British Airways is aiming to head off the challenge of its low-cost rivals by launching new basic fares on a series of longhaul routes, including to Singapore and Hong Kong.
The UK’s flag carrier recently unveiled the new fares, which allow passengers to book tickets without checked baggage or seat selection. Fares are expected to be up to £60 (US$86) less than the standard return fare, depending on the route.
The move marks BA’s latest attempt to compete with LCCs like Norwegian, which are increasingly encroaching on the airline’s territory. Norwegian launched direct flights from London Gatwick to Singapore in 2017, promising fares as low as £150. BA’s Basic Singapore fare will start from £230.
Passengers booking the basic fares will still receive a meal, hand baggage, blanket and headphones. The new fare option is available on routes between London Heathrow and Singapore, Hong Kong, Delhi and Dubai, plus a series of transatlantic destinations.
“Someone travelling for a short meeting or leisure break, who isn’t planning to check in a bag and is happy for us to allocate them a seat, will appreciate the option,” commented Adam Daniels, British Airways’ chief commercial officer.
In response to the move by British Airways, UK-based Flight Centre stated: “Flight Centre welcomes all innovations that improve customer experience, choice and value-for-money.
“Whilst we believe that the majority of travellers wouldn’t want to travel longhaul without hold baggage… there will be some people that are only looking for the most cost-effective fare.”
Jill Chamberlain, a UK-based Travel Counsellor who specialises in business travel, said she would “definitely” book unbundled fares, but likewise questioned whether they would be suitable for longhaul Asian routes.
“These fares are great for business travellers. I think clients like having the option to pay less,” she said. “(But) to be honest, I think it is unlikely travellers would go for hand luggage only on Far East routes. In my experience they usually stay longer than hand luggage would allow.”
Fellow Travel Counsellor and leisure travel specialist, Becky Stephenson, suggested the new fares might not be suitable for the leisure sector, especially in the higher end of the market. “I would consider them, but with them being Basic fares and needing luggage (add-ons)… I would probably look at the higher levels for my customers,” she told TTG Asia.
She added that the most important factors for booking Asian flights from the UK were “most convenient times, less changes (and) reputation of airline”.
Earlier this month, BA’s parent company IAG acquired a minority stake in Norwegian. IAG also confirmed that it is considering “the possibility of a full offer for Norwegian” in future.