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Britisih Air - ug

What a saga. When we booked our trip from the states, we looked at several options, focusing on Lufthansa because the had the non-stop to Frankfurt. Since am travelling with my college aged boys who have never been overseas, Lufthansa only had scattered singles (all middle seats) left. We looked at British Air, which was wide open. BEFORE we ever booked, I called and inquired about seating, the bulkhead seats, or the exit row seats. I was told by the agent to go ahead and get the tickets and then I could book my seats because they were wide open. So I did. And yes, I could not book the seats. Not only does BA charge a premium to book their seats ahead of the4-hour threshold of departure, they range from $35 to $75 per seat. Upset, I called not less than four agents that day all with different stories of why I can't book these seats. One still managed to say I could. This was weeks ago, and I constantly called to be told either they are already booked, or are still on airport hold. How can this be? Why can't they tell if someone is actually booked these seats or are they actually on airport hold? As of today, my seating chart says two of the seats at the bulkhead and exit are "occupied" with the middle seat available, yet several BA agents say they don't show them booked. One agent told me I was "too old" to sit there. Since when is 50 too old? My sons are 21 and not sure where that came from. I have discovered BA is not a friendly airline to fly, and if there were any way to get out of this booking we would.

Posted by
9363 posts

Isn't it a 24-hour window before departure, not 4? Many airlines charge for prebooking a seat (and even then they can switch you at their discretion, which is why I never pay to prebook). Since a lot of people are no doubt in your same situation, you will probably be OK booking at the 24-hour point. There is also the possibility of changing seats with someone once you are onboard, though I doubt that anyone would trade away a bulkhead or exit row seat. You still should be able to get three together.

Posted by
2799 posts

The window and aisle seats in the exit and bulkhead rows may be saved for people who have elite status on that airline. When you look at the seating chart, it will show only the seats that are available to you, not the ones saved for elite members. When the agents look, they can probably see all the empty seats. But they won't put you in those seats unless you meet the qualifications. If not enough elite status flyers show up to claim those seats, they may be available at the airport.

Posted by
2799 posts

It has been pointed out elsewhere that bulkhead and exit row seats are held for certain people, traveling with infants ( bulkhead) and elite members of that airline club. If they are available for booking to others it is at additional cost, not the $35 charged to book regular seats. Have you actually tried to change your seats through the website instead of on the phone? Since you have been told different things by the agents, it is worth the time to just see what happens on the website. I've not done it myself but that " view or change seats" option suggests it can be done.

Posted by
4539 posts

The bulkhead seats are generally where the bassinets go, and are kept back for people with babies who need them. They may well be released later on when they are not required for this purpose, but be aware that if you take a seat there you may very well be sharing the row with a small baby. As to the policy, it is no secret that BA charge anyone to reserve a seat unless it is in First Class or one of the party has the requisite level of status. Note that even with the lowest level of status, you can reserve seats 7 days in advance.

Posted by
509 posts

WE spoke to no less that 6-7 agents, who either said we could book the bulkhead or exit seats right then and there, to being told, no they were under aiport control, to no they are already sold out. Spoke to an agent moments ago who said the bulkhead seats are still on hold and reserved for babies, and the exit rows are indeed gone. Yes we paid for seat reservations. We were told to change seats again would cost another $35 per seat, so we are sticking to what we have. Didn't even bother grabbing seats for the return, because it will be the same.

Posted by
284 posts

I'm just curious about the course of events. When you booked the ticket, did you pay and try to reserve the seats then and there with the same agent that told you could book the bulk head row? If so and you were told that you could not book those seats, then that would have been a good time to talk with a supervisor until it was sorted out as best it can be. If you got off the line with them and then called back later, things can change rapidly. The best advice that I can offer is to write a complaint letter to BA customer service. You might be able to get a hundred bucks towards another flight with them. Here's the link: https://www.britishairways.com/travel/custrelform/public/en_us

Posted by
2799 posts

I think maybe you just got confused. The agents who said you could book exit row seats were correct but implicit in that statement is "for a price." The Official policy and prices are right on the website: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/choose-your-seat/public/en_gb?cookiesAccepted=newvispop Regular seats $35, exit row $75, bulkhead reserved for travelers with infants. Certain elite members and people traveling with infants choose seats for free.
If you go to the more information link on exit row seats, it says that exit row seats can be reserved between 14 days and 4 days before the flight departs. So if you really want one, and are willing to pay, maybe there is still time? Also, under changes, it says "you may change your seat at any time, and ay the difference in price when applicable." So you CAN change to another $35 seat at no charge, or pay the extra $40 to upgrade to exit row seats if they are still available. But do it on the website, which works really well.

