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British Airways launches its ‘Book with Confidence’ guarantee – but is it enough?

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Things are not in good shape over at the British Airways Waterside head office.  I believe that senior management were working over the weekend in an attempt to draw up some sort of strategy to secure the Summer flying programme, but it is difficult.

EDIT: ‘Book With Confidence’ ended on 7th June 2022.  Bookings made after this date are not covered by the guarantee.  Bookings made up to 7th June, for travel by 30th September 2022, can still be cancelled or amended without charge.

British Airways has launched ‘Book with Confidence’

Today we have seen the first response – the ‘Book with Confidence’ guarantee.

Unfortunately, it isn’t good enough and won’t have any impact.

British Airways BA A380 flying

This is how it works:

For NEW bookings, and ONLY new bookings, made from Tuesday 3rd March to Monday 16th March, you will able to change your flight without paying any change fees.

This applies to all cabins on all routes.

However:

you cannot request a refund

you must pay the fare difference if you want to move your flight to a date which is more expensive than the price you paid

It’s not enough, in my view.

What else can British Airways do to drive bookings?

Very little, frankly.  We are potentially at a point where demand for flights is not driven by price.  For example, if I travel to Hong Kong now then my children would be forced to stay away from school for two weeks when I return.   I won’t be going, however good a deal I may be able to get.

Another issue for British Airways is that it set a bad precedent last week by removing the option of a refund on coronavirus-heavy routes.

Even on routes like Seoul, where a lot of weekly flights have been cut, those passengers booked on the remaining services cannot get a refund.  If you got lucky and your flight was cancelled, you have a legal right to your money back.

Take a look, on the other hand, at what hotel group Melia is currently advertising:

You get a big discount on your room BUT you also retain the right to cancel.  Melia is gambling that a flexible approach will win it bookings.

Perhaps BA needs to take the same option and make all flight bookings refundable.  Even if you are planning to fly somewhere which is not caught up in coronavirus, you are still at risk.  If it turns out that, the previous week, you had visited somewhere else where an outbreak has suddenly errupted, you are likely to be blocked from flying to your ‘safe place’.  It is even possible, although I admit hugely unlikely, that we could end up in a position where UK residents were banned from entering certain countries.

The airline industry is acting like the end is nigh ….

If anyone thought that the airline industry might be able to muddle its way through coronavirus, two other announcements on Monday have probably put pay to that.

Cathay Pacific announced that it is cancelling 75% of flights in March 

Closer to home, Lufthansa Group announced that is cutting up to 25% of its short-haul and medium-haul flights, as well as grounding 23 long-haul aircraft

Cutting flights to Asia is one thing, but cutting huge swathes of your European network is something else.

Grounding aircraft doesn’t stop you losing money of course – the leases still have to be paid, as do salaried pilots and cabin crew – but it helps.

If you think that British Airways is cushioned by its North Atlantic routes, think again.  Over the weekend, for example, GlaxoSmithKline banned all but essential staff travel.  It even banned Glaxo-induced travel by third parties, so clients may not fly in to visit the Glaxo offices.  Glaxo is one of the top 5 (perhaps THE) biggest British Airways corporate customer – the American Airlines flight from Heathrow to Raleigh-Durham, part of the BA/AA transatlantic joint venture, was reportedly set up purely for Glaxo’s benefit. It also dominates premium seats on the Philadelphia route.

British Airways cannot ground its planes, because it will lose its Heathrow slots

British Airways would, I’m sure, love to ground parts of its fleet temporarily.  Except it can’t.

We have covered the Heathrow Airport slot rules before, but in simple terms an airline has to use a landing and take-off on 80% of dates during an airline ‘season’ or it is automatically forfeited.

You might think that there are rules in place to cover events such as coronavirus, but there aren’t.  From what I can tell, there was no dispensation after 9/11, no dispensation for SARS and no dispensation in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

British Airways has no choice but to keep on flying aircraft because if it doesn’t, it won’t have the slots to fly them next year or the year after.

This is not an exclusively UK phenomenon.  The International Air Transport Association said on Monday it was contacting aviation regulators globally to request that the usual rules on the use of take-off and landing slots be suspended.   There is no guarantee that this will happen, however, especially as airlines are queuing up to get into Heathrow.

There is one option open to British Airways.  The airline can begin to ground parts of the long-haul fleet, especially the inefficient seat-heavy Boeing 747 and A380 aircraft.  The Heathrow short-haul flying programme will suddenly be increased, not shrunk, with British Airways wet-leasing aircraft from other operators if necessary to ensure that those slots are filled.

Wherever there is a coronavirus-free spot in Europe, you may find it overrun with BA tail fins this Spring and Summer ….

Long-term, of course, this is an outstanding opportunity for British Airways.  IAG has lots (€4bn) of cash on hand (especially now that it has refused to pay a staff bonus for 2019 …..) and would be ‘last man standing’.

