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VERY interesting – lastminute.com lets you refund non-refundable flights

The price gap between refundable and non-refundable flights is normally huge, as we all know.  The risks of buying a non-refundable flight can be offset by travel insurance, but that doesn’t cover every possible reason for cancelling.

Sometimes you don’t need to travel anymore for reasons which insurance doesn’t cover.  Broken up with your partner?  Lost your job?  Got a new job?  Found a better flight deal on another website?  Simply changed your mind about going?  Your travel insurance isn’t paying out.

lastminute.com offers a ‘no excuses needed’ insurance policy called Full Flex for non-refundable flights.  I’m sure you can see how this could be useful.

Whilst I hadn’t seen Full Flex discussed anywhere before, it does seem to have been offered by various websites including lastminute’s sister company Bravofly for some time.

Take a look at the screenshot below (click to enlarge).  I have priced up an Upper Class Virgin Atlantic ticket to New York for late March.  The cost is £1,843.

For an extra £154.50 I can turn my ticket into a ‘virtual’ refundable one.

As the lastminute.com site says:

  • Can’t travel anymore? Instant payout in case you can’t. You can cancel any time for any reason. No questions asked.
  • Hassle free: Just give us a call and we’ll send you a voucher worth 90% of the original ticket price
  • No Handling fees & priority assistance: we will not charge handling fees to cancel or modify your booking.
  • You’ll receive a voucher with a value of 90% of the ticket price to use within 12 months for your next reservation. Any cancellation request applies to the whole booking and not individual sections or legs booked

You won’t get your refund in cash.  It will come – within 48 hours of requesting cancellation – in the form of a lastminute.com gift voucher, valid for 12 months.  That is hardly a massive restriction in my view, given what you are being offered.

In my example, the extra cost was 8.4% of the ticket price.  It seems to move around a little but is usually between 8-9% of the flight cost.

I strongly recommend you read the small print of the Full Flex scheme before booking.  You can download the terms and conditions here as a PDF.

The option comes up during the payment process, once you have entered your name and address and after the page encouraging you to add car hire.  Note that the maximum claim is €5,000.  As this is an insurance policy you are allowed to change your mind within 14 days and get your premium back.

The rules appear straightforward and, if you want to lock in a good deal but are not 100% certain of making the dates, this could be a real option.

For absolute clarity – because I see online that some people have got confused about this product – Full Flex does NOT turn your ticket into a flexible one.  You cannot change the date or routing for free as you could with a ‘real’ fully flexible ticket.  Neither does it give you the additional airline miles or tier points that a ‘real’ fully flexible ticket offers.  The ONLY benefit you get (but it is a very good benefit) is the ability to cancel your flight without question at any point for a 90% refund.

The only snag I can see with Full Flex is that war, natural disaster and the like are not covered – you cannot cancel if a problem breaks out at your destination. This could be a risk as the insurer would not pay even if the event was not your reason for cancelling.

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Comments

  1. I used this a year ago for a flight to Toronto, I think. Worked fine, although getting hold of customer services took a bit of hassle.

  2. “we will not charge handling fees to cancel or modify your booking”

    That’s an interesting interpretation of the 10% they’re keeping.

    • Absolutely! You pay about 9%, lose 10%…..how much is a more flexible ticket???

      • To be fair, full-flex tickets are generally at least 2-3 times the price of a non-flex, so the maths could make sense in some situations. Don’t think I’ll be buying though…

      • Probably 4x.

      • You make it sound as though the 9% and 10% stack and both are costs. You only lose the 10% (this just happens to cover some of the same ground as the premium you had paid).

        • If you don’t cancel, you are worse off than if you did not buy this addon by 9%.
          If you do cancel, you are worse off than if you booked a real Refundable ticket by 19% of the LM ticket price, which is quite a lot.

        • Correct. But if you spend £5k on a refundable ticket AND FLY IT then you’ve wasted money compared to paying £1.8k for a non-refundable ticket with £150 of insurance.

          There is no way – at all – that I would ever buy a standard non-refundable ticket. One of key benefits for me of miles is the flexibility given that I juggle the health of 2 young kids and my wife’s unpredictably City job every time we book a trip. I can see the merit in paying this.

          Let’s say Qatar has an £800 ticket to Tokyo available for November travel. It’s an amazing deal but you hadn’t been planning to visit Tokyo and you’ve no idea what your work schedule will be like in November. Is it worth paying £70 under this scheme to give you flexibility to cancel? Yes, I think so – because it allows you to jump on a deal you otherwise wouldn’t. We all have experiences of having held off booking something only to end up paying considerably more at a later date when plans were firm.

