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Paying to Select Seats on British Air?

We just booked our Premium Economy seats on British Air for our flights to and from Amsterdam next spring. At the time we booked the flights (2 hours ago) it was an extra $49 each to select seats for the DFW - LHR leg of the journey. I just checked again, and it's a minimum of @$53; more for non-center seats.

Seat selection is free if we wait until check-in time, 24 hours before departure. Or, since we have BA Frequent Flyer status, we can select seats without charge 7 days before departure.

Is it worth $50+ dollars each to reserve our seats now? Has anyone out there had experience with this? I've been told the airlines will try to seat families with children together, but that doesn't hold in our case.

Your thoughts?

Posted by
4747 posts

How unhappy would you be if you ended up in a middle seat next to the toilets and in a different row than your travel partner? That is probably the worst case. If that would cause you undue stress, then pay to book.

Posted by
7275 posts

It is not worth it. When I worked as a passenger service for Virgin Airlines we sat families with kids on the same PNR reservation together no matter what and shifted single solo travelers around.

Posted by
21328 posts

I'd be very surprised if you were not seated side-by-side, but I suppose it could theoretically happen if just about everyone except you opts to pay the early-selection fee and there are no side-by-side seats available. Solo travelers never want center seats. If you were hoping for aisles-across seating, that's a different matter.

I flew solo in regular coach to and from Europe last year on airlines that charge seat-selection fees. Not wanting to get stuck in a center seat flying overnight, I paid to select my aisle seat early; it only cost about $25. I didn't pay for a seat on the short connecting hop and was able to get an aisle seat 24 hours before the flight.

I also took a chance on the way back, and again I got the desired aisle seat. However, it may be significant that my outbound flight was April 30 and the return was September 18, not peak season in either case.

What I'd be tempted to do is go to the airline website every day or two and go through the seat-selection process part of the way, just to see what premium-coach seats are available. As long as things aren't filling up, I'd be OK waiting. You do have an advantage in that you can select your seats for free 7 days out; some other folks in that part of the plane may have to wait till 24 hours out, so you'll be able to make your selection before them.

Posted by
3551 posts

I would say how bad, disappointed and unhappy would u be if the seats they gave u were not optimum?
That would be a decision pt for me.
Frankly these fees that the creative airlines have added are outrageous.
The skies are not friendly imo.

Posted by
5569 posts

This really is a question that only you can answer. How valuable is it to you to know that you have a particular assigned seat?
I have paid for seat selection on BA before because seat location does mattter to me. I've known up front that there would be a charge and consider it part of the ticket cost.

Each person has their own preferences on this. I think it is worth the cost, but it may not be to another person.

Posted by
2576 posts

If you are more than two (you mention children) I think it's a gamble not to reserve seats. The premium economy cabins are small so you could wind up scattered. Yes, I am sure flight attendants will try and move folks around. But, remember, those people did pay for those seats so they really don't have to move. Given the total cost of a European vacation why even give this any more thought? Just pay and get the seats you want.

Posted by
5771 posts

Easy solution: don't fly British Airways.

I never will, for this exact reason (and others). They treat customers with contempt, and they deserve the same in return.

Posted by
8870 posts

What I'd be tempted to do is go to the airline website every day or two and go through the seat-selection process part of the way, just to see what premium-coach seats are available. As long as things aren't filling up, I'd be OK waiting. You do have an advantage in that you can select your seats for free 7 days out; some other folks in that part of the plane may have to wait till 24 hours out, so you'll be able to make your selection before them.

acraven beat me to it. Maybe a couple times a week would be OK this far out.

Posted by
4727 posts

How old are the children? We fly BA almost exclusively several times a year and have always, without fail, been seated with our children. There is a policy, not sure if it is EU law, that young children must be sat with their parents when flying. BA has never been an issue, Easyjet moved several passengers around on a flight recently to accommodate this whilst Ryanair didn't care (although this was about 7 years ago).

I've never paid for a seat other than with Ryanair but then it was only £5. I wouldn't pay the fees BA are charging.

Posted by
1104 posts

The fee to select seats is why I don't fly with them. I don't feel I should have to pay more to pick my seat.

Posted by
5159 posts

No children; sorry I wasn't clear enough on that. It's just the two of us.