A quick look at the Norwegian share price for the last month (note that this graph does not scale from zero, so it is less dramatic than it looks):

Norwegian share price

….. shows you that the market believes they are at severe risk again now.  Similarly, you have to worry about Flybe even with its focus on domestic routes.

You don’t need to worry about the future of British Airways, however.   You can imagine a scenario in 12 months time where BA is stronger than ever, having picked up Norwegian’s Gatwick slots for peanuts after its bankruptcy and the Flybe routes from London City and Heathrow.  It may even get some additional Heathrow slots from other airlines who have no choice but to forfeit them.  It will be a bumpy ride on the way though.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

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

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. 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:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

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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.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

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Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

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10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

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30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

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

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (223)

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

  • AJA says:

    I have only got two booking still to be flown this year which I currently plan on doing in July and September. Fortunately both are Avios bookings so are cancellable until 24 hours before hand. I have booked and paid for one hotel (a 50% discount offered) and the other hotels are all booked with free cancellation 48 hours before travel otherwise payable at the hotel.

    Other than that travel plans are on hold – I see no point going anywhere in the short term. I would like to plan to go somewhere in May but I think this virus has some way to go and it will get worse before it starts getting better again. So much as I feel sorry for the airlines I am not even sure a 100% refundable booking would tempt me to speculatively buy. And even so if the virus gets even more widespread how does having refundable bookings help BA as they will be as badly off if we all go cancelling and asking for our money back? I think the idea of the luxury sale is a good one but I feel the prices need to come down even more to tempt me.

    As for grounding the bigger planes how about instead of mothballing them they put them on the 4+ hour routes like Tenerife and Gran Canaria or Cyprus? A flight of that distance with a flat bed would be tempting.

    • Peter K says:

      1) would those Islands have runways long enough for long haul aircraft.
      2) would the extra demand make up for the extra fuel cost
      3) would PR be badly damaged by flying nearly empty long haul craft on a short haul route with the climate situation
      4) using more short haul craft than less long haul ones uses up more landing slots they need to keep using

      • Anna says:

        I think Tenerife North is suitable for emergency landings (and therefore long haul aircraft), but it’s not used much for tourist flights these days.

      • marcw says:

        Pretty much all canary islands airports receive WB airplanes regularly. During the Materhorn flights, even 380 visited Gran Canaria a couple of times.

        La Palma is the only main island that does not receive wide bodies. It used to get them when Air Belrin was still operating.

        La Gomera and El Hierro airports can´t receive anything bigger than a prop airplane.

  • Sumi says:

    I am trying to get a refund on my flight to Seoul on the 4th given CDC have given South Korea the highest alert alongside China and Iran which is “Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Community Transmission”. However because FCO has chosen not to reflect this and only specified two areas in South Korea for what I assume is for political reasons (despite Seoul having over 100 cases), BA are not refunding. Meanwhile, my friend who is flying Qatar to Seoul has been offered a refund.

    • Shoestring says:

      just go, all you’ll get is a bit of a sniffle 🙂

      • Paul Stevens says:

        The reason I cancelled my trip to Japan wasn’t because I was worried either of us would get seriously ill, it was because everything we wanted to do in Tokyo was closed during the time we would have been there.

        • Alex Sm says:

          This seems to be the main reason and this is what I’m fearing in Italy too – we have a trip booked for end of March

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    BA were close to wining my business with £1,000 flights from CDG-LHR-DEN in CW in May – we were looking at three tickets for a grandson’s Christening.

    But there was the concern about the effects on life around Covid – rather than being infected – which makes us think hard.

    An example being we have BA flights EDI-LON-ZRH to the big airshow in Friedrichshaven , Germany in April. But if the airshow gets cancelled – I can’t see how it will be allowed to continue – then BA won’t allow us to change flights for another time. So we are now super cautious about booking anything else with them.

    Now if we could rebook CDG-LHR-DEN to another date, free or at minimal cost, then we’d go ahead. But if instead of the £1,000 fare we would have to pay the difference for a £2,500 fare, times three…. no way.

    Oh yes, and Avios. Well the taxes, fees, carrier surcharges etc are so high to the USA, it is a joke. All those extra CW avios seats – but with sky-high surcharges.

    So the obvious solution: lots of standard cancel-up-to-24-hours before flight avios availability, with at least 50% off the “fees, taxes, surcharges total. That would get them three Denver bookings!

    • BJ says:

      Go exINV returning to EDI on avios, buy them in the sale if you need more. Cheap flexibility.

      • Colin MacKinnon says:

        Hi BJ,

        Problem one: there is no avoids in CW outbound LHR-DEN from 9th May until 16th August, and no return between 22nd May and 28th June. So not much use for a late May Christening!

