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British Airways Boarding Groups & Process — Everything You Need To Know

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Jeff Brownson

Jeff Brownson

Former Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 40U.S. States Visited:

Jeff got into the points and miles game in 2010 and since then has visited over 35 countries, flying mostly in first and business class. He’s a contributor to Traveling Dad and has spoken at the Chica...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury


Countries Visited: 41U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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With primary operations based at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, British Airways has a massive presence in both the trans-Atlantic and European airline markets.

In addition, it flies long-haul flights from these London hubs to multiple cities in pretty much every region of the world.

Even if you don’t live in England, chances are you’ll find yourself on a British Airways flight at some point. BA often has plenty of award availability if you are trying to get to Europe with miles, and it is an excellent choice for hopping around to other countries once there.

If you fly with British Airways, it makes sense for you to learn a bit about how it boards its planes. It’s always nice to know how the process works ahead of time instead of trying to figure things out once you get to the boarding gate!

To make things easier on you when it comes time for your next British Airways flight, let’s go through all of the details of how its boarding process works. That way, you can be sure you are ready to go.

British Airways Boarding Groups

British Airways does things a little differently than most airlines when it comes to boarding.

Yes, it has pre-boarding for certain passengers, and then it uses 9 numbered boarding groups. That may sound somewhat familiar.

What it does differently is change which passengers are eligible to board with each of the numbered groups, depending on whether you’re boarding a short-haul or a long-haul flight.

British Airways doesn’t have a first class or premium economy cabins on its shorter flights. As a result, those passenger categories are not in the short-haul boarding groups.

Since business class passengers are the top-tier passengers on the short-hauls, it moves them up to Group 1 for boarding those flights.

Other than that, the 2 boarding procedures are pretty much the same no matter where you are flying.

You may notice that with both types of flights, economy class passengers do not board until the last 2 groups.

Since this is by far the largest section of the plane, you should expect long lines when it comes time to board groups after Group 4.

BA Short-haul Flights

Image Credit: British Airways


Priority Group 1

Priority Group 2

  • Executive Club Silver members
  • Oneworld Sapphire members

Priority Group 3

  • Executive Club Bronze members
  • Oneworld Ruby members

Groups 4 Through 9

  • Economy (Euro Traveller) passengers

BA Long-haul Flights

Long-haul business class boards in Group 2. Image Credit: British Airways


  • Families with infants under 2 or young children in strollers
  • Customers requiring disability or mobility assistance

Priority Group 1

  • First class passengers
  • Executive Club Gold members
  • Oneworld Emerald members

Priority Group 2

  • Business (Club World) class passengers
  • Executive Club Silver members
  • Oneworld Sapphire members

Priority Group 3

  • Premium economy (World Traveller Plus) passengers
  • Executive Club Bronze members
  • Oneworld Ruby members

Groups 4 Through 9

  • Economy (World Traveller) class passengers

Boarding Notes

Make sure you are ready to walk down the jetway to your next British Airways flight. Image Credit: Daniel Ross

Passengers traveling together on British Airways may be assigned to different boarding groups, but they have the option of seeing the gate agent to board together.

British Airways does not explicitly say in its official procedures which group you will end up boarding with, so it’s likely up to the discretion of the gate agents.

Families traveling with young children are asked to get to the gate 50 minutes before the flight so that British Airways has plenty of time to board them and stow any strollers or car seats in the cargo hold.

Passengers with disabilities or those who need extra assistance with boarding are asked to contact British Airways at least 48 hours before their flight so that the proper preparations can be made.

Hand Baggage Only Fares

Hand Baggage Only fares on British Airways are most often the least expensive option and, as such, have fewer benefits for passengers.

Although you do not get a checked bag with these fares, you can still bring a full-size carry-on and a personal item on board with you.

If you want to select your own seat location with these fares, you will have to pay an additional fee. Otherwise, British Airways will assign a seat to you before your flight.

Families traveling on Hand Baggage Only fares will be assigned seats together if possible, though they may be in different rows or across aisles. Children under 12 will be seated with a parent.

Hot Tip: Read our article on British Airways’ baggage fees for more information and how to actually cover those expenses!

British Airways initially launched Hand Baggage Only fares on just its short-haul flights. Since that went well, it has now started selling the fares on its long-haul flights as well.

Since these 2 boarding procedures mirror each other in most aspects, we can expect that those lower Hand Baggage Only fares will be in the last boarding group on the long-hauls just like they are with the short-haul flights.

This may be a problem on long-haul flights because passengers who purchase these fares are traveling without a checked bag and will likely need to place a larger carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

As the last passengers to board, there may be limited overhead bin space left, and some Hand Baggage Only passengers might have to gate-check their bags.

