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British Airways Executive Club announced on Flyertalk that it will now accept Avios as payment for seat selection fees. Within minutes, people figured out that BAEC members would receive a whopping 0.55p per Avios of value when doing so! (the InsideFlyer UK rule-of-thumb is a minimum of 1p per Avios)
Perhaps I should apologise for the un-journalistic sarcasm, but I really struggle when large companies so obviously take advantage of their customers. Charging for seat selection is already something that involves preying on travellers’ fears of being forced to sit apart from their family. Current seat selection pricing ranges from £7 for a short domestic flight to £85 for a long haul seat in Club World. That underplays the total cost, however, since most solo travellers are less concerned about their seat assignment. A family of four is looking at a much higher bill for that peace of mind – since all four seats would need to be paid for.
How Can I Avoid This?
1. First of all, children under 12 will ALWAYS be seated next to an adult on the same booking. Even though mix-ups do occur, the flight will not be allowed to depart unless passengers are moved around to accommodate this requirement.
2. Check-in online precisely 24 hours before departure. Unless you are travelling on a “Basic” fare within Europe, you will still be able to select your seat(s) for free on British Airways. A long-haul flight is unlikely to have most seats allocated (or sold) in advance. Leaving seat selection / check-in until you arrive to the airport is an entirely different matter!
3. Take advantage of the perks of elite status in Executive Club or another Oneworld alliance partner. Gold and Silver members can select their seat at the time of booking. Bronze members can select their seat 7 days prior to departure. The ability to select seats extends to any passengers travelling under the same booking as the passenger with elite status.
4. If you have mobility issues, request airport wheelchair assistance a few days before departure. Because of this, you are guaranteed a reasonable seat and you might even get a row to yourself. (a middle seat in the middle of the plane is counter-productive if flight attendants need to help you to the toilet mid-flight – same theory applies if the window seat passenger would have to ask you to stand to access the aisle) I have requested this service for my elderly in-laws on other airlines and they loved it, but obviously please don’t abuse the service if you are 30 years old and in perfect health.
5. Save your Avios in order to spend them on reward flights – something almost inevitably worth more than 0.55p per Avios – and pay for your seat selection if you truly must…
The contributors to InsideFlyer UK often decline to write about promotions that are clearly not in the best interests of readers – such as the 50% bonus Avios offers when buying Avios directly from BA or Iberia – even though it would still be “news”.
But this is one situation where the news is so egregious that I wanted to highlight ways to avoid paying seat selection fees altogether.
What do you think? Have you ever paid for advance seat selection?