This isn't a major issue for me; I was mostly curious about how seats were assigned and how many people paid up front for their chosen seats. I had pretty much decided to do what acraven and several others suggested: just monitor the seats for a while. If all the aisle seats seem to be being gobbled up, I'll probably bite the bullet and pay for the seats. The other legs of the journey are all on American Airlines, as a code share, and I think AA doesn't charge.

And Jazz+'s comment is encouraging. Although I think at least three times when we have selected seats in advance - on various airlines - we've been moved to other seats; twice we were split up. Go figure.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Posted by
2447 posts

I'm not a fan of BA, but they have a non-stop flight to London from my hometown which is just too convenient to avoid.

We flew in BA's business class this past October and I didn't want to pay their fees (well over $100 each) to pick our seats in advance. I checked in online at the exact moment our flight was available for check in. There were no seats to choose from, so we were stuck with what looked the worst seats in business on both legs - but we were together, and they were actually fine.

Since it's only $50+, I would go ahead and pay.

Posted by
745 posts

I will (gladly) pay to sit in the exit row or bulkhead seats. At 6'6", twelve hours is a long time to be pinned in a pretzel position.

Posted by
526 posts

Jane, we always pay for our seats. I do not want the dreaded middle seat, and if I can score bulk head seats, even better. I would rather have two aisle seats, if it avoided a middle seat. This is a personal decision, one you will need to weigh the pros and cons. But, for me, I will go ahead and select seats. Plus, Wayno now have silver status, so our seating assignments are FREE at the time of booking! I went ahead and booked premium seating, business class just too dear. Also, I found AA flights booked with BA much cheaper. Where on where are those 2 for 1 deals?

Posted by
2930 posts

I fly BA 95% of the time to Europe. Until last year, I never pre-ordered my seat. So, I'm talking since 1999...can't recall before that. My husband and I were always placed next to each other automatically or my friend was as well. Initially, they did like to put me in a middle seat, (for some reason the male preference won out--what a surprise--)which I would rearrange at check in. We chose aisle seats next to each other when we check in. I've never had an issue with them. There were always available seats to which to move. After a while, being a member of their flight club, they would follow our preferences. When traveling solo, I now do pick my seat to assure I'm in front of the cabin and can escape while everyone is struggling with their carryon luggage, nonetheless at check in I've noticed plenty of seats behind me in which I could have sat or to which I could have moved at check in.

I do not bother pre-ordering seats on my interEuropean short flights with them. So far, never a middle seat. Just letting you know my experience so you can decide.

Posted by
2931 posts

I did not read all the responses here but my experience with BA is that if you do not pay the fee, you are quite likely to not be seated together. Up until August 2017, I flew BA business class to Europe several times. I paid the seating fee but for the last two flights I decided to not pay it and take my chances because I figured they would not break up a couple or a family -- wrong, both times. Both times, we were just about as far from each other as we could be. One person on the upper deck and one on the lower and when we traveled as a family of four they assigned all four of us, including our then 11-year old son separate seats that were several rows apart with one of us on the upper level. The latter was on a return trip to SFO from Paris so I was quite worried about the 11-year old sitting with strangers for 9 hours. We were all together on the short hop to London and the gate agent at CDG could not do anything about the long-haul seating. However, at Heathrow, a customer service representative was able to put my son in the seat next my husband. I sat next to a stranger about 8 rows away from them and my then 19-year old daughter was quite happy to sit on the upper deck away from us. So basically, my view is pay the fee if sitting together is important. And, by the way the seat selection fee is why I flew Air France to Paris in July 2017 and United in May 2017.

Posted by
3493 posts

Since you have the level of status which allows you to pick seat 7 days in advance, you will probably get there long before the majority of the other passengers get there and be able to pick decent seats. I can't guarantee that of course, it just depends on how lucky you feel. I would go ahead and pay the fee if it was me traveling.

Posted by
5159 posts

Debra, we kept waiting for the usual business class sale; either we missed it or they didn't have it this year. So we booked premium economy. We just can't justify paying double for business class. And you're right about AA flights cheaper through BA. We priced our itinerary both ways, and it was cheaper with British Air.

Several people have mentioned more room with bulkhead seats. The only time we chose bulkhead we didn't have a place to put our personal items. The flight was full, and the overhead bins were packed by the time we boarded.

I did check the seating map this morning, and there are 20 seats available, most of them in the center section. I'm thinking we may choose two aisle seats across from each other. Although that means I can't use DH's shoulder as my pillow...

