British Airways Guide

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After its founding in 1974 and operating for 13 years as a state company, British Airways (BA) was privatised in February 1987. Today it is the largest UK carrier in terms of fleet size, which currently numbers 293. It is based in Waterside near the airline’s main hub in London Heathrow Airport.

BA flies to 188 destinations with its subsidiaries and codeshares.

What are the British Airways check-in options?

Mobile boarding passes & priority boarding
British Airways flying with children
Unaccompanied children
Flying while pregnant
British Airways Senior Fares
Group Bookings
British Airways Disabled Access
Medical Equipment

Mobile boarding passes & priority boarding

You can download and store your mobile boarding pass onto your mobile phone, and this mobile boarding pass can be used just like a paper boarding pass.

  • You can also check in using your mobile via the BA app that you can download here.
  • If you would like to check in online, you can do so over this web page.

Your boarding gate number will be published an hour before departure and you’ll find this on your mobile through the app, boarding pass or on the airport screens. BA advises you leave allow enough time to complete the necessary security checks at the airport so that you can comfortably arrive at your gate on time. If you have additional needs or cannot use one of the above methods of check in, there are always check in desks available at the airport.

Note that Bronze, Silver and Gold members of BA’s Executive Club also receive priority boarding on the applicable BA flights.

British Airways flying with children

BA has specially designed carry-cots on board, but you will need reserve your seat at a carrycot position for the cabin crew to be able to provide you with one. Note that the carrycots are only suitable for babies that weigh less than 12.5kg. For older children, BA can also provide a child seat that attaches to the carry-cot position. The carry-cots are available on all long-haul flights (except in the First Class cabin, and on the London City to JFK service).

Unaccompanied children

BA offers the Skyflyer Solo service for flying unaccompanied children between the ages of 5 and 18.

  • Children between 5 and 6 years – The service is only available for non-stop direct flights.
  • Children between 6 and 12 years – Any BA flight under the Skyflyer Solo service.
  • Children between 12 and 18 years – Can either be booked on the Skyflyer Solo service or fly alone.

Flying while pregnant

BA has a policy specifying the latest stage that pregnant woman can take flights:

  • No later than the end of the 36th week if pregnant with one baby;  OR
  • No later than the end of the 32nd week if pregnant with more than one child

Note that after 28 weeks, expectant mothers must carry confirmation from their doctor or midwife, such as a letter or certificate, in addition to any pregnancy records confirming the approximate due date.

British Airways Senior Fares

BA partners with the AARP, and offers up to £260 off certain flights for AARP members through to Oct. 31, 2015.

Group Bookings

If you are planning to fly with a group and wish to be seated together, you can arranged this as part of a BA group booking. The following group sizes can be booked together with a small deposit (20% from UK) per passenger:

  • 10 or more people travelling in Economy Class
  • 7 in Business Class
  • 4 in First Class

You can also pay your balance up to:

  • 8 weeks for UK passengers OR
  • 30 days before travel for US customers

Until this point you can inform the airline of those confirmed to fly as part of your group. You can still change the names of those travelling after this time, but this will incur a £30 fee per passenger, although this amount is also country dependent. To get a quote for a group booking, or for local branch contact details, click here. Once you have received the quote, you will need to contact BA to confirm the booking, and they will secure your flights for two weeks, free of charge.

British Airways Disabled Access

At most airports, you’ll be able to remain in your own wheelchair until you reach the departure gate. When space is available, BA can store one collapsible manual wheelchair in the cabin, but you will need to let the airline know at least 48 hours before your flight departs if you plan to do this.

  • Maximum chair size: (140cm x 85cm x 152 height)

Note that airline staff will also need to know the following:

  • Wheelchair/mobility aid type
  • Number of batteries installed
  • Type of battery
  • Tare (unladen) weight
  • Dimensions (i.e. length x width x height)
  • Instructions for preventing inadvertent operation

Note that the maximum wheelchair height allowed on UK and Europe flights is 106cm.

