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

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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

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British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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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:

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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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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)

  • Gráinne says:

    Just got an email from VS about how they clean their planes, with this at the end:
    “We are confident that these measures will ensure your protection and would like to re-iterate that it is safe to fly. In order to give you added flexibility and peace of mind, we are waiving change fees for bookings made before 4th March 2020 for travel between 1st March 2020 and 30th April 2020 (including Flying Club redemption bookings). Travel can be rebooked between 9th March 2020 and 30th September 2020*. Click here for more details.”

  • Gulz says:

    Got an email from VS (also confirmed on their website). “No change fees policy for all bookings made prior to 4th March 2020 for travel until 30 April 2020. This means that if your plans do need to change, you can switch your flight to a later date with no penalty. Rebooked flights will be subject to availability and any difference in fare. You can also choose to re-route on a Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Atlantic Codeshare flight to or from your original destination, or rebook to or from another destination.
    Travel must be completed on or before 30th September 2020.”

    The email also confirms that this is applicable to both cash and redemption bookings

  • Simon says:

    BA seems to have cancelled an incredible number of flights, the result of which is the prices have gone sky high. e.g on March 26th, a one way from LHR – Frankfurt costs £551 in economy.

    • Rob says:

      This is the new strategy. Since few people want to fly, you screw the ones who MUST fly for the maximum possible.

      Wait until half the schedule is pulled.

      • Rob says:

        Hi Rob
        Fully agree for short haul.
        Long Haul premium cabins will still be empty, so some very low fares and generous reward availability should be around for a while longer.

      • Anna says:

        This is one benefit of having to book everything 11 months out!

      • Lady London says:

        Who knows : the big airlines may even make a profit out of this.

        Perfect excuse to cut rotations that don’t make them enough money? Not obliged to fly lighter loaded planes any more as a condition of keeping their slots?

        And the most joyous thing of all being their smaller plucky competition also has a very high chance of finally disappearing.

        Win Win for the likes of BA.

        I think 10% of their slots should be confiscated at LHR and allocated on advantageous terms permanently to airlines within a smaller size range.

    • Lady London says:

      They’re not the only one. Watched another one do this for past 12 days or so.

      It priced go through the roof then lots of business won’t get done.

  • Coucou says:

    Have a flight with Austrian to Vienna for the marathon and hotel booked with rocketmiles (non-refundable). Now, the marathon has been cancelled – any chance of recouping costs?

    Thanks,

    C

    • Mark says:

      Highly unlikely unless you have specialist insurance. Why not take the opportunity for a short break instead?

      • Coucou says:

        Thanks Mark.

        That is still an option. I have annual standard cover insurance by CoverForYou (underwritten by AXA) and I’m assuming they will not cover.

        I’m wondering if I can initiate a charge back for the marathon entry fee (£99) at least.

        C

        • Mark says:

          Yes, if the organiser is refusing to refund it.

        • Mark says:

          Probably also worth bearing in mind… things are changing quickly, so if the travel advice changed for Austria or any of your flights were cancelled that may change things between now and when you’re due to go. It would be worth checking the details of your policy (and/or talking to your insurer) to understand what your options are regarding the hotel, should the flights be cancelled and if you decide to go anyway be aware of your options before committing to any further non-refundable costs.

  • Gulz says:

    In other news, India has suspended all existing visas (except diplomatic, official, etc) between 13th March and 15th April

    • Aliks says:

      15th April ??? No mention of that date in the official announcement

  • Aliks says:

    Apologies if already answered.
    What is the situation on Lloyds vouchers and BA 2 for 1 Vouchers. I have return flights to India booked for April and September this year – the Lloyds voucher had to be booked by 31/12/19, and the BA voucher flown by 30/09/20.

    Are they likely to extend the booking/flying period at all?

    • Anna says:

      There have been reports of people getting extensions on contacting BA/Avios.

  • eli says:

    London to Tel Aviv appears to be reduced to one flight a day till 28 March where it goes back to the regular three. as of now that is

  • DK says:

    Apologies if wrong place to ask. I have just joined BA executive club and am taking business flights from london to madrid to bogota with Iberia. At what point will I earn 25% bonus on avios? I will go from 0–>40–>180 tier points outbound and 180–>320–>360 inbound which should achieve bronze status.

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