Reader Question: Changed Seat Assignment On BA Flight?


A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about seating assignment change on recent British Airways flight.

Reader Question Changed Seat Assignment On BA Flight

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Here’s the email:

I’m following your emails and as a frequent traveller, enjoys your tips and advices.

This is the first time I’m emailing you, unfortunately with a complaint on the way BA is treating me and my family.

Tonight we are flying from LHR5 to Tel Aviv on BA163.

Since I’m flying with my wife and 2 kids (3 years old and a 2.5 months old baby), I made the booking of this flight over the phone to make sure I’ll get the seats that provides access to cots.

The lady I made the booking confirmed that we reserved the seats in row 30 and I was very happy and paid for this booking. Yesterday, when I came to check in, I was assigned seats in another row, which would be very inconvenient for us.

I called BA and got an answer that this was done due to operational reasons of having someone with a greater need (probably on medical ground). The lady we spoke confirmed that the change was done on the 27th of November but had no answer why the company failed to notify us that they had moved us from the seats we reserved.

The representative refused to accept my call as a complaint and suggested that I will complain online (which I already did, although the website clearly state that complaints online are only for complaints on the website).

I see that as a breach of contract between me and the company and I’m afraid that it may have been a simple case of favoritism of a Gold member (I’m currently a silver member).

Obviously, I will complain today at the airport again, but I’m not expecting to get better clarifications from the company.

It is upsetting that after more than 12 years that I maintain my loyalty to BA and keep a status of Silver/Gold for all these years, I get this kind of slap in the face from the airline.

I hope this will make its way to your “Whine Wednesday” because I want to make people aware that BA treats its clients in this way, cheating us to believe that we have reserved seats, but leaving themselves the right to withdraw/change the reservation whenever they decide to do so.

I hope that the BA flight was uneventful and that the reader was able to switch to a better seating at the airport

The problem here is that, although seat assignment changes are not that common, they do happen from time to time. The airline may switch the equipment operating the flight where the originally assigned seating no longer exists or maps to different row (exit vs non-exit rows).

I don’t believe that there is an airline that truly guarantees that you will have the exact seat you may have reserved. I would send feedback to BA about this seating change unless airport was able to fix it. They may give few thousand Avios for the inconvenience.


It is very unfortunate if BA ended up moving the Silver member from their reserved coat seating to another part of the plane especially considering the flight time of this service (9PM departure & 3AM arrival).

It never hurts to bring up the issue at the airport and hope that the agents are able to resolve it amicably.

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  • David

    The colour of your card makes no difference. As a gold card holder, I am frequently moved for no apparent reason. If the seat has been reallocated, it will be a futile exercise complaining as you are unlikely to get it back. No seat is guaranteed irrespective of status, and no contract has been broken as this caveat is clearly stipulated in BA’s seat selection policy. Move on and choose another carrier next time if you feel that aggrieved.

  • No guaranteed seat allocation

    Yes, while I can understand the guy is miffed, seat allocations are entirely at the whim of the airline, and it is not that uncommon for changes in allocation to occur when operational control of seating switches to the airline’s airport staff (or earlier).

    There is no “guarantee” nor even obligation for an airline to do anything more than get you from point A to point B. And with BA, he can expect little by way of thumping his fists about it.

    Seat allocation can change even for the uber elites of airlines.

    I suspect he would have more luck using honey than vinegar in trying to get back to where they want.

  • Jason

    I am a very Frequent traveler and even in the prem classes your seats can be changed for no apparent reason. Most times at the airport when I complain they reshuffle again to help me. I can see why you would be annoyed traveling with young children. BA has often changed my seating between LHR-NCE this route seems to have wide variance.

  • J

    I’d be pissed if I paid for the seat assignments too but since the OP is a Silver member they probably didn’t have to pay for any advance seat assignment fees like non-status members would (or those flying on pricier fares).

  • Richy

    Serves you right for traveling BA!!!

  • Simon Bradley

    I have been a Gold card member of BA since 2006 – although I am letting it run out this year and will complete my move to Star Alliance Gold shortly due to the cost of BA against Lufthansa on my most usual routes. I can tell you that in BA they move non-status, Bronze, Silver and Gold alike – I have spoken to colleagues with different levels and there is no favouritism. What I would say about BA is that they are very good at re-allocating nearer the front of the plane where they can.

    This is in direct comparison to Lufthansa which I fly now twice a week and when they get a plane change (A319 or A320 to a A321 usually) which means more business class rows, they take a very pragmatic approach. If rows 6-12 become unavailable due to being now in Business, they take all the passengers from those rows and move them to the back where the new extra rows are, rather than trying to re-allocate economy people where there are extra seats based on status. This means having to try and change to see what seats are nearer the front on check-in as sometimes it can take a long time to disembark and lately they also have been arriving into Munich at the new Satellite gates, so overall this can add up to 30 minutes at the other end.

    I have now taken to chosing seats in economy that are from rows 14 onwards, just in case, but it is not the best way in my opinion – although I can see the appeak for the airline.

  • Mark Chataway

    It’s happened with me too and I have a Gold card (for Life, no less). I think it happens when Premier members demand an exit row seat (BA rarely even acknowledges having Premier members but these are usually senior executives at the most important customers). I complained once and got put in business class but, since it was a European flight, I still ended up with my knees under my chin (leg room is still 29″ in business since they re-fitted the European fleet)