        Second is: 130,000 avios return in off-peak, plus – even from Inverness – £400 in carrier surcharge plus £100 in other assorted fees, means (at 1p per avios) £1800 return. A bit rich for me!

        Even with a 241 – and forgetting about the annual Amex fee etc – it is £2300 return for two – still more than the cash fare from CDG, no avios or TPs earned, and have to get to INV (or Paris – which is more fun?) etc.

        So, all-in-all – no Covid bargains. Potentially big Covid hassles. So no bookings by me.

        • BJ says:

          Ok, didn’t expect the surcharges to be that high. Have you tried fares on Icelandair? Ok its not going to be a great J experience but if connection times work and provide for an appreciably shorter journey time then it might be a good option. If it saves a lot of hours it might even be worth considering in economy. If there is a long layover then you could skip the lounge in favour of the Blue Lagoon thermal spas.

  • FT says:

    I’m set to fly to thailand at the end of march for my honeymoon.. booked at the beginning of Jan before it was declared a global outbreak and now hoping to change my BA flights for later in the year for fear of getting stuck in quarantine somewhere if it escalates whilst we’re away.. but I gather from this news that only NEW customers can change dates without incurring the £300 change fee plus whatever price difference there is (currently about +£1000 for the same flights later in the year).. seems a bit unfair to simultaneously promote flexible fares for new bookings whilst penalising customers who were unfortunate enough to book flights before Coronavirus was announced.. I’m a silver BA flyer and booked with BA out of loyalty but they’ve been so unhelpful and inflexible.. I’ve been phoning since january trying to find an alternate solution to salvage our honeymoon.. currently set to either fly and risk quarantine/infection and the repercussions when we return home, reschedule and pay £2k in price difference and change fees, or loose £4k on the business class flights we stupidly bought as a special treat on our honeymoon.. 🙁 I’ll definitely be flying with other airlines in future.

    • Shoestring says:

      there’s no particular risk in Thailand and it’s not on the FCO list of countries to avoid

      • Shoestring says:

        with no disrespect to the OP – this demonstrates headless chicken syndrome at its worst

        people are not assessing level of risk and acting accordingly

        they are making blindingly stupid decisions based on poor knowledge of the facts

        I can understand that, as I have a wife like that 🙂

        • marcw says:

          You could just have a mild cold and there´s a change they put you on quarentaine,… do you want to spend your holidays in quarantaine?

          • Shoestring says:

            Thailand is not putting people arriving with a cold in quarantine

          • Teacher says:

            Marcw you could do with going back to school for a few weeks

        • BJ says:

          Fear causes many rational people to think and behave irrationally. Same with grief, danger and so on; it’s just human nature. Quite happy to acknowledge my fears of Covid-19 but I’m not planning to act on those fears. News today suggests we are more likely to die from a hit and run but I doubt that’s stopping anybody crossing the road.

          • Shoestring says:

            try and sleep easy

            there’s not the remotest chance you will catch pussycat virus

            it will fade out in about 6 months – and it was only mild (a sniffle) in the first place, for healthy people

          • BJ says:

            Fears are not for me, too many elderly relatives and one very young one in very poor health. Fortunately not much evidence of it affecting children.

          • Lady London says:

            +1 BJ. It’s people I love that are over 80 with underlying conditions that are well managed, so carrying on as now they could we’ll make it to over 90, that I care about, as well as others also quite old who could be vulnerable.

            Even normal flu has unexpectedly killed several young and fit people in families of people I worked with over the years who were without underlying health conditions. One being a young fit mother of 30.

            Could you seriously live with yourself if you brought a virus home that you might show no symptoms of, but your child takes it to school, another child takes it home and their grandmother with a heart condition dies of its complications? Shame on you! I agree it’s all very unlikely but I’m not prepared to put others at risk for my own convenience.

          • Cat says:

            Well said Lady London.

            I have the 150 children I teach, and their families to think about, as well as my own parents, my outlaws (he still hasn’t put a ring on it), my friend with diabetes, my elderly uncle with a heart condition…

            I’m not worried about me TBH.

        • Lady London says:

          Er….does she read HfP?

          If she does, does she know your pen name?

    • John W says:

      I am looking to book for Thailand and Malaysia for May .
      I guess you have insurance which would cover you in the event the foreign office changed their advise not to travel
      I agree with Shoestring , go and enjoy your honeymoon !

    • yorkieflyer says:

      If you are really worried and I don’t necessarily think you are over reacting it being your honeymoon and the potential consequences on returning, quarantine and so on, why not think about buying onward tickets from Bangkok to a currently unaffected destination and just effectively connecting in Thailand

      • Polly says:

        Exactly. Get over to Phuket. Take a driver to get you there, if ness. Healthcare v g on the island.