Posted by
285 posts

I agree with those registering distain at having to pay to select your seat, but it seems that it has become the norm. I also agree that children should be seated with their parents. But I do not feel that if I have payed the fee and chosen my seat that I should be EXPECTED to give that seat up to accommodate someone that does not want to incur the added expense. They have made a conscious decision to not select their seats. If you want to select your seat, play by the rules and do not inconvenience someone else.

Posted by
2931 posts

I think the post above misunderstands what happens when you do not pay the seat selection fee and there is a problem with the seat assignment. BA does not ask passengers who paid the fee to move for passengers who have not paid the fee. Instead, they juggle the people who have not paid. I think most people who paid the fee, that is in some cases overUS$100 per person, would not react well to being asked to move. In my case, on my last BA flight, I did not pay my fee and I took my chances but what I did not expect was that they would separate a minor child from both parents when all tickets were bought together at the same time. I thought the child would be with one adult and the other two in the party of four might be anywhere. The BA agent at Heathrow admitted that they had made an error in putting a minor 8 rows away from either parent and fixed that error but they did not try to nor did I ask that they try to put us all together.

Posted by
714 posts

I prefer to pay the extra and get the seat I want, especially as I am somewhat claustrophobic and prefer a bulkhead aisle seat, if I can get it. In many years of transatlantic flights, usually Air Canada, but also Air Transat and BA, I have always paid the fee, just consider it part of the cost of traveling.

Posted by
3356 posts

But I do not feel that if I have payed the fee and chosen my seat that
I should be EXPECTED to give that seat up to accommodate someone that
does not want to incur the added expense. They have made a conscious
decision to not select their seats. If you want to select your seat,
play by the rules and do not inconvenience someone else.

I agree completely. Is being forced to give up your seat especially after you paid extra to select it becoming more and more prevalent? That's just wrong. It's especially wrong if there are children involved on many levels both for the children themselves and those who find themselves seated next to unhappy children missing their parents.

Posted by
415 posts

Way before I had kids I use to travel a lot for business. I was always the first to offer my seat so that a parent and child could sit together. Even if it meant giving up my favorite window seat for a middle seat. Seating parents separately away from their kids to me is just lunacy. On public transportation I give up my seat to elderly folks, disabled, pregnant women, women carrying babies and toddlers. You would think that's an absolute no brainer, but it isn't. And I have noticed a lot of times people give up their seats to my kids. But if any of the above get on the train/bus/subway then my kids give their seats to them.

The airlines think it's okay to seat an 11 year old away his or her parent. Just last year a 16 year old had to sit separately from her mom. The man sitting next to her kept watching hard core porn on his phone. He positioned the phone so that the girl could see but would turn the phone facedown every time the flight attendant walked by. The flight attendant finally caught him in the act after the girl texted her mom and the mom alerted the flight attendant. The girl of course was really really upset.

I don't care if a parent doesn't cough up the money so that they can sit with their kid. They shouldn't have too. But if I can help out I will.

Posted by
13026 posts

If I'm not flying to Frankfurt but to London from SFO, then I always fly BA...very convenient. When I book this BA flight on-line, I don't pick my seat in advance. Paying to do that is what I won't do. Not worth it pay the extra $50 to select my seat. BA can pick my seat at check-in.

Posted by
725 posts

We always pay to select our seats but not because they are regular economy seats. We opt for the "extra comfort" seats. Dh is tall and always prefer an aisle seat and I tend to get "restless legs" on long flights. It is worth paying for the extra legroom for both of us. It's really all about how important it is to be in seats you would choose on your own. Sometimes dh and I will share stories, earbuds, video, etc.....and I would be sad if I were not sitting by him on such a long flight.

Posted by
5159 posts

I've been checking about once a week, and last week suddenly about half the available Premium Economy seats were taken! So we broke down and paid for two seats together.

I'm still kicking myself for missing the BA business class sale. Although I don't know if it was enough of a sale for us to indulge. Debra from Celina TX posted that the sale had dropped the discounts from what they had been. That was the first I had seen about it. I tried logging in again through the AARP site to see if there were still seats available, but couldn't get through.

Premium economy is fine; at least we have some leg room.

