Airfare Deals British Airways British Airways Executive Club London London LHR Stockholm ARN Stockholm Sweden

British Airways hand baggage only fare trumps Oneworld Emerald elite benefits

British Airways had the best deal for flying London Heathrow LHR to Stockholm ARN for a positioning flight and our return home from Thanksgiving week in London. I organized our trip around flying on AAdvantage MileSAAver economy class one-way award tickets from Monterey MRY to Los Angeles to London LHR for 20,000 miles + $5.60 each. Our return flight to the USA departed from Stockholm on a $500 American Airlines round trip ticket flying all British Airways operated flights. The return flight will take us back to Stockholm in July 2016.

I needed to buy two one-way tickets from London to Stockholm to get home to San Francisco/Monterey.

Our one-way tickets London LHR-ARN Stockholm cost $116 USD each. I had never heard of British Airways hand baggage only fares before my ticket purchase in early November.

Hand baggage only

Hand baggage only is our best value for when you want to travel light and make a quick getaway from the airport. You get the same great British Airways service but without a checked baggage allowance or free seat selection. It’s available on all direct British Airways shorthaul flights.

If you’re travelling on a hand baggage only fare, your flight does not include a checked baggage allowance but if you are travelling with infants or children you may still check a fully collapsible pushchair (stroller) and a car seat.

If your plans change, you can buy a checked baggage allowance at any time before you fly (see how to add baggage to your flight for details).

British Airways Hand Baggage Only Fare

I assumed the rule for no checked baggage would not apply to me since I am an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite with Oneworld Alliance Emerald status. Emerald status comes with a lot of benefits on British Airways.

I was wrong.

One checked bag on a British Airways hand baggage only fare is not one of the benefits given to high elite frequent flyers.

British Airways hand baggage only fare

Fortunately, I figured out this rule during online check-in for the flight the night before and purchased one checked bag for 30 GBP.

British Airways hand baggage fare bag fees

The cost would have been 65 GBP per bag, if I had needed to pay at the airport. Kelley questioned why I only paid for one checked bag as we stood at the British Airways check-in counter of London Heathrow Terminal 5. No way were we paying $100 USD for another checked bag. Her bags were already packed with the allowable carry-on allowance. I was the oversized traveler needing one checked bag.

I thought I was clever with these $116 British Airways hand baggage only low fares. I assumed my frequent flyer Oneworld Emerald status would waive the checked bag restriction. Not even British Airways top elites get a waiver on the hand baggage only fares.

I could have purchased a regular economy ticket for $146 and been allowed two checked bags with my Oneworld Alliance Emerald status and purchased the hand-baggage only fare for Kelley.

Lesson learned. British Airways hand baggage only fares really means zero checked baggage allowance, even for top frequent flyer elites. Fortunately, my mistake was only a $15 USD penalty compared to buying the $30 USD higher fare I needed last month with checked bag allowance.

At least I knew my Oneworld Emerald Elite status granted us access to the British Airways Terminal Galleries First Class lounge. We cleared security and had an hour to eat breakfast and relax before our flight to Stockholm.


British Airways jet at London Heathrow Terminal 5 at dawn’s early light.

London for Thanksgiving

  1. Trip Report Monterey MRY–London LHR AAdvantage 20K economy award: Horizon Air segment MRY-LAX
  2. AA LAX Flagship Lounge Monterey MRY–London LHR trip report
  3. Remembering London
  4. IHG Rewards Club made Thanksgiving in London affordable
  5. Bed time at InterContinental London Park Lane
  6. Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park
  7. Holiday Inn Bloomsbury
  8. Holiday Inn London Heathrow T-5
  9. British Airways handbag only fares
  10. British Airways London Heathrow T-5 Galleries First Class Lounge


  • jt December 8, 2015

    Your first paragraph was rather poorly phrased… I’m still struggling to understand what your exact routing was and how they were bundled as purchases.

  • Nick December 8, 2015

    I think this is ludicrous, much of what we see happening with the Delta fares in the US. If they want to compete with low-cost carriers, then offer the fares. Don’t strip the customers who give you loyalty on EVERY fare they purchase of their benefits. The revenue difference is just embarrassing, because it says that they can’t realize their revenue on volume and loyalty, but rather they have to realize it on this individual fare.

  • Jimmy December 8, 2015

    This really is stupid.. AF has such fares as well from my understanding (mini fares) and by having Elite+ status you’re granted one free checked bag.

  • Joeheg December 8, 2015

    And I was thinking of complaining that they wanted 110 GBP each for us to pick our seats for an AA award ticket on BA. I guess I’ll wait until 24 hours to grab a seat assignment.

  • tim December 8, 2015

    … and surprise.. no seat selection available for this kind of fare, you ll be seated randomly during checkin

  • Ric Garrido December 9, 2015

    @jt – Wife and I traveled from California to London on AA awards. I purchased tickets through American Airlines to fly Stockholm-San Francisco-Stockholm on British Airways for $500 each. Our Stockholm-San Francisco flight got us home after Thanksgiving. We will fly back to Stockholm in July 2016 to finish that ticket.

    We needed tickets one way from London to Stockholm and I purchased two BA hand baggage only fares, assuming as a OneWorld Emerald elite, I would still get at least one free checked bag. I was wrong.

    @tim – Wife and I were given seats together for the flight to Stockholm.

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