Posted by
1068 posts

I have looooooong legs and am claustrophobic, so I always ask to sit in a bulkhead seat. About 10% of the time, I get my wish. Last year, flying to Paris on Air France, I got the hassle you just got on British Airways. I booked - and paid for! - bulkhead seats. I confirmed those seats a couple of says before we flew. When we got the airport we were given non-bulkhead seats and told "families with children" have priority. To add insult to injury, my seat had some weird metal box underneath it, so I had 1/2 the normal miniscule legroom of a regular seat. The steward couldn't move us. So not only did I get to look at a tiny child curled up in what was supposed to be my seat - this ticked me off because a child that size does NOT NEED LEG ROOM - but I had to cock my legs at a tight angle in order to keep from puncturing my ankle on the corner of the metal box. All the way from Seattle to Paris. Yee-hah! All of which is a long way of saying - I don't think it is just BA. I think that's the way it is on most airlines, and we poor sheeple who don't want to pay nosebleed prices to sit in First Class just have to deal. It ticks me off, but what can you do?

Posted by
3580 posts

I've given up on bulkhead seats. True, there is ample legroom, but it is difficult to find a place to stow carry-on luggage and under-seat bag. And, that's where babies and other "special" passengers are seated. I've gone back to the aisle seat where I can occasionally stretch my leg. Sometimes it is more convenient being short. That weird metal box under the seat probably goes with the seatback monitor on some planes.

Posted by
12577 posts

"I was told by the agent to go ahead and get the tickets and then I could book my seats because they were wide open. So I did. And yes, I could not book the seats." I am still confused about what happened here. When you say you could not book the seats, are you referring specifically to the exit row and bulkhead seats? The policy on those is right on the website. If the exit row and bulkhead seats show up as "occupied" on your view of the seating chart, that could simply mean they are not available for you to book, for various reasons other than occupancy. We routinely fly BA and I pay to choose our seats as soon as I get the tickets, which is 355 days in advance because we use miles. There should be few if any seats booked at that time. Yet the seating chart only gives me about half the seats to choose from, I assume because the others are reserved for status customers or are on airport hold. There is no way to see the difference between the ones that are "occupied" and those that are unavailable for other reasons. As for the exit row seats, on other airlines I have seen these held back until check-in at the airport. They want to actually see who will be sitting there, to be sure they physically meet the requirements. When my son and I flew back from Japan on United, they took one look at him (6' 2") and gave us the exit row even though we hadn't asked.

Posted by
2788 posts

I fly often between Seattle and Hawaii where I live most of the year. I always fly on Hawaiian Airlines. I am able to pick my seat from what shows as available when I book the ticket. Bulkhead and Emergency Exit seats are available 24 hours before flight time (if available and not reserved by Frequent Flyers)and cost an extra $35. I go on-line EXACTLY at 24 hours before flight time to try to get an emergency exit (I am 6'3") and have had remarkably good luck at getting one. That is a 5 to 6 hour flight. In going to Europe every summer, I do not fly BA for a number of reasons, and have always been able to select seats when making my reservations (SAS, AF,
KLM, or Lufthansa) Hopefully, you will be able to make some seat changes at the airport or after the flight takes off.

Posted by
1010 posts

My husband and I have flown BA from Los Angeles to Heathrow, four years in a row. We have used frequent flyer miles, through American Airlines, business class. American gives you a choice of flying American or BA. We have always booked out seats when we made the reservations. Usually we have booked the seats 350 days in advance.

Posted by
509 posts

Our trip is now over, and we probably will never fly BA again. At the aiport, we decided to ugrade to the World Traveller Plus and we got center bulkhead sets which is what was left. It cost us and additional $900 and at the time thought it was a good idea. It was probably a waste of money inn retrospect.
While in Europe, we decided to leave Europe a few days earlier than scheduled, and when we called BA to get what it would cost and to make the change,and we were told by the agent it would take 72 hours to give me a price. We could not believe it! We repeatedly asked how it could take 72-hours for them to make the change and tell me the price. It was yet another incompetent phone agent who didn't have answers. The next day we called one of the many agents we have spoken to direct previously (ALWAYS get a name and phone# of agent with this airline). She was amazed we were told it would take 72-hours and she got a price for us immediately and made the change. A few days before our flight we noticed the exit seats were available and we grabbed them for an extra $225. Our flight home was a nightmare. Behind us sat a family of four in three seats. There was a two year old and a four year old who fought and cried and screamed the ENTIRE time, as well as continually kicked the backs of our seats across the Atlantic as well as sticking their hands through the seats and poking us. The mother complained to me on several occassions that she would like me to keep my seat upright so she wasn't cramped, yet hers was back on the people behind her. BA did nothing. We think ALL airlines should adopt a policy that every child should have a seat on cross-country flights. What child is going to sit still on their parents lap for 10 hours? It was horrible, and money NOT well spent. We could not wait to get off this plane. The flight staff was friendly, and service great on board. No complaints there.