Posted by
489 posts

After the last 4 years of multiple international flights on many airlines ( an in off times) I have witness hardly any flights with vacant seats, unless you count the very back of the plane middle center section.
If it causes you worry, then pay for the seat selection (which you have) we've always chosen seats ahead of time.
This year we are splurging due to getting Business class sale... I can't wait to "lounge"... or really get some sleep heading over..... But I must say I am not a fan of BA due to having to fly into Heathrow.
Flights to Amsterdam in Spring are very popular.
We are trying out Iberia Air this spring.

Posted by
5615 posts

Good article on the topic. Looks like 15% of BA's customers who reject seat selection fees end up separated. The average is 18%, according to a recent survey of European carriers. The UK's Civil Aviation Authority is investigating, among other things, whether some airlines deliberately split up groups of travelers who opt not to pay for seat selection.

Posted by
526 posts

Jane, you did not miss a sale, whew. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a sale for quite some time. There was some kind of promotion in October, which I missed. I try to keep a daily check on TPG site, but somehow, I missed the deal. Concerning my recent post, it was about the AARP discount and how it has been extended and decreased. At least, BA is still giving an AARP discount, which I will be use when we repeat our next adventure VI.

I know you are getting excited for your upcoming trip. I hope you and Stan enjoy your second serving of 21 days.

Posted by
5159 posts

Debra, thanks for the comments. I too had been keeping an eye out for the sale, and held off buying our tickets as long as I could. When the price of our planned flight started climbing, I caved.

But I didn't see a way to use the AARP discount. Frankly, I had forgotten that that was a regular thing. We did get a bit of a discount from accumulated points, though.

You and Wayne will love VI. I think it's my new favorite tour. Maybe.

Posted by
2916 posts

What I'd be tempted to do is go to the airline website every day or two and go through the seat-selection process part of the way, just to see what premium-coach seats are available. As long as things aren't filling up, I'd be OK waiting.

That's basically what I've been doing for my Lufthansa flight in April, although more like once a week. In the end, I'll probably pay the $35 each for seats across the Atlantic, but not for the European leg. For a 1+ hour flight I really don't care where I sit.

Posted by
1101 posts

I am not flying BA. But, I recently bought Economy Plus seats on Delta JFK to Milan and FCO to JFK in September/October because there was only ONE non middle seat left. I did not pay extra for seat assignment. The price was starting to climb as well. Maybe due to the seat class filling up.

Posted by
5159 posts

Robert, that 's what I did. When a bunch of seats suddenly became unavailable, I reserved ours.

I also don't pay for seat choice on short flights. If there's no charge, we choose to sit together.

Posted by
3709 posts

A note that American on the same nonstop DFW LHR would not change for seat selection so hopefully you factored that into ticket selection.

Also too bad you are not near a Delta hub since AMS nonstops with free seat selection are their specialty.

Posted by
5159 posts

Tom, we got free seats one way, on American, but had to pay for the other direction on BA. I think we still came out ahead, or at least even, because the ticket price was a bit cheaper on BA.

Posted by
122 posts

Hi all,

I was left scratching my head after seeing all these posts and now I'm getting a little worried.

At the end of January, we booked our tix on BA for our upcoming trip to Scotland in May. We are flying Philly to Heathrow, Heathrow to Edinburgh, and the reverse on the way back. We are in World Traveler Plus going over, but coach on the way back. Immediately after paying for the tix, we were given the choice to choose our seats, for all four legs. No extra cost.

Apparently, this isn't common? Could it be because my husband has bronze status from going over several times a year for work? We took computer screen shots of all of our seat choices, and I thought that was the end of it. I don't want to find out later on that those weren't really valid and we end up getting stuck in more undesirable seats for our flights. Anyone have any advice or have the same thing happen to them?

Posted by
1353 posts

joncatmantim1 - just go to the BA website - and "manage my booking". you can see which seats you have assigned. You can even click on "change seats" to see the layout. If you want to keep same seats, hit the back button. I've done this numerous times to ensure the plane type hasn't changed and I still have my assigned seats. My guess would be you were allowed to select seats free of charge due to your husband's status.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks, Jill! I wasn't going to start checking my booking for at least another couple weeks, but just did and all is still the same. Whew! I just got worried about our GOOD luck of selecting seats so early. Go figure!

And now, after hearing of other stories of people losing selected seats because of a change of planes (777 to 747, etc), I plan on checking more frequently..