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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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Comments (28)

  • 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

  • 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!)