Posted by
2799 posts

Crying babies are the airlines fault? seriously? I agree it is annoying, but dont blame the airline. That can happen on any airplane. and dont blame the child, the pressure changes hurt their ears. You can blame the parents, but don't expect the flight crew to resolve disagreementa about reclining seats, or tell a passenger to quit being rude. It sounds like you chose British Airlines for the wrong reasons in the first place, without being informed about their seating policies. You could have just as easily had a crying baby behind you on United. And apparently the seats you wanted werent available on United anywat. As for th epoor customer service when you call, I don't get that at all. But we have always just done everything on the website, booking, choosing seats, and making changes. That works just fine.

Posted by
9363 posts

You paid $300 apiece for your upgrade going over? I paid $80 for a similar upgrade on Delta in May. I also selected my seat at the time of ticket purchase. Because it was a bulkhead seat I fully expected to be moved, but I was not. I'm not sure I understand why you balked at paying $35-75 for seats, but ended up paying $300, then the additional cost of changing your tickets to come back early, and the exit row upgrade. Unfortunately, even with your preferred seats, you can't control who sits near you. I once flew with a creepy adult person behind me who kept talking to himself, sticking his hands between the seats, and peering between them. I have also sat in front of a four year old who whined for two hours about her sister taking one of her stickers. Unless you can move seats, you just have to deal with it. It's not the fault of the airline. I do agree, though, that every child past the infant stage should have a seat of their own.

Posted by
7878 posts

I paid 50 on Air France in June. Three hundred is very high. It's debatable if bulkhead seats are worth it, as the arm rests are immovable and the seats are narrower. It's a trade-off.

Posted by
9363 posts

On the Delta flight I was on, the bulkhead seats were Economy Comfort, so they were actually larger, not narrower.

Posted by
2799 posts

According to SeatGuru, the Economy Plus seats on BA 777 are one inch wider and have an extra 7 inches of seat pitch. That is quite a bit of extra room. But worth an extra $300? That's your call. I am a small person and don't need the extra room, so wouldn't pay that much.

Posted by
4539 posts

WTP on British Airways isn't just about the legroom - it also includes extra checked and hand baggage allowances, and meals from the business class menu and a few other things.Whether this is worth the money though ....

Posted by
284 posts

Kira: Did you request compensation? You should have. Airlines will try to accommodate families, but you shouldn't unwillingly be moved from your paid seat for the failure of a family to book seats together. My bet is that an email to Air France could have netted you 75-150 Euro towards your next flight. JR: Not to offend, but I am not sure how much of this is the airline and how much is your interactions with the airline/decisions made while traveling. You should have known about seating policies before you bought your ticket, and whether or not there was an extra charge for bulkhead/exit rows. If having a bulkhead row was so vitally important, you should have paid for them at the lower price when you had the chance early on in the process. That was false economy. From the way that you describe things, it sounds like you may not have been the most courteous person on the phone... which meant your chances of getting something resolved went down dramatically. Asking repeatedly isn't a productive approach. If your agent doesn't like you, they aren't exactly motivated to help you. A better approach would have been to follow the golden rule of airline call centers: If at first you don't succeed, politely hang up and call back. Also, unless you get an especially helpful agent, getting their names and numbers is likely, in my opinion, to set up an adversarial relationship. As for the flight home, first, it sounds like a horrible flight.. but just about every airline out there has a child in lap policy. Every one. I've had similar experiences on several airlines, but those are horrible people, not a horrible airline. Nancy: I don't think that is correct. "Economy Comfort" seats are the same width as standard economy seats and bulkhead seats are almost always slightly narrower due to the tray tables/TV in the armrests.

Posted by
9363 posts

There was no TV in the armrest on the flight I was on. The TV was on the wall in front of the seats.

Posted by
11450 posts

I agree with JR,, airlines should make all children pay for seats( at least for long international flights), sorry, a one year old should not be a lap baby , first of all, they are not safe, second of all they are on a lap so their little arms and legs can easily kick back of seats and finally if they are not tiny infants that can just lay in a bassinet in the bulkhead area then they are taking up space and making every one miserable including themselves.. I think its barbaric. And yes, we paid for our 9 months old seat on a flight to Hawaii, I didn't want my baby launched into the seat in front of it or into the ceiling in the event of a hard landing or turbulence. She napped and ate happily in her carseat. And yes, it WAS a bummer paying an extra 500 bucks for her , but she was worth it and so was our sanity( we had two other kids with us too )
Our friends came with us on that trip and little 13 month old micheal was a lap baby that made them go insane, he didn't want to just sit, they had to constantly pass him back and forth, stand him on their laps ,etc. They were exhausted from the 6 hour flight, and they only had two kids with them!