        • “If you do cancel, you are worse off than if you booked a real Refundable ticket by 19% of the LM ticket price”

          No, you aren’t.
          Obviously.

        • If you booked a £5k refundable ticket and cancelled your net loss is £0. If you book a £1k non-flexible ticket with £70 of insurance (assume you treat this as part of the ticket price) then your net loss is going to be £100.

          However if you DO travel then you are £4k worse off!

  3. AriseSirGenghis says:

    OT: I upgraded 2 months ago from PRG to the Platinum Card using the upgrade link (for the 20,000 MR bonus offer) and I still have not been charged the £450 fee. I have two questions:

    1) How likely is it that I won’t get charged the £450 until my anniversary year of the PRG (therefore December 2018)?

    2) If I do get charged the £450 fee soon, if I then cancel the Platinum Card, will the pro-rata refund apply from the month that fee was charged, or the month that I upgraded?

    Would be great to hear from anyone who has been through this process. Thanks in advance!

    • 1. Likely, I saw the SPG charge after like 1-2 months
      2. Assume from the date you transferred over, if your just doing it to churn points might as well do it faster, also use the tip HFP admin gave which is take a free amex CC so you dont lose your MR points

    • Genghis says:

      1) Likely
      2) From month upgraded

    • Did you receive your 20000MR for upgrade , it looks like a hit or miss ?? Mine didn’t arrive and I have been chasing CC for 2 months now.

    • rams1981 says:

      I think is an interesting general question – what should we be doing with Amex cards regarding churns given potential cut backs? I’ve in last few months taken out spg for me and wife, cancelled both after getting bonuses. Taken out ba cards and still spending towards vouchers so will keep. Taken out gold for both, got bonuses and upgraded both to platinum and got bonuses. Not charged fees yet so still open. Should I be cancelling one or both of the platinum cards?

      Thoughts and strategies of everyone else?

      • If you are in a position to reapply now for a card (ie the 6 months is over) then I would reapply sooner rather than later.

        If you are cancelling a card you like for no other reason than to start the 6 month clock then you should realise that you may be wasting your time because by the time the 6 months is up the rule is likely to be somewhere between 2 years and ‘never’.

      • I think it’s pointless holding on to both plat cards. Once you have one you can at least get the higher referral bonus when it comes to referring OH to gold again.

    • Am I still able to do this?
      I would like to upgrade to the platinum but don’t fancy having to wait 6 months…

  4. Thanks to Will/Rob for this, it is worthwhile keeping in mind. However, the cost of the insurance plus 10% will likely exceed the cost of more flexible booking classes so it is always worth comparing. I have found that when calling airlines directly I can sonetines get fares for just tens of pounds more than nonrefundable fares that allow changes or cancellation for quite modest fees of £100-300. My best result was Sri Lanka who offered me a fully flexible refundable fare for just £54 more than the published fare with restrictions.

    Interesting to note you mentioned Bravofly. I have frequently saw them advertise very competitive fares but was wary of them as I had not heard of them and suspected they were a backstreet TA. Now I know better, I will look more carefully next time. So, thanks for that too.

    • You’re right – more and more lower cost tickets can be changed these days for a fee – but not cancelled and that’s the benefit covered here.

      • Bonglim says:

        The benefit is a little more than that. You could cancel your flights then spend the money on a hotel for example? Or a different flight?

        I am not sure it is appropriate for every booking, but there have been one or two instances when I might have opted for this insurance.

      • They can be cancelled for a fee too. My partners last AF flight was around £1480 non refundable nonchangeable but around £1650 to change for £125 plus fare difference or cancel for £150. That might even have been €, I cannot recall for sure.

  5. Not really a 90% refund, more like 83% once factoring in the additional cost of insurance?

    • …and its a voucher to use them again, not hard cash in your account!

    • Sorry, how did you get 83%? I can’t see that at all.

      • The flight plus insurance in Rob’s example is just under £2000. The 10% penalty is approx £200. That isn’t 17% of the original £1843, is it?

        • If you add the insurance premium to the 10% loss on the ticket price and then calculate this as a % of the original ticket price it works out at around a 18.3% loss.

        • …but clearly that doesn’t make sense if you can do basic ‘sums’. The insurance add on and than the 10% deduction go in opposite directions… As I said, the original price was £1843, and you are refunded everything but 10% of the higher amount (original price + insurance = £1997.94). So you don’t get £199.79 back. This is 10.84% of the original ticket price.

          So you lose 10.84% if you cancel, you don’t lose the 9% cost of the insurance *and* the 10% cost of cancelling.

        • Peter K says:

          I’ve not looked at lastminute.com for the exact details but from Rob’s writeup above you get a 10% refund on the original ticket price only, not the insurance cost. The insurance is a sunk cost it seems.

