like the Middle East or East Coast USA, especially if the flights are overnight and you plan to sleep the whole journey, remember that all standard seats will have the same width and legroom, so it may not make sense to pay for one standard seat over the other.

You can read our detailed TPG UK guide to the best World Traveller seats on British Airways here.

(Photo by Jean Arnas / The Points Guy UK)

World Traveller Plus — £18, Exit Rows £50

Having just come off a BA WTP flight to Dubai earlier this week, most WTP seats are identical and I don’t see the value of paying for seat assignments unless you were a group of four who wanted to snag a middle block of four without the chance of being separated. It’s worth noting that BA will do what it can to keep families seated together whether they pay for seat selection or not. As a solo traveller I would have been happy with any seat in the small cabin.

Also with exit row seats, remember you will have much more legroom in premium economy than economy, so the additional legroom of an exit row will not be as needed or as noticeable as in economy.

You can read our detailed TPG UK guide to the best World Traveller Plus seats on British Airways here.

British Airways World Traveller Plus. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Club World — £62

This is the real sweet spot for paying for seat selection and it can really make sense in British Airways business class. This is because there is a HUGE difference in the various seats in BA’s unusual Club World cabins.

If you are a solo traveller, it’s smart to pay for some of the best window seats in Club World even though the seat selection price does seem steep at first. This is because some of these seats have both incredible privacy and the closest to direct aisle access you’ll find in this class on this airline. This is especially valuable for long-haul flights, as the price is fixed regardless of flight length.

You can read our detailed TPG UK guide to the best Club World seats on British Airways here.

Fold down foot rests, fancy!
British Airways Club World. (Photo by The Points Guy)

First — Free

Thankfully, for the most expensive seats on British Airways, seat selection is free from the time of booking. There’s not a huge variation in different first seats across the different aircraft types, although if you are travelling with someone else or want a window seat, it’s best to select your seats at the time of booking.

You can read our detailed TPG UK guide to the best first seats on British Airways here.

British Airways First. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)

Featured image courtesy of British Airways.

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