Medical Equipment

You can use a battery-operated nebuliser on board except during taxi, take-off, descent and landing. It is not possible to supply mains power, however. BA recommends using a dry cell battery to operate the machine. A medical clearance to travel is not needed for for those using CPAP machines.


If you’re travelling with a registered assistance dog, it can travel with you in the cabin. All other pets travel in the hold as cargo. This service is handled by IAG Cargo, and you can find more info here.

Note that although BA allows dogs and cats that weigh less than 6kg to travel with their owners in economy and premium economy, other partnering airlines have their own policies regarding travelling with pets.

What are the British Airways baggage allowance limits and fees?

British Airways hand luggage size
British Airways checked luggage size
Baggage charges
Musical and sport equipment

British Airways hand luggage size

BA permits 2 pieces of hand luggage, 1 x cabin bag and 1 x personal bag.

Maximum dimensions:

  • Cabin Bag: 56cm x 45cm x 25cm
  • Personal Bag: 45cm x 36cm x 20cm
  • Maximum weight: 23 kg per bag

You can have up to 10 checked bags per person, with fees starting at £17 for the first extra bag increasing to £50 for additional bags. Be aware however that prices do vary from airport to airport. For a full overview, click here.

British Airways checked luggage size

  • Maximum size: 90cm x 75cm x 43cm

The amount of items and their respective weight allowance differs slightly depending on your route. Usually the max weight is 23 kg but goes up to 32 kg for business class passengers.

You can check your allowances in the Manage My Booking page online once you have book your ticket.

Baggage charges

For extra bags above your inclusive checked baggage allowance, expect to pay a fee.

  • £100 online
  • £105 at check-in

Note that the rate you pay is based on when your ticket is issued (normally when you make your booking). Where a travel agent or tour operator organises your bookings, your prices may not be available in the Manage My Booking page. In this case, contact your agent or tour company.

Musical and sport equipment

Many types of sports and music equipment can be carried as part of (but not in addition to) your free checked baggage allowance. In some cases where the type of equipment is over the standard checked baggage size, an additional purchased allowance will be required. However, BA will accept special luggage and equipment if you ring to notify the airline 24 hours before your flight.

  • Max weight and dimension: 45kg (190cm x 75cm x 65cm)

Note that a double bass cannot be accommodated in the cabin but can be accepted as checked baggage, so excess baggage charges may apply if it is over the permitted weight.

What additional fees does British Airways charge?

Booking fees
Flight change fees
Flight cancellation policy
Travel insurance

Booking fees

Payment by credit card (or debit card for UK only) is required to make a reservation. Payment will be listed as British Airways on your credit / debit card statement. For UK residents only choosing to pay by credit card, a surcharge is applied. This is currently £5.

Whether you are charged a fee to changed the name on your ticket depends on the ticket class. To determine the fee, use this online tool.

Flight change fees

If BA needs to make a flight change, it promises to inform the person who made the booking as soon as the change is required. BA also offers a full refund in the event that the airline cancels your booking.

Flight cancellation policy

BA becomes liable for cancellations when significant changes (those that affect an essential term of your contract) are required by the airline.

Examples of this include:

  • An alteration to your destination area
  • And alteration to booked accommodation to that of an alternative property of a lower rating
  • Departure times or accommodation occupancy periods by more than 12 hours
  • An increase in the package price by more than five per cent.

Travel insurance

Preferential Direct are the providers of travel insurance for British Airways. They offer a range of travel insurance products, including cover for single trips and annual multi trip policies. Find more information here.

Which routes does British Airways fly?

Most popular routes:

Flights from London to Johannesburg
Flights from London to Las Vegas
Flights from London to Los Angeles
Flights from London to Nice
Flights from London to San Francisco

What amenities does British Airways offer?

In-flight entertainment
Frequent Flyers

In-flight entertainment

As would be expected from a premium carrier, free in-flight entertainment for adults comes in the form of High Life Entertainment, which provides on-demand access to:

  • The latest movies
  • TV shows
  • Songs and albums

Kids can check out the Skyflyers Kids’ zone, which has films, kids’ programming and basic games. BA also offers passengers a free wash-bag with:

  • Hand and nail cream
  • Lip balm
  • An eye mask
  • Socks
  • A pen
  • Earplugs
  • A toothbrush
  • Toothpaste


In-flight meals are free, and on certain flights from London Heathrow you can pay for a wider choice of meals from the online menu between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight.

