Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Coronavirus: the current British Airways and Virgin Atlantic policies on refunds and changes

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

This article is a summary of the current British Airways and Virgin Atlantic coronavirus policies on travel, refunds and status extension.

It is correct, as far we know, as of 8pm on Wednesday 11th.

Most major airlines now have some kind of travel waiver in place.  In most cases, they are relatively worthless.  They do not allow refunds, are not applicable to tickets booked before the waiver was announced and still leave the passenger on the hook for any difference in cash fares.  Standouts include Qatar Airways, which is allowing pre-existing bookings to be cancelled and offering a one-year voucher if you want to cancel, and S7 Airlines which is offering free cancellation on all new bookings.

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are running virtually full schedules because no slot waiver has been granted at Gatwick or Heathrow.  From the week of 22nd March, British Airways has cancelled 18% of its short haul flights – details are in this article.  A slot waiver is expected to be approved by the European Commission in the next day or so.

Remember that many countries are blocking entry to passengers who have visited certain countries, primarily China, South Korea and Italy, in the previous 14 days.  Ensure you seek guidance before travelling.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic coronavirus policies

Where does the Foreign Office advise against visiting?

Full details are here.

For China, the FCO is advising against all travel to Hubei Province and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.  This does not include Hong Kong or Macau.

The FCO is also advising:

  • against all travel to the cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan in South Korea
  • against all but essential travel to Italy

You are ONLY legally entitled to a flight refund if you were flying to a city where the Government advises against ALL travel.  As this only covers Hubei and the three South Korean cities listed above, none of which have BA or Virgin Atlantic flights, this is not your path to a refund.

It seems unlikely that the Foreign Office will extend the list which blocks ALL travel so you should not rely on this route as a way of triggering a refund on your booked ticket.

Which countries have banned incoming passengers from the United Kingdom?

The largest countries which have heavily restricted entry for UK passport holders are Israel, India and Vietnam.

Cyprus has reversed the ban on UK arrivals announced this morning following a major backlash from the tourist industry.

India has announced that ALL tourist visas will be suspended on 13th March.  For clarity, this covers existing visas as well as ones which are currently being processed.  If you have a visa, it is no longer valid.  Visas will not be reinstated until 15th April.

Israel is insisting that everyone entering the country undergoes a two-week quarantine in a private house.  If you cannot prove on arrival that this has been arranged then you will be banned from entry.  The UK Government guidance is here.

Vietnam is removing United Kingdom citizens from the visa waiver programme on 12th March.  The e-visa process has also been suspended.  The only way to gain entry from Thursday is by applying to the Embassy in Kensington for a visa.  It appears that any application would only be granted if you had a local sponsor who agreed to quarantine you in their home for 14 days. The UK Government guidance is here.

Kuwait is closing its main airport entirely on Friday 13th.  This will, obviously, see the cancellation of British Airways flights.

British Airways coronavirus policies

British Airways coronavirus policies:

The latest British Airways news can be found on the special advisories page of ba.com here and has the latest information.  However, changes are usually published first on the BA Travel Trade pages here.

Note that we can expect SUBSTANTIAL flight cancellations, across all routes, as soon as the European Commission suspends the ‘use it or lose it’ rules on airport slots.  This suspension is currently in the process of being approved.

Travel waiver – if you book a British Airways flight or BA Holidays package between 3rd March and 31st March, you will be able to change the date without a fee to any date in the next 12 months, paying any fare difference, or request a BA voucher which is valid for 12 months from the date of your outbound flight.  Details of the ‘Book with Confidence’ guarantee are in this artice here and on ba.com hereIf you booked your flight before 3rd March and it is still operating, you have NO right to a free change of date or a refund unless your flight is cancelled.

Status extensions – no announcement has been made about status extensions for British Airways Executive Club members.  Tier points and Avios are not being awarded for flights cancelled due to coronavirus.  There is no official policy yet on extensions to BA Amex 2-4-1 vouchers.

