More Avios £1 quirks – cancellation fees for ALL short-haul flight tickets now appear capped at £1

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BA’s new trial of ‘£1 taxes’ on short-haul Avios redemptions is the gift that keeps on giving, in terms of finding intriguing new content for HFP.  We’ve already got the weekend covered 🙂

First, to clarify …..

Yesterday we ran article showing how Avios flights which involve a UK regional connection had gone up sharply in price.  I suggested that this was probably an IT issue, and BA confirmed to me during the day that it was.  They are working on a fix.  Whether you book now and try to reclaim the overpayment later, or wait but risk losing your long-haul seats, is your call.

Onto the next quirk with the £1 Avios tickets

There has been a LOT of discussion about how cancellation fees would work with these new tickets.  Let’s take a typical pricing schedule for a return Club Europe flight, off peak:

I wasn’t sure why people were confused about cancellations.   Most people think that the Avios cancellation rule is:

You get all of your Avios back, less a cancellation fee of £35 per person

That has NEVER been the case.  In actual fact, the rule has been:

You get all of your Avios back, less a cancellation fee of £35 per person or the taxes paid, whichever is lower

Anyone who ever booked one-way European redemptions will know this, since the tax on a one-way redemption is £17.50 in Economy or £25 in Business.  When you cancel such a ticket, you are not asked for an extra payment.

So, in the situation above, someone who books a ticket for 25,500 Avios + £1 in taxes and charges will only pay a £1 cancellation fee.  This is in line with standard British Airways Executive Club policy.

There are clearly issues here, of course, because it could encourage ‘unhelpful’ behaviour.  Let’s imagine that your parents live in Edinburgh and you go home 3-4 times per year, but only at short notice if you’re not busy at work and your diary is empty that weekend.  As long as you have enough Avios, you can block book flights every weekend for the next 11 months.  Every Wednesday, you can decide if you want to fly up to your folks that weekend or not.  If you decide not to, you cancel – all you’ve lost is £1.  Cancelling 48 out of 52 flights every year will only cost you £48 in fees, which is peanuts.  Unfortunately for everyone else, you have blocked out huge chunks of Avios availability which someone else could have used.

And yet, and yet ….

Take a look at this screenshot:

This is from a reader who cancelled a ticket booked under the new £1 regime.  For clarity, he was outside the 24 hour ‘free cancellation’ window at this point.

The reader had booked the ‘least Avios, most cash’ option.  This was how the one-way flight looked:

The reader had gone for ‘2,150 Avios + £55.50’.

When he cancelled, he was expecting to get (£55.50 – £35) £20.50 back, plus his Avios.

In fact, he got £55 back.

For unknown reasons, it seems that BA is only imposing the cancellation fee which would be charged if you selected the ‘most Avios, least cash’ option, even if you go for a different option.

There is one interesting thing to learn from this.  What we said earlier in the week is that, whilst the ’50p / £1′ option is NOT the best value, it would make sense if you were fairly sure that you might cancel your flight.

It turns out that it doesn’t matter.  You can seemingly book using any of the new pricing options – the best value one above is 6,500 Avios + £17 for the one-way flight – and you will still only pay 50p for a one-way cancellation or £1 to cancel a return, per person.

Be clear that British Airways may fix this cancellation oddity at any point.  The cancellation price you pay will be based on the policy in place on the day you cancel, not the day you book.

There are another two articles in this mini-series of ‘unintended quirks with the £1 Avios pricing trial’ to come, so keep reading over the weekend!

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  1. TGLoyalty says:

    Sure BA will pick this up as an IT issue and fix it.

    • Agreed, at the least I think we will see “or the taxes paid, whichever is lower” dropped from t&c.

      Not sure what Rob still has to come this weekend but so far I’m unconvinced the change merits the coverage. A single article highlighting the issues and probable fixes would likely have been fine. Today’s issue was already discussed in comments yesterday.

      • Not much else going on 🙂

        This is VERY hard to fix and requires major rewriting.