Those with allergies can bring their own food on board but need to follow the local security and immigration rules regarding the transport of food. Note also that although in-flight meals don’t contain peanuts or peanut products, they may be produced at a facility that handles peanuts, and as such, the airline doesn’t offer a peanut-free special meal. Low gluten meals are also offered.


On hand-baggage-only fares, choosing your seat is always extra. For all other flights, choosing your seat may be free but it depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of ticket you purchase
  • Your class of travel
  • Your personal circumstances

Once you have a booking, you can check if it’s free or extra in the Manage My Booking section and follow the instructions. You can choose your seat when you check in 24 hours before departure (if you haven’t already done so in advance). This is free except on hand baggage-only fares, although your choice may be limited and a fee may still apply to exit row seats on long-haul flights.

If you are travelling on a hand-baggage-only fare, BA will allocate you a seat at check-in and you can choose an alternative seat for a fee. Note that bulkhead seats are usually reserved for people with infants, since this is where the bassinet table is positioned. Also note that you will have to meet certain safety requirements and be an able-bodied adult to sit in an exit row seat.

Seat reservation fees (starting prices)

  • UK Domestic and European (standard): £7/€8/$11
  • European short-haul: £20/€24/$30
  • International: £55/€66/$83
  • World Traveller Plus (standard): £18/€22/$27
  • Twin seats (selected international flights only): £30/€36/$45

Frequent flyers

As a member of Oneworld Alliance, BA can offer frequent flyers added benefits such as transfers between partner airlines and access to airport lounges. You earn credits towards your tier status every time you travel on any eligible Oneworld flight, and can redeem your frequent flyer points across the Oneworld Alliance.


If your Oneworld frequent flyer tier status is Emerald or Sapphire, or you are travelling in a First or Business Class cabin on any Oneworld member airline, you can access 600+ airport lounges throughout the world. To be eligible, you must be departing on a flight that is both marketed and operated by a Oneworld Alliance member airline.

Note that arrivals lounges are excluded, as are spa and pre-flight dining facilities in Concorde lounges.

How do I contact British Airways customer service?

Delayed, missing or damaged luggage
Compensation for baggage
Compensation for flights


For all booking queries, your nearest branch contact number can be found here. For UK customers, the reservations and general enquiries number is: 0844 493 0787 (6am-8pm daily).

Delayed, missing or damaged luggage

If your luggage is delayed, missing or damaged, you will need to:

  • Get a baggage file reference number at the airport

This is a series of five letters and five numbers such as JFKBA12345 and is different to the baggage receipt you receive when checking in your bags. If you leave the airport without getting the file reference number, you can still report it online by entering your booking reference number and last name here.

Once you have the reference number:

Remember to include your baggage file reference number on the form as well.

Compensation for baggage

If your baggage is delayed for an extended period of time and you need to purchase essential items, BA offers a claims process and asks that you keep all your receipts and attach them to their claim form, which you will need to complete to be reimbursed for your purchases. BA points out that a personal travel insurance policy will likely provide better cover than they can offer and recommend you contact your insurer before making a claim directly with BA. In support of your claim, they can provide you with a written report to send to your insurer as proof of loss, damage or delay to your baggage.

Compensation for flights

You can claim for compensation if you are delayed at your final destination by more than three hours, and that delay arises from causes within the carrier’s control. You are also entitled to compensation if you are informed of a cancellation less than fourteen days before the planned departure date unless you are offered a re-route which allows departure and arrival at your final destination. Full details here

This airline guide was updated on Nov 24th, 2015. We strive to give you the most up-to-date information possible, but in case we missed something, please let us know in the comments below.

British Airways Guide was last modified: November 24th, 2015 by Oonagh Shiel
Author: Oonagh Shiel (3411 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!