I was recently downgraded on British Airways from business to economy+.

I could not checkin online and was told to checkin at the airport where I was told of the downgrade.

I assume not being allowed to checkin online increased my risk of being downgraded, but my question is if I had a reserved seat would that have more likely prevented me from being downgraded? Or make no difference?

Edit: the reason given for the downgrade was overbooking.

  • 6
    All depends on the reason for the downgrade - oversold, broken seat in an otherwise full cabin, cancelled other flight etc. Main thing is to make sure you claim your EU261 downgrade compensation
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 19:33
  • This would really stink if it was on a long haul flight. If this ever happened to me I would be supremely upset. I really hope you got a lot of groveling and compensation from the airline. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 4:30

2 Answers 2


Flights are routinely overbooked, but more commonly in coach than business (or first). When airlines find that more confirmed and ticketed passengers have shown up than they have seats for, they will try to "roll the cabins" to make seats available (move people from business to first to free seats in business, move people from premium economy to business to free seats in premium economy, etc.) As a last resort, they will downgrade people or "bump" them (deny boarding). In general, but especially for major airlines such as BA, they have a defined order in which to downgrade or bump passengers (just as they have a defined order for upgrading people to free a seat in a lower cabin). They will generally start with those who are not members or have no status in their frequent-flyer program (Executive Club) or those of partners (OneWorld), and among them, start with those who checked in last.

In your case, I suspect that the reason you couldn't check in online is because your cabin was oversold and they couldn't assign you a seat (rather than the other way around, as you suggest in your question).

Did BA compensate you for being downgraded? They should have offered to fly you on an alternative flight in business or first, or on an alternate carrier. In addition, they should have offered you a refund for the fare difference between the classes (in either cash or points, whichever was used to pay for your ticket) and thrown in a bunch of points for the inconvenience.


In this specific case, BA does not care about seat assignments when editing the flight for upgrades or downgrades. There is a computer system that goes through and selects passengers for downgrades or upgrades. If you had a seat, you would simply have lost it. Whether you are checked in is important, the earlier you are checked in, the more likely you will be either to get an upgrade or to avoid a downgrade.

You are entitled to EC 261/2004 compensation, which is something like 75% of the ticket price depending on the details.

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