British Airways to Offer Less Legroom Than Ryanair, Seriously Why Would You Ever Fly Them in Europe?

In November British Airways announced significant seat ‘densification’ — adding a bunch of seats into the current planes, which necessarily means less room for customers than there is today.

And their planes are already plenty dense. British Airways arguably has the worst lie flat business class seat in the industry at 8-abreast on their Boeing 777s.

Their intra-European business class has less legroom at 30 inches of pitch than the median domestic US airline coach seat. That’s because all seats have less space between them than US coach, and there’s no extra legroom in business.

A week and a half ago the CEO told customers to bugger off. I guess we now know what he meant. In order to add seats they’re going to reduce pitch to 29 inches. That’s less legroom than Ryanair or Allegiant.

BA is planning to reduce the gap between seats from 30 inches to 29 on some of its planes, less than Ryanair.

The move, which would make BA’s legroom the same as easyJet’s, will make space for an extra two rows of seats to carry 12 more fliers. Ryanair’s gap is 30 inches.

Here’s the new British Airways business plan:

In January I wrote The Dumb, Stupid, Dull-Witted Way British Airways Has Moved to Buy on Board Food and Drink and concluded,

Charging for water — and especially charging premium passengers connecting domestically for water — seems like a mistake.

And reducing product differentiation between BA and its lower cost competitors seems like a mistake.

Given their higher cost structure, they need to earn a revenue premium. Competing at the low cost game with airlines whose costs are lower seems like a game they’re destined to lose.

And it means that they offer lower service levels than competing European legacy airlines on non-stop routes between London and the rest of Europe.

All These People Will Be Expected to Share One Seat on Their Upcoming Flight to Milan

Offering less legroom than Ryanair might be something they can get away with selling tickets to Heathrow-based travelers, although it makes KLM the preferred carrier London Heathrow – Amsterdam, Lufthansa the preferred carrier London Heathrow – Frankfurt, etc.

Heathrow is already a miserable place to connect for intra-European travel in no small measure because the UK isn’t a Schengen country. They won’t win much connecting traffic this way.

And while they can reduce costs, remember the CEO of British Airways used to run low cost carrier Vueling, they won’t get their costs down to the levels of Ryanair and easyJet. They need to earn more revenue than those airlines do and offering less legroom than the cheapest discounters won’t get them there.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. True, there is NO reason to fly BA within Europe. Then again, there’s no reason to fly Ryanair (or easyJet) either. From the States, it’s just as easy — if not easier! — to fly a StarAlliance partner to (e.g.) Frankfurt, or a SkyTeam partner to Paris or Amsterdam, and continue on from there. This is true even if the UK is your final destination: you can easily avoid BA metal if you want to.

    What I have NEVER understood — and I’ve unfortunately paid for and flown it it! — is what passes for “Business Class” on BA (and Iberia and pretty much every other European-based carrier). Blocking the middle seat is not the same as having a Business Class seat . . . The ONLY advantage I’ve found for flying Business within continental Europe is the extra baggage allowance, and quite honestly that’s not enough — it’s [almost] always cheaper to pay for the extra bag!

  2. whew I’m glad I’ve never signed onto this.

    Between :
    1. T1-T3-T5 transfer chaos at LHR
    2. BA YQ that’s more than a Saudi King’s ransom
    3. WORSE legroom than Ryanair

    There’s nearly zero reason to bother with BA unless your actual destination is London itself.

  3. Living 15 minutes from Heathrow kinda ties me into there. Plus, BA EC is still the best way to collect miles if you don’t do much travel. Things like this are definitely pushing me to consider others though. Might start racking up some Virgin miles after I secure my next companion voucher.

  4. In regards to the US advaisory column

    @Gary Leff (overweight fatso, airline cholesterol eating puke)

    “…that happened outside security.”

    Ah no, a terrorist got past the first line of security and was taken down inside a safe area, but managed to blow himself up. Airport was fully shutdown and you would have heard the multiple blasts if you were there.

    @Mser and @Bill

    Your two foolish statements equate to the Tohoku Earthquake on March 11 occurred outside Narita and Sendai airport security too. But to counter, the Fukushima radiation still made it to Narita, the tsunami still flooded Sendai. Wake up, the 2 of you.

