The airline will start boarding passengers based on how much they paid for a seat.
boarding at airport
Credit: Getty Images/Robert Hoetink

British Airways is being criticized for a new policy that has fliers who pay the least for their tickets boarding last – no matter where they sit on the plane.

The new boarding system for all European flights puts fliers into five groups. Regular economy travelers and those with hand luggage-only tickets are the last to board the plane.

The policy is common among many U.S. carriers, but it's yet to become the norm across European airlines, leaving some travelers concerned over what the change will mean for Britain's flagship carrier.

Some fliers say it will exacerbate the class system on planes.

Some on social media also expressed concern that boarding based on fare class, as opposed to seat locations, wouldn't actually simplify the boarding process.

British Airways has pointed out that its competitors in the U.S. and elsewhere already have similar policies. It's also not a major shift from the airline's current boarding process, which also provides priority boarding for premium customers or those who have Executive Club cards.

“This method is an evolution of our long-established boarding process and has been used by airlines around the world for a number of years, including by our partners American Airlines, Iberia, and Qatar," British Airways officials said in a statement to Travel + Leisure.

Under the new boarding system, which beings Dec. 12, fliers will board in groups one to five:

  • Group one: First class, business class, Executive Club Gold, oneworld Emerald
  • Group two: Silver and Club World members, oneworld Sapphire
  • Group three: Bronze Executive Club members, oneworld Ruby, premium economy
  • Group four: Economy
  • Group five: Hand baggage-only fares

Those flying with young children or with mobility issues will still be able to board first.

Others welcome the change pointing to the fact that several other airlines use the same boarding procedures.

The move comes after airline representatives recently announced a multi-billion investment that will include revamping 128 existing planes, adding 72 new aircraft and upgrading amenities that include in-flight Wi-Fi, dining options and connectivity onboard.