        • The 9% and 10% stack. If you read the PDF Rob has provided a link to, it says “The value of the Voucher is calculated excluding the costs associated with the following: the purchase of Full Flex…..”.

          So in Rob’s example, you would pay £154.50 extra and forego £184.35 of the original ticket price, so the insurance would have effectively cost you £338.85 – 18.38% of the ticket cost.

  6. How does ‘You can cancel any time for any reason. No questions asked’ square not being able to cancel due to war or natural disaster?

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Yeah I don’t think they’d want to take that one to FOS. It’s a very unqualified statement.

      • Jovanna says:

        And let’s say there is a well publicised natural disaster at your destination and you call to cancel because, for example, you have come down with food poisoning and can’t travel. What happens then?

        • You don’t get paid.

          Although that is illness and your travel insurance should pay.

        • Prins Polo says:

          Just remember that you’ll need a certificate from a doctor saying that the illness was serious enough so that it absolutely prevented you from traveling (in case of Amex Plat, AXA has a special form for that).

      • Maybe when your holiday destination has been obliterated by a war or natural disaster you have to phone Lastminute.com up and say “something’s come up at work”

    • You are expected to read the small print too.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        Assuming it applies to insurance products, I’m not sure that it’s the case under Consumer Rights Act. I think it’s unreasonable for a consumer to need to check for exclusions if the cancellation is prominently advertised as ‘any time for any reason’ and may therefore constitute an unfair term.

  7. OT – Sorry for straying from the article, however I can’t find the answer anywhere and hoping someone can help. A friend of mine has just hit the sign up bonus on the Gold Charge card and is about to refer his wife for the same card. They will be looking to use the points as Avios in the future, and are wondering if there is a way for all their Avios to end up in the sane account?
    From what I have read they could set up a household Avios account, but my understanding is they would then not be able to move these points to a BA executive account? Many thanks for any help.

    • Tell your friend to upgrade to the platinum and then refer his wife. It would get him 18k for the referral rather than the 9k and also earn him 20k when he spends £1k in 3 months. Link is posted on here often

    • They want to set up a BAEC household account, not an Avios.com household account.

    • Amex points cannot be transferred to avios.com, they must go into a BA account.

    • Ignore the above! I haven’t woken up yet and have figured it out!

    • You cannot transfer your MR points to avios com. You set up a BAEC account and move them there. You can have a BAEC household accoung to pool the avios.

      You also have the option to go MR-SPG-Marriott travel package but probably only worth considering if you also both plan on having SPG cards and the hotel stay is worth it. This is because MR-SPG is only 2:1 whereas MR-BAEC is 1:1.

      Before upgrading yourself to platinum, I recommend getting the gold companion credit card for another 5000 MR points for £500 spend. Mark2 posted links on both Tuesday and Wednesday. I recommend upgrading to platinum before referring your wife for PRG, you will then get 18000 points for the referral. Mark2 seg out step by step strategy to maximise points in one of his comments on Tuesday.

      • Mikeact says:

        Thanks..any chance of identifying his strategy this week, what post and time ?

        • Just had aquick look Mike, cannot find it. It was discussed at various points with links Tuesday through Thursday.

          get referred for PRG – gold companion credit card – cancel latter – upgrade PRG to plat – platinum companion credit card. Ideally do referrals only whilst plat

  8. David G says:

    Before anyone thinks of booking anything with Lastminute or Bravofly I suggest you take a look at the Air Travel Forum on Trip Advisor and then make your mind up.

    • i just booked las night and the booking went to a manual queue which took 3 hours to clear. They had added Full Flex to my booking . Add me to the list of complaints online

  9. Mikeact says:

    Re this insurance thing…..as Rob says, to use it to lock into a particular deal that may be months away, may have some merit. What I don’t like is being locked into them to use their voucher at a later date…I would prefer monies paid back into my bank account.

    • just replied your requesr about Mark2 strategy Mike.

      • Mikeact says:

        Thanks for that.

        • James, again thanks. As a sort of non committed Amex user, I thought I might join in again with a ‘what to do ‘ question. I only have the regular BA card and the Blue transparent credit, both with limits way over 10k each. My wife has none, and it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been missing out on churning and thought I would join in before it’s maybe too late ! But what to do and where to start ? Any particular thoughts?!

  10. OT: FWIW, LL trailing HFP by several months today, could not resist highlighting the fact in their comments.

  11. I got into a bit of an argument with Amex plat travel insurance about this, political activity and unrest isn’t covered by them either, so I asked if cancelling if civil war broke out would they pay out and they said no….

    -I was trying to claim back when Tibet closed their borders due to a security conference.

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