Short-notice cancellations the pattern we have seen so far is that in general British Airways will NOT cancel flights with less than 14 days notice because this triggers EC261 compensation.  If you are flying in under 14 days you should assume that your flight will operate.

Country-by-country changes

ShanghaiAll flights cancelled until 17th April.  From 18th April to 31st May, British Airways will operate three flights per week on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.  From 1st June, seven flights per week will operate.  From 1st November, the full 10 flights per week will resume.

If you are booked to fly to Shanghai before 1st June, British Airways will rebook you on a later flight, up to 1st August, at your request.  You may also change to a Hong Kong flight although BA will not pay to get you into China.  Rebooking on selected other airlines is also available.  No refunds are allowed whilst your flight is still operating.

Beijing – All flights cancelled until 17th April.  From 19th April to 31st May, British Airways will operate four flights per week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  From 1st June, the standard daily service will resume.

If you are booked to fly to Beijing before 1st June, and you booked before 20th February, British Airways will refund your flight or rebook you on a later flight, up to 1st August, at your request.  You may also change to a Hong Kong flight although BA will not pay to get you into China.  Rebooking on selected other airlines is also available.  No refunds are allowed whilst your flight is still operating.

Hong Kong – British Airways will continue to operate just one daily flight, instead of two, until 1st June.

If you are booked to fly to Hong Kong before 1st June, and you booked before 20th February, British Airways will rebook you on a later flight, up to 1st August, at your request.  No refunds are allowed whilst your flight is still operating.

Singapore – six flights throughout March have been cancelled.  The A380 service has been withdrawn on some dates and replaced by a smaller Boeing 777.

Seoul eight flights throughout March have been cancelled

Italy –  the situation is unclear.  As 9.45am on Tuesday British Airways announced that all flights to Italy have been cancelled until, and including, 4th April.  At 11.15am this advice was withdrawn and replaced with a vague statement that “some flights are affected up to and including 4 April 2020.”  However, all BA flights to Italy are currently showing as cancelled.

Please check the special advisories page of ba.com and the BA Travel Trade pages here before taking any action as the situation may have changed from when this article was compiled.

Virgin Atlantic coronavirus policies

Virgin Atlantic coronavirus policies:

Travel waiver on cash bookings – if you book a Virgin Atlantic flight, including a VS-coded flight operated by another airline, between 4th March and 31st March for travel up to 30th September, you will be able to change the date without a fee for travel up to 30th September.  You will be on the hook for any difference in fare.

Virgin Atlantic has now introduced changes for earlier bookings.

If you booked your flight before 4th March, for travel before 30th April 2020 (including Flying Club redemption bookings), your travel can be rebooked up to 30th September 2020.  Again, you will be on the hook for any difference in fare.  Full details of the travel waiver are here on the Virgin Atlantic website.

Travel waiver on reward flights – if you book a Virgin Flying Club redemption flight between 6th March and 31st March, you will be able to change the date without a fee.  This is only possible if redemption seats are available for your new dates.  Cancellation fees are NOT waived.  If you booked your flight before 6th March, you must pay the standard cancellation and change fees.

Status extensions – no announcement has been made about status extensions for Virgin Flying Club members.  Tier points and miles are not being awarded for flights cancelled due to coronavirus.

Tel Aviv – Flights to Tel Aviv are cancelled as of 10th March

Shanghai – All flights cancelled until 20th April.  If you are booked to fly to Shanghai beween 20th – 30th April, Virgin Atlantic will rebook you on a later flight, up to 31st May, at your request.

Hong Kong The official line is that all flights are operating, but there are actually substantial cancellations in place with the service reduced to four flights per week at times.  If you are booked to fly to Hong Kong before 30th April, Virgin Atlantic will rebook you on a later flight, up to 31st May, at your request.

Different rules are in place if you booked before 27th January.  In this case:

  • full refunds are available for anyone booked to Shanghai or Hong Kong
  • rebooking is available
  • rerouting is available, subject to the payment of any fare difference

Please check the Virgin Atlantic travel news pages before taking any action as the situation may have changed from when this article was compiled.