Interestingly, along with saving a few dollars (or pounds), checking a bag was probably one of the things these specific passengers were trying to avoid.

How To Build Up Your British Airways Avios Balance

The British Airways Executive Club program uses Avios as its mileage currency. Although this is the same currency used by both Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar Airways, the British Airways Executive Club is a separate loyalty program from the other 3 airlines.

It has its own award charts and its own ways of earning lots and lots of Avios.

One of the easier ways to earn a massive number of Avios very quickly is by taking advantage of Chase’s co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card. This card often has a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Avios, although the minimum spend required to get the full bonus can be pretty high.

If you haven’t earned enough Avios with your credit card, you can also transfer all 4 of the main flexible bank points to your Executive Club Account.

British Airways is an American Express transfer partner, Capital One transfer partner, Chase transfer partner, and Citi transfer partner, and all transfer quite quickly. There are often even transfer bonuses as high as 30% or 40% that you can take advantage of with one or more of these programs (make this process easy with our transfer partner calculator!).

When planning to use Avios, it’s essential to know that you will often find high fuel surcharges if you book flights on British Airways metal.

This is especially true on long-haul flights that depart out of London — and the charges get even higher for travel in premium cabins.

If you want to avoid these surcharges, some great ways to use your Avios are shorter flights on British Airways and partner airlines worldwide.

Hot Tip: Since it is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, British Airways Avios can be used to fly on many different carriers. One of the best uses of Avios for U.S.-based customers is booking short-haul American Airlines flights. Many flights that American wants 12,500 miles to book will only cost you 7,500 Avios if you book them through British Airways.

Final Thoughts

Even though the fuel surcharges for some routes can border on ridiculous when booking British Airways flights with miles, plenty of other flights can be an excellent deal.

Whether booking with Avios, with your American Airlines miles, or buying a cash ticket to Europe — you are bound to find yourself at a British Airways boarding gate at some point as you travel the world.

We hope we have helped clear up the British Airways boarding procedures with what we have presented above.

Remember that boarding can be a little different depending on the length of your flight. Just pay attention to your assigned group, and you should be ready to board without worry.

Get on board, get comfortable, and let British Airways whisk you away to the next destination on your list. Maybe you’ll even find a member of the Upgraded Points team hanging around the gate next time you’re in London!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many boarding groups are there on British Airways?

British Airways uses 9 numbered groups for its boarding process. Prior to these groups, families with infants under 2 or with young children in strollers and customers requiring disability or mobility assistance are allowed to pre-board.

Are British Airways flights assigned seating?

Yes, British Airways uses assigned seating for all of its flights. In most cases, passengers can select their seats ahead of time. If premium seats are selected, payment may be required.

Who has pre-boarding on British Airways?

Families with infants under 2 or with young children in strollers and customers requiring disability or mobility assistance are allowed to pre-board on British Airways flights.

When can families board on British Airways?

Families with infants under 2 or with young children in strollers are allowed to pre-board on British Airways flights. Families are asked to be at the gate 50 minutes prior to the flight so that there is plenty of time to stow any strollers or car seats in the cargo hold.

Who is in Group 1 on British Airways?

For short-haul flights, Priority Group 1 on British Airways includes business class (Club Europe) passengers, Executive Club Gold members, and Oneworld Emerald members. For long-haul flights, Priority Group 1 includes first class passengers, Executive Club Gold members, and Oneworld Emerald members.

Who is in Group 2 on British Airways?

For short-haul flights, Priority Group 2 on British Airways includes Executive Club Silver members and Oneworld Sapphire members. For long-haul flights, Priority Group 2 includes business class (Club World) passengers, Executive Club Silver members, and Oneworld Sapphire members.

Who is in Group 3 on British Airways?

For short-haul flights, Priority Group 3 on British Airways includes Executive Club Bronze members and Oneworld Ruby members. For long-haul flights, Priority Group 3 includes premium economy (World Traveller Plus), Executive Club Bronze members, and Oneworld Ruby members.

Who is in Groups 4-9 on British Airways?

For short-haul flights, Groups 4 through 9 on British Airways includes economy (Euro Traveller) passengers. For long-haul flights, Groups 4 through 9 include economy (World Traveller) class passengers.

About Jeff Brownson

Since discovering miles and points in 2010, Jeff has traveled to over 35 countries, flying in first class, business class, and sometimes even in coach. Whether he’s staying in a hostel dorm, or in a luxury suite at a 5 star hotel, Jeff is constantly looking for the best deal to make travel as close to free as possible.


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