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British Airways will no longer voluntarily refund your China or Hong Kong flights due to coronavirus

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British Airways has made some surprising changes to its coronavirus policies.

Perhaps unfairly, I can’t help thinking that the airline is trying to avoid paying out refunds where it can help it.  (Lufthansa, apparently, is taking the same approach.)

As well as blocking refunds for passengers to Hong Kong and China on flights which are still operating, it is still holding out from refunding Seoul passengers.  Italian flights cannot be cancelled either.

Here are the changes which came in on Tuesday afternoon:

Hong Kong flights:

Until today, this was the policy: if you were booked to fly to Hong Kong before 1st June, British Airways would refund your flight or rebook you on a later flight, up to 1st August, at your request.

Here is the new policy (click to see it online):

If you are booked before 1st June on the remaining daily Hong Kong flight, you can no longer have a refund.

Your options are:

rebook on a later flight, up to 1st August, or

use the value of your ticket to buy a new British Airways flight to ANY destination at the current price (there is no guidance on what the date range is)

This is, of course, hugely unfair.  It was pretty much pot-luck whether you would have been booked on the cancelled flight or the one which remains.  One group is entitled to a refund, the other is not.

British Airways Hong Kong coronavirus policy

Shanghai and Beijing flights:

At present, Shanghai and Beijing flights are cancelled.  However, a limited service will resume from 19th April.

Until today, this was the policy: if you were booked to fly to Shanghai or Beijing before 1st June, British Airways would refund your flight or rebook you on a later flight, up to 1st August, at your request.  You could also accept a diversion to Hong Kong.

Here is the new policy (click to see it online):

If you are booked on one of the few Shanghai and Beijing flights scheduled to operate between 19th April and 1st June, you can no longer have a refund.

Your options are:

rebook on a later flight, up to 1st August, or

accept a diversion to Hong Kong, or

use the value of your ticket to buy a new British Airways flight to ANY destination at the current price (there is no guidance on what the date range is)

Again, this seems unfair.  It is pot luck as to whether, from 19th April, your Shanghai or Beijing flight is one of the few that will operate.

British Airways Shanghai coronavirus

Italy:

British Airways has issued some – fairly half-hearted – guidelines for travellers to Italy.

This applies to anyone booked to Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Bergamo and Verona.

If you are booked for travel to any of the above destinations before 2nd March, you can change your ticket for free to another date before 31st March.

Alternatively, you can switch to a Zurich or Geneva flight.  BA will not pay for any additional costs to get you into Italy, however.

No ticket refunds will be allowed.

The special advisories page of ba.com is here and has the latest information.  However, changes are usually published first on the BA Travel Trade pages here.

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Comments (50)

  • Andrew says:

    BA seem to have been possibly a little over generous to date compared to other airlines. I’m booked with CX to Manila in May and currently Philippines government isn’t allowing any transit through China or HK – but currently CX are only refunding and rerouting until end of March bookings. So I’m a sitting duck at the moment, waiting for them to extend that and then I can get a refund or rerouting.

  • Ben says:

    O/T but this reminds me of travelling during the Swine flu outbreak in 2009. Flying from Auckland to Sydney, I had a cold but nothing more (No fever etc.). Repeated announcements from the pilot that anyone with any cold symptoms should make themselves known to the cabin crew. In the naivety of youth (I was 18), I informed the air hostess about my light cold, expecting nothing more to come of it. Apparently I was the only person on the plane to do so. Queue the pilot announcing that they have a suspected Swine Flu case onboard, and that when we land, everyone must stay in their seats. Once we land, everyone stays in their seats panicking, whilst a nurse marches towards my seat with a mask, and parades me out of the plane in front of everyone. Fortunately, after a 1 minute meeting with a doctor, I was not placed into quarantine, but was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.

  • Tom says:

    Share a similar experience to Phillip and agree with much of the positive BA-sentiment in the comments.

    BA have been excellent with our flight to Milan this weekend (to start a week’s holiday), and allowed us to book onto a more expensive Munich flight (+£58.66pp at time of booking, much more now), free of charge. It was all handled nicely by the call center, and I am extremely impressed.

    All very well bashing BA, but you should point to airlines offering any better a service. They are a business not a charity after all, and operate in a market filled with liabilities and professional obligations.

    The real fault here is national governments imposing ridiculous health rules without updating the travel advisory to allow people to make insurance claims. Governments shouldn’t be rolling out a policy that has “lose your holiday or lose your job” connotations.

    Our FCO is one of the worst with this ridiculous “stay at home for two weeks if you feel slightly unwell” policy. Only pipped by the Baltic Countries that again aren’t changing travel advisory (due to political / schengen issues), though instead (about to) insist any children who visit Italy (…anywhere in Italy) stay home from school for two weeks.

    • Lady London says:

      Not really sure why airlines should bear the cost of this?

      Prepare for cost hikes across the travel industry and possible worse fees for using your miles on the next year when travel providers will seek to claw back losses now.

      • Tom says:

        I’m with you. At the very least I was prepared to cover the price difference between LIN and MUC flights, but BA insisted the change would be free of charge.

      • Paul Pogba says:

        If the redemption fees go much higher they’ll be close to cash fares.

  • dve says:

    I cant see the italy part of your article??
    thanks

  • John says:

    Scaremongering I feel…our company has put a mandatory 2-weeks quarantine to people who are going to Italy.
    I’m due to a weekend in Sardinia, where there’s no reported cases and where there’s no restrictions from FCO (the institution not the airport). This means that either I go and spend two weeks home, or cancel and lose half a grand.

    • sloth says:

      out of interest is that 2 weeks at home fully paid or out of your holiday entitlement?

      • Fred says:

        Indeed, a crucial factor!

        If a fully paid two weeks at home is being offered, then all employees should be off to Italy! But if it’s not being paid (I’d like to see how they could contractually achieve this), why would you even tell your employer where you’re going on holiday? There is no obligation for you to do so.

        • Gregg says:

          I assume it might be “work from home”, lots of companies have put that in place already

  • Adrian says:

    Why is south Korea not added in to the top 2 country’s for infection? Also the flights out to Korea or out from Korea will bring way worse as it’s blown out in such short time.