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British Airways responds to my question on 2-4-1 downgrade compensation

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I ran another article last week about BA’s treatment of downgraded passengers who are travelling on an American Express 2-4-1 voucher and claim compensation under EU261.

When downgraded whilst travelling on an Avios ticket, under EU261 BA is obliged to refund you 75% of the Avios used for that leg of your flight.  This is not in dispute and British Airways has always been happy to pay this.

What is currently in dispute is what happens when someone travelling on a 2-4-1 companion voucher is downgraded.  In the original case we discussed, a reader was offered zero compensation because he was told his companion ticket had zero value.  His partner, the BA Amex cardholder, received the full compensation due.  When he launched a case for compensation, BA settled based on the cash cost of buying 75% of the Avios value of the ticket.

British Airways BA A380 flying

Over the next couple of weeks we will get a real-time example of how this works because my contributor will be filing a claim after being downgraded.  His wife, who was the 2-4-1 cardholder and so would qualify for compensation, was not downgraded.

British Airways has now issued a statement to me explaining how they believe EU261 should be applied to 2-4-1 tickets:

To quote “the value of the purchase [is] split across the two tickets”.  This is, of course, the same as saying that the companion ticket has zero value.

If one person is downgraded – irrespective of whether that person is the original ticket holder or the companion – “the person on the voucher would be entitled to 75% of the value of the ticket – which would be calculated on 50 per cent of the amount of Avios paid for the pair“.

I very much doubt whether this would stand up in arbitration:

BA uses the word “value” rather than the “cost” of the purchase.  I doubt it means this, because the value could be either monetary or expressed in Avios.  It is difficult to see how it could argue the value of the companion seat is nil.  The voucher actually has a value of 100,000 Avios – or whatever the relevant value for the ticket it was used for – and if the voucher is not returned for reuse then the holder should be compensated for its loss.

You can argue that BA has accepted the voucher as ‘consideration’ in contractual terms for the second seat.  This means that it has value.

It is clear from the T&C’s that the Amex 2-4-1 voucher does NOT get you two tickets at half price. You get one ticket at full Avios and the other ticket at zero Avios.  There is an argument to say the voucher effectively entitles you to two half-price seats rather than one free seat, but a parallel argument that the voucher has a value of the seat it entitles you to.

What BA states above is not what they offered in the case of the HFP reader who was downgraded and filed a compensation claim.  He was offered nothing until he filed his case, based on the grounds that the companion ticket cost zero Avios.

Anyway ….. we now know where BA stands on the matter.  I very much doubt that my contributor will accept an offer based on the guidelines above, and if it goes to arbitration then we will all be in a ringside seat to see how it pans out.  This should then be the end of the matter as the result will be in the public domain.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

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In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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American Express Business Gold

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (239)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • uk1 says:

    >>…I mean, if you bought a raffle ticket for £1 and won a Ferrari – that winning ticket has the value of a Ferrari. The Ferrari is not suddenly worth £1.<<

    Nigel, I loved your post. 🙂

  • HayMow says:

    O/T.. any views on Gatwick North lounges please (esp. re decent food offering & space)? I have the choice of Aspire, No.1 & My Lounge and will be there c.4-6pm on a Friday. TIA

    • Peter K says:

      There are reviews of lots of the lounges on HfP. Use the search bar on the right 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Links to the reviews on the Favourites page.

      • HayMow says:

        Thx Rob – the No.1 & My Lounge ones were helpful but couldn’t see an Aspire LGWN one. As the articles were 1/1.5-2.5 years old I figured that the situation on crowding, likelihood to get in etc might well have changed somewhat in the last month or so since BA moving out of North, since main users would probably now be Easyjet flyers (like myself). Anyway, No.1 pretty quiet 4-6pm yesterday eve, though getting busier towards the end.

        • HayMow says:

          forgot to add: Tried to use your link for Avios on No.1 but didn’t realise couldn’t prebook within 5 hours so had to go with a Dragonpass voucher instead and take a chance.

    • Brighton Belle says:

      I use LGW NORTH a lot. No1 is easily the best. You shouldn’t have too much trouble getting in after 12.00

      • HayMow says:

        Thanks Brighton Belle – went for No.1 and it was indeed very civilised 4-6pm yesterday 🙂

    • Lady London says:

      @HayMow I’m in there a lot including that time of the week right now. I think No. 1 the best overall quality and really nice staff. No. 1 also has a ‘Library’ quiet area. Loos nice. From current menu i recommend the caesar salad or lamb. None of them will be pleasant if rammed. IMO any of them better than main terminal especially if the airport is heaving.

      Beware its quite a step from lounges to some of the gates.

