Seat Assignment: To Pay or Not to Pay

Mar 12th, 2010, 09:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 139
Seat Assignment: To Pay or Not to Pay

My family and I are flying British Airways from Phoenix to London on April 2nd. We will be in World Traveler Plus. I can pay $38 per ticket to secure good seats now, or I can take a chance and wait until 24 hours out to select them for free. I have seen people talk about how full certain flights are here on this board. Is there a way I can determine how full our flight is? Or better yet, how many seats are still available for purchase in WT Plus? This information might entice me to stop being stingy. Our children are 4 ½ years old and 16 months old (we purchase a seat for her), so I know we should at least get seats in pairs. However I imagine four together might be a little less assured.

Part of me (the part that also wants to believe in Santa Claus) is always hoping for an upgrade, and I figure if I purchase my seat assignment I will be out of the running for any possibility of an upgrade. However, the fact that I have small children, that there are four of us travelling together and that I have minimal status in the Executive club probably all but put me out of the running anyways.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2010, 10:56 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,065
with two small children they would have to have 4 biz seats available to upgrade all four for free, which even of they had the seats seems unlikely...i f the flight is overbooked usually carriers go for singles and/or people w/ status in the program.

also depends on how much you care about all 4 sitting together. if you don't mind being split in 22 's it probably doesn't matter of you pay the $38 or not.
mztery is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Personally if I was flying with small children I would quit beliveing in Santa Clause and PAY! Are you going to be happy when they tell you "we don't have seats together" and you have to "beg" on the plane to get two and two???? You will EVENTUALLY get them (probably) but the stress factor isn't worth it IMHO and they might be very far apart! True, you could get on and discover "empty", but..... what if you don't?

As for an upgrade.... They are going to upgrade passengers with stutus, seat assignments make no difference. The fact that you have small kids pretty much means they probably won't pick you. Sorry !
CarolA is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 06:10 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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April 2 BA flight #288, PHX-LHR appears to be on a 747 with 3-4-3 seating.

That means that 2 x 2 seats for you could be anywhere, including in the middle of the 4 center seats (no aisle), or it could be you'd get aisle+window on one of the sides, with nobody in the middle seat. The ideal seating for me would be a) two side rows w/ open middle seat or b) 4 together in the middle section.

There are a couple of Fodorites who have access to seat capacity info & may be able to tell you how open seats there on the flight. Sometimes an airline agent will give you that info over the phone, sometimes not.

If I knew the flight was say only <80% full I'd chance it myself and save the $120.

If you really want the 4 middle seats together then I'd say your best bet is to pay the $120 now. There are only about 20 of those rows avail, and once one of the seats is gone that row of 4 is gone for you.
J62 is online now  
Mar 13th, 2010, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,540
When flying with small children, we always pay. It simply is not worth the stress. Plus, if others pay, they are not going to be willing to move so you can sit together. When we travel with our three boys (6,6,7), we always get seats together. Sometimes it is 3 and 2 but they are close by. It is simply easier to share toys, books, dvds, ds, etc. if we are together and not need to trek up and down the aisles. Also, if someone needs extra attention for whatever reason, it is extremely helpful to have the other parent nearby to help address the other two's concerns.

I wholeheartedly agree with the previous poster. Stop believing in Santa and pay. ESPECIALLY for a long haul flight.
taitai is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,056
World Traveller (2 Ls if British) Plus has 36 seats, arranged 2-4-2, with 2 additional rows of 2 seats on the starboard side. On BA 288 on April 2 (PHX-LHR) as of today, 5 of the 36 are shown as occupied, and 2 more shown as blocked (possibly for for bassinet use in one case, possibly blocked for BA elite pax or crew in the other.) Thus 29 seats are available for pre-selection.

On the sales side, BA is showing 9 seats available in the "T" fare bucket, the cheapest World Traveller Plus bracket. That means that AT LEAST 9 seats are still for sale at the cheapest price for that day (the airlines don't show a number greater than 9, even if there are actually 20 seats available at that price.)

On BA one can't go on seat maps showing which seats are taken or not, for precisely the reason you're writing - people are not excited about paying for a seat selection only to discover when they board that there was no need. Personally I think it's incredibly abusive and exploitative of BA to do this, and I'd bet its earned more in ill will than in revenue, but one doesn't know.

