British Airways has today, Tuesday 11 April 2018, started selling “basic economy” fares on selected long-haul routes on ba.com
These fares were first announced in March of this year. A basic economy fare does not entitle a passenger to a checked luggage allowance or free seat selection at check-in. However, these can be purchased at any time after booking for a fee. It is also possible to combine basic and standard fares in the same booking.
Once on board the aircraft, all economy passengers will be entitled to the same in-flight amenities and catering service.
BA’s IAG sibling Iberia and their transatlantic joint-venture partners, American Airlines and Finnair, have also introduced basic economy on selected routes.
At the outset, it’s important to note:
1. The implementation of basic economy currently varies by point of sale
For passengers travelling from the UK and the rest of the European Union, at launch basic economy is available on the following routes:
London Heathrow to Austin, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia
London Heathrow to Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Lagos, Singapore
London Gatwick to Oakland
London Gatwick to Punta Cana
Helsinki to New York
Madrid to Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth
All routes from France, Italy, The Netherlands and Malta to the United States & Canada
Update May 2018: Basic economy is now available for all flights from the UK to the United States and Canada.
For passengers travelling from the United States, basic economy is currently available on the following routes:
Boston, Dallas Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Pheonix to London Heathrow
Oakland to London Gatwick
New York to Helsinki
Boston, Chicago and Dallas Fort Worth to Madrid
Update May 2018: Basic economy is now available for all flights from the United States and Canada to London.
There are some surprising omissions, notably London to New York. Also, there are many other routes where BA competes directly against Norwegian and it has not yet launched basic economy fares. However, it is reasonable assumption that these fares will be available on many more routes in the coming months.
2. Basic economy is only available on selected dates
It took quite a few searches to find basic economy fares on ba.com. It wasn’t available on many routes at short notice. Here is a screen shot to illustrate how basic and standard economy fares are offered.
3. Frequent flyer benefits vary by airline
American Airlines, Finnair and Iberia allow Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald cardholders to check a bag for free when booking a basic economy fare. However, BA does not.
Seat selection entitlements are also different. American and BA allow Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald cardholders to select a seat for free. Finnair and Iberia allow only Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald cardholders to select a seat for free.
Whilst this move has long seemed inevitable, the inconsistencies between not just rival airlines, but those in the same corporate group and alliances, are not helpful to customers.
It is also has to be said there is a marked difference between the way BA and Virgin, which started operating its version of basic economy “Economy Light” this week, have sold this. Whilst Virgin was ultimately aligning itself with its own transatlantic joint-venture partner Delta you have to admire the way it has presented its new fares with confidence and flair. Arguably, BA should have at least developed a more compelling branding than “Economy Basic”.