When trying to change seats on a transatlantic BA flight it stated this cost $39/seat. On our short inter-European flight it said that I can reserve seats for $15/seat. On my return transatlantic, again I can reserve for $39/seat. For all legs where seats are not yet assigned, it says I can book seats for free 24 hours before the plane leaves.

Is this normal? And what it looks like our seats got automatically assigned on the first leg, and now it is $39/seat to change - it is leaving a week from now. Will I be able to select our seats or not? How will in it work for our connecting flight? We are in the airport 24 hours before that flight leaves?

Some background:

I booked a flight on British Airways from Seattle to Heathrow and then from Heathrow to Marseille (and return).

I booked through Vayama.com and not through BA's website.

We are flying a family of 4, and I went to look at our seat assignments and pick them (since we are flying with a toddler and an baby I wanted to make sure we are seated together and not cause problems by asking to be reassigned seats in the airport).

It looks like the transatlantic flight does not sit 4 across in the middle (as I am used to), just 3, so we were seated 2x2 in the very back. This is OK, I guess, though being in the back sucks.

I am worried about our short and long flights both - I don't want to be in a situation where we are seated far from each other.

Bonus question. Is it normal for 777 to be 3+3+3 seats? I thought most transatlantic was 3+4+3? Have I just not flown 777 before?

  • thanks @pnuts. Useful site - it seems what I meant was 2+4+2 and that I have only been travelling on Airbuses recently. It also made me realize 2 of the assigned seats cannot recline :(. I wish the kids were old enough for us to stick them next to each other, but I'm guessing that will go badly.
    – Ida
    Jun 27, 2014 at 23:01
  • Several airlines now have 10 accross on a 777!
    – jetset
    Dec 3, 2015 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


Every airline handles advanced seat selection differently. Some allow you to pick any seat at any time (although that is becoming less and less common). Others will allow you to pick a "bad" seat for free (eg, at the back of the plane, or a middle seat) but pay to select a better seat. Some others again will charge for any seat selection, with the amount possibly varying based on how good the seat is (eg, exit rows may cost more).

In many cases, higher level members of the airlines frequent flyer program will be able to select seats for free (and/or select better seats) before anyone else.

On most airlines you will be able to change seats once the flight opens for check-in, and/or once you are at the airport - although you still may not be able to access all seats without paying (eg, exit rows or those nearer to the front of the plane), and of course by that time there's no guarantee that there will be any good seats still available to select.

So yes, what you've described is normal now days.

As you are flying with a baby (who I'm presuming you've purchased a seat for), then obviously the airline will be a little more flexible in terms of keeping you together. It sounds like you've got as good a solution as you're going to get on a plane with no sets of 4 seats, but if you think there's a better option I would suggest calling the airline to see if they can do anything - the baby/toddler angle will likely be enough for them to re-assign you to new seats for free if it makes sense.

As far as seat layout, most 777's in economy are either 2-5-2 or 3-3-3 (or occasionally even 2-4-3), however some airlines do have 3-4-3 layouts. Keep in mind that the plane width is fixed, so the only way to get the extra space is to use narrower (and thus more uncomfortable!) seats. 747-400's on the other hand do normally use a 3-4-3 layout, however they are slightly wider to allow for the extra seat.

  • thank you for the comprehensive answer. I was surprised since we travel to Europe once a year, but this is first time I have travelled BA since I was a teenager. I have not encountered these kind of policies where you pay for every seat before (just pay for 'preferred seats' like exit rows - where you are not allowed sit with kids anyway)
    – Ida
    Jun 30, 2014 at 16:42

Boeing 777 are nine across seating in economy, with most airlines now set up with a 3-3-3 configuration. When it first came out, the standard was 2-5-2, but that was not popular with travelers.


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