      • HayMow says:

        Thanks @Lady London – yes, after reading these comments and some reviews I went for No.1 yesterday and was *very* happy – for £18 with my Dragonpass and 2 hours passed with a G&T, the very acceptable lamb hotpot (which came immediately), glass of wine, coffee & cake away from the hubbub, I thought I got great value and was pleased I didn’t need to buy food on the EZY flight since I was going to be too late to eat at destination. Like you also said good staff; one member of staff in particular excellent: tables cleared, guests constantly asked if they wanted refills or extras: I was (kindly) pressed several times to order more food & drink (at no cost) and eventually gave in to the suggestion of adding a cheese plate and glass of prosecco 😀 (now complimentary vs. Anika’s 9/16 LGWS No.1 review) . The ‘Library’ and ‘Study'(?) seemed empty 4-6pm (wonder if one of these used to be the Cinema in Rob’s 2014 review). Started to get busier c.5.30pm but still nowhere near capacity. Could become my regular add-on when flying Easyjet!

  • Peter K says:

    It’s funny how a brand can keep people going to something that is poor value for money. The industry I work in has a major market leader, by far the biggest with a huge marketing budget. I have worked for them and all the (major) competition over my career and the service provided by the biggest company is poor/very poor and the product well below the average. Because of the image they have produced however they are the “go to” company for many, despite a bad reputation among those in the industry.

    I feel BA will continue to be the considered good for many people in the same way. People perceive them as better and unless problems affect them personally they will continue to view them that way.

    • Fenny says:

      I sent an email query to (the one that isn’t a piece of half eaten fruit) the other day asking a specific question about the technical specs of one of their new model phones. I got a reply back today (3 days, despite their website saying they reply within 1 working day) to say that I should ask a sales rep in a shop that sells their products.

      I’m about to email back and tell them what a useless waste of my time the entire enquiry was and I shall now be looking at other manufacturer’s phone. Also, that I will be telling all my friends not to bother buying their stuff, as the company don’t know the first thing about them.

      I already own several of their products, but won’t be buying replacements from them in the future.

  • Ryan Taylor says:

    Last week BA downgraded my partner and I from First Class to Club World without informing us. We were also travelling in a 2-4-1 AE ticket with free Companion Voucher. As I was new to first class I was unaware until I boarded.
    I have raised a formal complaint with BA on the basis that my partner and I have been discriminated against due to the fact that we are flying on Avios points.
    However, we have both paid over £1000 in charges and taxes.
    At the Airport, I asked about upgrading I. The return leg and the lady on theCheck-in desk was extremely rude to us and basically embarrassed us in front of a number of people and BA Staff. On the plane, BA suggested that we had booked ‘Low Calorie’ meals and we had to eat them. Whilst others on Club were selecting from the Menu of choice. I am currently awaiting a formal response from BA. I am also considering writing to AE to ask for their opinion, as the entire experience spoiled the first part of our holiday.

    • Rob says:

      Hi Ryan

      Sorry to hear that. You should claim EU261 downgrade compensation immediately using the BA.com online form.

      If they suggest, as per the article, that your partner gets nothing due to the 241, I strongly recommend filing a Small Claims Court case. Ask for 1.6p (the price BA charges for Avios) x 75% of the Avios for a one-way.

      BA will hopefully settle and we then have the test case we need.

      Rob

    • Cate says:

      ‘On the plane, BA suggested that we had booked ‘Low Calorie’ meals and we had to eat them’

      That’s interesting. Cheaper set menu for avios customer’s??

      Good luck with getting this sorted.

      • nick says:

        To be honest that just sounds like basic incompetence rather than anything targeted.

        Shambles of a story though.

      • Leo says:

        I don’t understand this bit – surely pre-booked meals would have been in First Class – so how can staff insist that passengers now seated in J class have to eat food from a different cabin? Bonkers.

    • Anon says:

      Ryan – Rob and the rest of us here at HFP are “with you”, stand your ground, you and the rest of us deserve better.

  • Matthew says:

    An off topic question related to Amex 241voucher:
    I recently earned my 241 voucher after booking a flexible BA fare in the recent sale. Since then my dates of travel have become more certain and it’s now considerably cheaper (and leaves much more of my travel budget available) for me to cancel, receive a full refund and book a non-flexible fare.
    Question is – if I receive a full refund to my amex will my already-issued voucher be rescinded?
    Thanks.

    • Yuff says:

      No, but you will need to spend the 10k to make sure you don’t have a negative avios balance prior to your card anniversary or cancelling the card.

      • Matthew says:

        Right, that would be a fair few points I’d struggle to re-accumulate in the next month or so. Thanks for the reply.

  • Wyle E Coyote says:

    I would drop my loyalty to BA and my BA Amex and switch to a competitor if this happens to us. I don’t think I’ve seen such a unintelligent move by a service company for quite some time as this one. And I don’t make either of the above statements lightly.

  • Scallder says:

    Just putting this out there to Anon (or Ryan perhaps following the above) – if once the dust has settled and BA come back with an offer that you’d be happy to accept but it includes a gag order, I’d be perfectly happy to chip in to some sort of crowdfunding campaign to help you out if you were happy to take it to court to sort out a test case and ensure that you’d be no worse off from the position of the offer come the end of it. Am sure others on here would happily do the same and the process could allow us to get some insight into the workings of FLY etc.

    Glad to hear the hotel is all working out well though!

  • Tommy says:

    OT- but does anyone have an airportr referral code they can share?

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