But translated in your case, the numbers suggest strongly that your cabin is wide open at the moment. April 2 isn't that far off, so unless there's a huge surge of passengers in the next couple of weeks I don't think you're in trouble. And frankly because of the pending BA cabin crew strikes (Mar. 20-22 and Mar. 27-30) I suspect very few Brits are going to snap up seats to PHX between now and then, since an April 2 return would mean outbound travel that could be disrupted.

One thing to do if you haven't already, is to make sure your party is all on one booking (i.e. one reservation locator) or if you're on multiple bookings, phone BA and tell them to link the PNRs (reservations) so you all check in simultaneously. BA ground and cabin staff are usually very considerate of families traveling together and don't want to split people up, so even if you wait until 24 hrs before flight for check-in, having all of you on one record locator or linked records will help facilitate staying together.
Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 13th, 2010, 08:28 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
Actually I think the pending strike means the OP should book seats.

1. The last "pending" date is just a few days prior to her flight meaning that there will probably still be "overflow" trying to get to thier destination from 3 days of limited flights. If the strike happens planes the few days after will be fully booked. And if the moved passengers had paid for seat assignments they will get them on thier new flights (see the BA strike thread where one man has already rebooked and gotten his "paid" seat reassigned) It's actually not uncommon for airlines to still be dealing with passengers that long after a "disruption" (weather, strike etc)

2. Cabin crews may be "considerate" Your fellow travelers... probably not, if they paid for a seat they may not be willing to move so the family can sit together.
CarolA is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 10:00 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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"And if the moved passengers had paid for seat assignments they will get them on their new flights"

Are you sure? If a flight is cancelled, its passengers are waitlisted for subsequent flights. They don't get to bump confirmed passengers on those flights.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 10:16 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
They don't get to bump confirmed passengers, but if they have 10 empty seats then they can take those seats... And if the 10 folks had "paid" for "aisle" seats originally then every effort will be made to give THEM the aisle seats meaning that by the time the 24 hour window opens it may be "two seats" in the middle on a couple of different rows is all that's left for the OP.

So if on 3/30 my flight is cancelled, I would ask for the next "guranteed" seat (I don't like hanging around standby hoping someone doesn't show) It could EASILY be 4/2 and they would take and unsold seat out of inventory give it to me and honor my seat request (Aisle) So then on 4/1 when OP checks in those seats are gone!

Generally you get told when you can have a guaranteed seat to your destination after a disruption. YOu can always try to get an earlier seat by waitlisting and hanging around.
CarolA is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 10:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 139
Thank you all for your advice!

CarolA, I am finding your advice useful on many threads, I bought a Garmin a few days ago based on your reply to someone’s post from 2008.

I am going to just pay for the seat assignments now. Even if we get on and find that it is basically empty it will save me three weeks of stress now. If we get on and it is full, having booked ahead of time will also save me 10 hours of stress while on the plane. I agree with you Gardyloo, it is sad that they charge for the privilege to choose a seat. I booked these tickets in October, and I think I should have been able to choose at that time (without paying an additional fee).

I know that the fantasy of being upgraded is just that, especially considering our circumstances. My wife and I were unexpectedly upgraded once and in some ways I think it was the worst thing that ever happened. I am a tall man, and now I know just how much more comfortable those business class seats are. This is why I pay to get into WT+ rather than flying economy (which had always been fine before).

The one piece of advice I will ignore is about Santa Claus. Having children has made me believe in him all over again.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 11:16 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
With the strike threat I would have paid for the seats and I travel alone. IF they do strike things are going to be crazy and overbooked. Having a seat assignment in those cases is just much easier. If they don't then you may have "wasted" the cash, but if it saves you 3 weeks of "worry" there's something to be said for "peace of mind"
CarolA is offline  
Mar 13th, 2010, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,937
I, too, just paid for my seats WT+ since I heard about the strike. Flying on March 25 so the plane may be very full! Return March 30...big, big problem but may select to stay a few more days if strike happens. If no strike, well, we have good seats.
Elainee is offline  

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