        • On the plus side, I enjoyed the story about the small lounge today. HFP at it’s best when it surprises us or when you do one of your more analytical articles although I appreciate they are harder work 🙂

        • Eli Goldberg says:

          I was scared the more it’s talked about, the more BA will see it as important to prevent serial cancellers by adding some quirk to the rules.
          While other HFP’ers find these kind of quirks boring, I’m really loving it.
          The HFP community is truly an amazing source of knowledge and information.

          Thank you all

  2. Lev441 says:

    Can’t imagine this lasting long….

  3. David says:

    Lets hope this don’t make this worse than before.
    My taxes were regularly less than £35, usually £10.

    • pauldb says:

      If you’re talking about flying from a European airport with taxes lower than £17.50, thiscahnge has alreaddy killed that one. Despite the T&Cs you’ll now get charged the standard £15.50.
      Probably one of the weekend articles!

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    Phew, he’s back

  5. Ammar says:

    I have a few Avios redemptions to cancel..but they are kul to hkg and hkg to LHR …do you think the cancellation for the short haul flight of £1 apply here too?

    • Don’t cancel anything whilst the pilot strike threat is ongoing …. you would get free cancellation in these cases. Unlikely to work otherwise.

      • Gringo says:

        Any idea when we’ll hear more about the strikes?

        • pauldb says:

          The ballot closes on Monday. I would expect they’ll have themselves ready to announce dates immediately that day, given the result doesn’t seem in any doubt. If they want to make as much noise as possible, better to announce on Monday given there’s some other headline news due on Tuesday.

      • Eli Goldberg says:

        Does anyone recall which flights bore the main brunt of previous BA strikes? Domestic, long haul, short haul?
        Booking a regional connection+short/long haul, would mean higher chance of disruption if any part gets cancelled, with an opportunity to bag TP and avios

        • Different pilot fleet for both. It’s not the same as a crew strike, where (for Mixed Fleet) they can choose whether to redeploy those who do turn up on short or long haul.

      • Ammar says:

        Thanks Rob. The flights are in September and October, but i think as long as I cancel it more than 24 hrs before I get to keep my Avios and only loose 35pp. Is that right? If so, then I will hold off in case there are timetable changes and I can cancel for free.

  6. Allan says:

    Just looked at cancelling my september Madrid A350 flight and the usual £35 cancellation fee seems to be applying.

    • Alan Wan says:

      Assume it must be new booking only?

      I cancelled a flight on Wednesday and the £17.50 one way cancellation fee applied

  7. ‘Unfortunately for everyone else, you have blocked out huge chunks of Avios availability which someone else could have used.’

    And still can when they go back into the inventory or, act faster in the first instance and pounce when inventory first opens. Those who make multiple bookings have provided BA with a nice stash of income over the years, BA know this, now the playing field (albeit probably temporarily) is leveling up.

    • They won’t go back into inventory at short notice. The system decides if it could make more money selling a seat rather than putting it back up for Avios.

      • Less than 24 hours notice and you forfeit your booking, the seat’s been paid for. The alternative is getting in early when availability opens, paying cash, wait and see if availability opens up or hedge your flight with another carrier. Hate to be brutal but that’s how it’s always been. I understand people’s concerns. Now it’s opened up to a wider audience block bookers are going to find it trickier as well.

  8. Charlieface says:

    But hasn’t it always been that the money part of an Avios and Money ticket isn’t used in the cancellation calculation? I think they implemented this by lowering the RFS fee to £1 and raising the required Avios, so in essence nothing changed on cancellations.

  9. William PH says:

    I seem to recall that making large numbers of bookings and then cancelling them has led to AA Advantage members being booted out of the program for “misuse” and losing all their miles and status. I wouldn’t risk booking 52 flight gets and cancelling 48

  10. Nick Burch says:

    Didn’t golds used to get free cancellations, benefit removed due to holding a bunch of flights then cancelling last minute?

    (GGL still gets it, but not enough of us to do much damage I guess!)

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