  5. In the immortal words of Miss Emily Latella, “Yes, well, that’s different then.”
    Tangental deviation: MY problem — living here in the States — is that Virgin Atlantic miles have become far less attractive now that I cannot use them with Virgin America miles (i.e.: in the past, one could use VS miles on VX and vice versa; no longer so). Since VS only flies to the UK from the States (nonstop, I mean; one can always continue on to, say, Johannesburg), VS has become less useful for me. In all probability, I’ll attempt to boost my miles (I have a VS credit card) until I have enough miles for a domestic redemption on DL, and then cancel the card and drop VS entirely . . .

  6. To be fair to Ryanair, before you think they are going soft, they would do this too but CAA rules require an extra cabin crew member at that level of passengers. Ryanair doesn’t think the sums add up.

  7. BA:
    – has a horrible hard product
    – has a horrible soft product
    – has horrible customer service
    – has a track record of racism
    – tells customers to bugger off
    – charges as much as (or more than) other airlines that offer better products

    Seriously, why would you ever fly BA?

  8. I have been a loyal BA passenger for years – BAEC silver and gold in differing years but I think this will be my last year of silver. I don’t really need the extra baggage allowance intra-Europe and hardly do long haul any more.

    I am moving to Malta from the UK next month so will start to burn miles so I can haul my goods and chattels over there, and sign up for PP so at least I get lounge access wherever I fly.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb and dumber. The idiots truly have taken over the asylum at BA. I tolerated the Recaro seats in Club Europe but even on a 3 hour flight they are uncomfortable, not with this change though. Hello EZY and FR (LH though has just appalling catering in J and not much better seats they won’t be any better).

  9. I’d still fly their Club Europe product. Getting a demi of champagne and a reasonably good meal on a 45-minute flight is such a welcome change from what happens aboard short flights on US carriers.

    But given a choice between BA economy and my other options, I think I’d rather take a train.

  10. Get my first taste of BA this weekend and next week. Can’t wait for the T3-T5 transfer. At least I got an exit row without paying for it.

  11. Guys, guys… You forget this is what the customer wanted as they clearly weren’t happy with 30 inches, now they want 29 inches. Just like BoB! Carlsberg don’t do BS stories but BA do! BA is a failing product now, it’s just a case of when the people will start abandoning it. Alex Cruz is a right knob for ruining the airline.

  12. BA’s business class has to be the worst product out there. After two LHR/JFK R/T UNCOMFORTABLE SILLY SEATS, FOOD WAS A JOKE AS WAS THE SERVICE. Never again BA, you ain’t that special.

  13. Another reason not to fly BA is their spiteful policy towards latecomers and short-connectors at T5 – if you pass security less than 35 minutes ahead, you’re thrown off the flight. No exceptions, even if you can see the gate and the plane isn’t there yet.

  14. This post is spot-on, but in some ways understates the problems with BA. Yes, it’s long-range business class hard product is lousy…but, in addition, if you’re not an elite you have to pay for business class seat assignments…and the site is pretty buggy and use-unfriendly…and the service is nothing special.

  15. Though BA’s J seat may be disappointing, UA’s 8-across dorm-style seating is clearly worse. At least BA gives some middle seats direct aisle access and every seat has more privacy.

  16. (Wife and) I used AA miles to redeem tickets & flew from Dulles to Heathrow last October on a British Airways 747 in Economy. BA offered advance seat assignments for a fee, which I passed up (turned out okay, as we were still able to sit together). As we were boarding and making our way to the back of the plane, I saw shocked by how tight/cramped business class seats were. Except for the hard shells surrounding each seat, I’d say BA Business Class seats don’t look any better than a nice Premium Economy seat (on those airlines that offer it).

    It’s tragic to see how far Britain’s flagship carrier has sunk.

  17. I just took a flight to Rome on BA from SFO through LHR. The international flight was fine, but I sure was pissed when I remembered that not even water was free on the flight from London to Italy (which isn’t all that short, about 2.5 hours). The fact that BA is basically the only easy way for me to get to Europe with OneWorld is the real problem, I should really send my complaints to AA.

  18. …and these are exactly the reasons why I book on VX (Virgin Atlantic) over BA for flights to the UK. Just booked another round of flights for the office on VX. Is Virgin equivalent to Ethiad/Qatar/Emirates/Cathay? Absolutely not. BUT at least I’m not flying on BA.

    You also forgot to mention the cutting of meals and consistently filthy aircraft.

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