British Airways will introduce no-frills fares on long-haul flights
The reinvention of British Airways continues with the carrier planning to launch no-frills “basic economy” fares on its long-haul flights.
The cheaper tickets, which do not include checked luggage or seat selection, are already available on its short-haul services, but the move will see BA go head-to-head with the likes of low-cost trailblazer Norwegian on key routes to North America.
“In April 2018, we will be introducing a new long-haul basic economy fare on selected transatlantic routes,” said BA in a statement. “The new fare will give customers a lower price point and more choice.”
While checked luggage and seat selection will cost extra, as it does with low-cost airlines like Norwegian and Iceland-based WOW air, passengers will still get a free meal – something neither Norwegian or WOW offers.
The rub, of course, will be whether BA can match them on price.
Full details of fares, as well as the routes on which they will be available, will be announced in the coming weeks, but, if the carrier’s short-haul services are a reliable guide, fliers can expect to save between 10 and 20 per cent by opting for “basic”.
That means the cost of a return flight from London to New York, flying from May 4-8 and currently available for £468/€524, could fall to between £375/€420 and £420/€470.
By comparison, travellers can fly return from London to New York over the same dates for as little as £265/€297 with Norwegian.
Last year, Aer Lingus also announced new, unbundled transatlantic fares that saw its lead-in prices to North America drop to €169 each-way .
The new 'Saver Fares' start at €169 each-way, and include one piece of 10kg cabin baggage, in-flight entertainment and on-board meals.
Guests can then choose to add on 23kg checked baggage (from €37 to €50), seat selection (from €20), blankets (€5) and headphones (€3).
Similarly, BA’s new fare will include a few more frills than the likes of WOW and Norwegian - including free onboard meals and drinks.
It's not the first change BA has made to compete with low-cost rivals. Last year, it announced the end of free snacks on short-haul flights.
However, it looks unlikely to cut the cost of reaching many of the US destinations to which Norwegian flies – namely Boston, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, LA, New York, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle.
The British flag carrier also serves several US cities that Norwegian doesn’t, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington DC, as well Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Should it choose to offer basic economy on these routes, it could become the cheapest option for Britons.
“There’s no doubt that these new fares will look cheaper and help BA pitch itself directly against new competitors such as Norwegian,” said Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s Consumer Editor.
“But on long haul routes, where passengers are much more likely to want to bring hold luggage and select seats, it seems likely they will make little difference to the vast majority of economy class travellers.
"The fares may seem cheaper, but in practice nothing much has changed.”