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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.

 


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Comments (178)

  • Andy says:

    Why are BA not offering the same for flights booked before 3 March? These flights would have been booked in good faith more likely with no anticipation by the people booking that there would ever be a problem. It seems unfair that they are discriminated against and cannot claim the same benefit – I.e. change of date of travel or voucher for 12 months. BA need to seriously rethink this date range – others like Qatar are offering these two options irrespective of when flights were booked.

  • Lee says:

    Thailand suspends visa on arrival for 19 counties .

  • Lee says:

    USA have banned Europeans to travel to usa from friday for 30 days UK are exempt from the ban .

    • KINGB says:

      BA and Virgin Atlantic are gonna have a ball of a time flying to America!

    • Anna says:

      Apart from UK according to quick internet search – you nearly gave me a heart attack! Though of course Trump could always add us….

      • Simon Shchus says:

        … though only if you haven’t been to the countries in the Shengen Zone 14 days prior (minus US Citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, and immediate family members of US Citizens). Presumably that means UK Citizens who are doing ex-EU from Germany, France, etc. (Those cheap Paris fares assuming you’re booked to fly during the dates that this covers… not sure if any of the Paris fares were for travel in March 2020?).

        • Rhys says:

          Do you have a source for this? I haven’t found any concrete details about the ban.

          • Lyn says:

            New York Times or Washington Post or PBS Newshour web-sites – Trump’s speech was at 9pm eastern time tonight.

          • Rhys says:

            I’ve seen the articles but not finding much info on how the ban will work. (Trying to write this from my phone in a car driving across the Australian countryside is not proving easy…)

          • Lyn says:

            Just the thing to ruin a trip to Australia ….

            In case it is useful, here’s the transcript of Trump’s speech, although of course only a small part is relevant to HfP:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-speech.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

            It shouldn’t be behind a paywall because it relates to the Corona Virus, but ….

            “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.

            There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”

            They also seem to have issued a Global Level 3 Health Advisory Level 3 Reconsider travel, to anywhere it sounds like, but I’m not familiar enough with their Advisories to know how serious this is.

          • Lady Lodon says:

            I feel a bit like that speech may have stopped world trade

          • John says:

            RTE is nervously reporting Trump ban relates to Schengen (although of course that’s not what he said/read from teleprompter amid sniffs).

            Leo Varadkar’s Whitehouse visit will be tricky, if Trump’s somehow managed to ban travel from Ireland but not Northern Ireland and rest of UK.

          • Rhys says:

            Found a DHS statement that confirms it’s only Schengen

          • Lady London says:

            This kind of statement is Trump’s style of reopening trade and tariff negotiations and subsequently securing better access for American producers, right?

            Has he done the same for Asia? Based on his apparently disproportionate targeting of Huawei and the US’s massive appetite for goods from China I’m kinda surprised if he hasn’t made similar announcements for Asia or at least China. Perhaps he’s dealing with one trade bloc at a time?

          • Simon Shchus says:

            Sorry – I am just reading this. It was the DHS and White House statements that I had gotten the information from.

  • Louie says:

    Qatar policy – “Passengers that have booked or will book flights for travel up to 30 June 2020 will be offered the flexibility to change their travel plans free of charge by altering the dates of their booking or exchanging their ticket for a travel voucher valid for one year”. It doesn’t actually say that you could exchange your ticket for a travel voucher to the same value as the cost of your ticket, i.e. whether or not they will charge a fee to do so. Does anyone know either way?

    • Chas says:

      “…change their travel plans free of charge” implies that they won’t charge you a fee for doing so.

      • Lady London says:

        If you just rebook same route to a different date sounds like you keep price protection? Whereas with a voucher more flexible what you rebook but no price protection.

    • Vanessa says:

      I just cancelled with this policy. You need to call them up, then fill in an online refund form with some specific wordings. No cancellation fee, voucher valid for one year from the date it is processed.

  • Oh Matron! says:

    Currently sat on VS3 waiting to go to NYC. Happy that it’s a 350, but really do wished I could have cancelled. It “looks” clean, and, judging by the smears on the window, it’s been cleaned recently, but, judging by the smears, it’s not been cleaned well.

    I’ll be ordering a vodka after take off to use as hand wash….

    Regarding loading: around 92% according to the fsm.

    • Lady London says:

      Hah! Good idea about the vodka.

      Is that the highest proof spirit? I quite like the smell of cognac….

  • Big Dave says:

    trying to change dates for some flights coming up end of month to september (rescheduled event)
    and as I booked befrore 3rd March theres the difference in price plus £60 charge each person

    When I can rebook with easyjet for all of us on the new dates for much less…. if they waived the £60 then we would reschedule with BA

    I am sure if i grovelled to them on the phone they would eventually waive the £60 but I cannot get through the phone line queue is never ending and other things to do…

    So hoping they will cancel – change the waiver period – or chargeback / on the travel insurance

  • JP_MCO says:

    From an email received from VS last night:

    “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).”

    You might want to update the VS policies section of this article to reflect that the waiver now covers redemption bookings made before 4th March too.

  • Jimmy the builder says:

    Meh. Have an ex-muc to clt on Saturday week, aa operated, ba ticket. Waiting for ba to announce their commercial policy on the trump announcement but I reckon my chances of changing this to ex-lon instead of ex-eu are slim; anybody know more?

    • Lady London says:

      Wait for the commercial policy to filter through to agents if you can. I am pretty sure you can change to ex Lon with replacement ticket and am sure ba would rather fly you. Whether they will keep same cost is the issue. If they have to cancel you then it’s in your interest to wait and let things play out if you can as you won’t be fighting a system that hasn’t decided what to do with your flight yet.

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