Note that we can expect SUBSTANTIAL flight cancellations, across all routes, as soon as the European Commission suspends the ‘use it or lose it’ rules on airport slots.  This suspension is currently in the process of being approved.

 


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (November 2021)

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

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 credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 10,500 Avios:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard 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

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 (178)

  • Rob says:

    After some general booking advice…

    I have flights booked to St Lucia for christmas/new year.

    When is the best time to book hotels?

    Do you expect a sale to come?

    Looking at the Hilton Curio for a week and then a beach resort for the second week.

    Thanks for any help or advice.

    Rob

    • Peter K says:

      I’d get sooner rather than later. With Barbados I found it was cheapest maybe 6-8 months before I went. A bit more before then but just increasing after then. There is also the risk if you leave it a few more months that the coronavirus will be mostly over in the northern hemisphere and everyone will be booking hols to make up for those not taken earlier in the year so prices will also go up.

      If not much more then book refundable and if it goes down then you can always cancel and rebook.

  • Gavin says:

    I’ve got 2 tickets to Seoul in late May, upgraded one way with Avios to Business class, booked in January 2020.

    For non corona reasons I don’t want to go now, is there any chance of getting the Avios back should I cancel?

    Have been holding out hope that there will be a general waiver for Seoul but it looks unlikely.

  • LonTen says:

    I was just trying to change an avios booking that was made after the 3rd March (delay the return date by a day). Online the system was still asking for a change fee. Should this be covered by the Book with Confidence policy?

  • MDA says:

    Booked a filght with Emirates last night (10pm)
    What are my rights if I want to refund? Heard it is 24 hours from booking?

    Can someone advise?
    Thanks

  • bill says:

    does anyone think eastern and loganair are going to cause themselves problems with their rapid expansion post flybe ?

    • Rob says:

      No. It should make them stronger, because they are pulling some of their more obscure routes eg Loganair’s Southend ones, to free up aircraft.

  • JAD says:

    Just had my BA LHR – ARN this Sat cancelled. No reason given. I was flying EDI – LHR – ARN and then back again a week later. All on the same booking. Can I assume BA will now refund the whole booking if that’s what I want? Also re a EC261 claim, even though it’s just the LHR – ARN flight that’s cancelled, would the total flight distance for EC261 purposes be EDI – LHR – ARN or EDI – ARN (I’m not sure if they take into account routing or just the start and end points). Or would they just consider the LHR – ARN distance as this is the only one of the flights that’s formerly cancelled? Thanks

    • Robert says:

      JAD.
      If the whole journey is on one ticket, you will be refunded for the whole ticket.
      For EC261 compensation rules, the milage is between the departure airport and arrival airport irrespective of routing. Great Circle Mapper gcmap.com gives your journey a distance of 823 miles

      • JAD says:

        Thanks Robert. Booking is all on one ticket – booked as a return EDI – ARN via LHR.

    • Charlieface says:

      Total distance assuming it’s one journey (that means less than 24hr stopover. And ideally should have a single fare priced together, not as two single fares, although this is not essential I think)

      They may argue EC261 compo doesn’t apply because of Covid19, they would need to prove this is exact case is outside their control)

      • JAD says:

        Thanks Charlieface. Per reply to Robert – the booking is a return – all on one ticket. Can I just ask re ‘Total distance’. Do you mean the same as Robert’s comment above ie distance from start point to destination irrespective of routing. Thanks.

  • AR says:

    Any idea if BA will at least waive change/cancellation fees for flights booked prior to 3 March when entry restrictions prevent one from actually taking the flight? We have a flight LHR-DEL next week and have been in Germany recently, and India is now banning foreigners who have been in Germany since Feb. 1 which means we’ll either be denied boarding or turned away at immigration if we even try to fly…

  • MoJack says:

    Hi guys, havent seen this being addressed so was looking for advice,
    My Virgin flight got cancelled from TLV within 14 days of departure,
    A. am i eligible to claim EC261?
    B. would i be covered with AMEX Plat insurance for any loss e.g. consequential loss for having to book a new potentially more expensive ticket?
    TIA!

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.