    • Polly says:

      Look, we just flew in from Thailand the other day. Life is carrying on as if cov 19 doesn’t exist. Not a single temp check, hardly a mask in sight. Seems like warmer countries are being hit less hard. Of course there is the small risk.
      Just follow v g personal hygiene. Keep washing hands using soap etc. Be meticulous. Keep a bottle of antiseptic when out and about. Stay away from people at meal times. Wear masks flying, maybe. Swim a lot, 35 degrees right now and pools gorgeous. The risk is low.
      And as BJ advised me, the medical facilities in Thailand are v good. It’s the reason why we went ahead and moved on from Bali to HKT.
      Enjoy your honeymoon.

    • JP says:

      UK population = 66.44 Million, 51 Cases = 0.0000791 % of the population

      Thai Population = 69.04 Million, 43 Cases = 0.0000622 % of the population

      The media talk about affected areas, we are one of the affected areas.

      So unless you are going to erect a Bio Tent, you have more chance of getting it in the UK than in Thailand.

      Blame BA 🙂

      • Lee says:

        Thailand imposes compulsory self-quarantine for passengers from 11 countries and territories.

        The minister’s post said Japan, Germany, South Korea, China “including its special territories Macao and Hong Kong,” Taiwan, France, Singapore, Italy and Iran have been declared as “dangerous communicable disease areas.”

        Soon UK will be on that list.

        • JP says:

          Lee,

          Doomsday: Global catastrophic risk, a hypothetical event explored in science and fiction where human civilization or life is at risk of partial or complete destruction

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      FT, to cut through the less helpful replies.

      Thailand has a current infection rate of less than1 in a million. With 12 active cases currently, it has a lower rate of infection than the UK. It is still on the high-risk list because the .gov advice was always blunt and cannot keep up with reality on the ground.

      Enjoy your holiday.

  • Qfx says:

    The Melia promo combines with any voucher codes in your account, 2 nights at The Level booked for £267, and refundable!

  • Nick says:

    “We are potentially at a point where demand for flights is not driven by price.”

    Hmmm let’s test that…… £750 CW return, £1050 First to anywhere in the US… I’ll go once a fortnight until I’m GGL. I won’t be the only one. I guarantee mine will be truly incremental revenue, they wouldn’t get it otherwise. Go on BA, if you’re really that desperate, try it!

    • Nick says:

      So I’ve been thinking about this, and it’s not the un-smartest idea ever. How much would they have to lower the price before it’s not worth even BA’s while? (Yes I know Willie has said he’s been burnt before by not having seats to sell when the upturn comes, so it would have to be very short-term.) Being from the Harry-school of worrying, I actually don’t have a problem going to Singapore, Japan or HK right now, it’s almost certainly safe, and I don’t really care if someone makes me work from home for a week when I get back (which they won’t, because realistically I won’t catch anything). Particularly if there’s cheap connections on JL, SQ or what’s left of CX (that’s so sad, I hate to see them suffer so much in such circumstances). Anyway, I am price sensitive, value driven, and want premium flights. But I’d happily pay – say £1k for F, or £750 for J – a couple of times over. Should BA offer me it? Should I write to Alex and offer direct? How close are they to being that desperate?

      • Andy says:

        I’m sure that Brighton “super spreader” thought he wouldn’t catch anything, then he went around giving the virus to all and sundry….

  • ChrisC says:

    The slot issue could be easily managed. 20% of 365 days is 73 which to make it easy I’m rounding down to 2 months.

    Let’s say BA has 3 flights a day to XXX and decides it needs to cancel one

    It cancels flight 1 for (say) April and May then restarts it in June when it cancels flight 2 for June and July when it cancels flight 3 for August and September.

    So it has cancelled a flight to the destination for 6 months yet is not at risk of losing the slots because each slot has still been used for 80% of the time.

    Plus BA is big enough to swap around other flights to utilise at risk slots normally used for Asian routes.

    And if the 80/20 rule is per season not per year then it can start again at the end of October when the winter flight season kicks in. And isn’t there some flexibility as well that you don’t lose the slots immediately but have 2 years to have fully utilised them?

    Not saying its an easy exercise but equally it’s not the most tricky exercise to complete especially given the route network BA has to box and cox slots.

    • Graham Coombes says:

      Rob if BA want to increase their passengers they MUST start by answering the phone. I give every company 10 minutes to answer their phones and it has taken 5 months to get through to BA. With your help I found there is a First Class contact number which did get answered within the 10 minute window, but they were clueless about arrival contact details and spa treatments.
      The BA executives should focus on the basics of customer service not fancy slogans that don’t, can’t and won’t deliver anything their customers want or need. #BAsics on Twitter.

    • Singapore says:

      That depends on your employers policy, many are going above WHO and .gov advice.

    • TripRep says:

      Given you can have the virus, be asymptomatic & expose others for upto 27 days that advice isn’t really effective

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