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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)

  • Rob D says:

    Has anybody cancelled a Qatar Airlines flight online as per their voucher refund policy? It says there is a charge for cancelling when I go to do it but that elsewhere on the site they’ll refund that charge. Can you believe it? Have tried calling but lines are too busy and not even connecting right now.

  • Roger says:

    Any news about spain in general and Madrid in particular.

    I am not sure if it is rumours but it seems Madrid may follow Italy and shut down temporarily.

    • Gareth says:

      I’m awaiting the same. Due to fly tmw. In a bit of a standoff with BA – a) because I can’t get through to even talk to them! And b) I think their change fee policy is craven gouging at this juncture.

      Keeping an eye on any info coming out of Madrid

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Doesn’t look good. They’ve just announced that one of the Cabinet members has tested positive and they’re now testing the others.

  • A says:

    So.. I would like to hear your thoughts on flying to Monaco next week… while this craziness is still happening. Been trying to stay as informed as possible, but I haven’t found so far anything worrying about it ? I have the trip already paid with BA, in full, flights and hotel…. they haven’t cancelled my flight so by all means it seems it’s ok to go ahead with it… but I’m more concerned about not being able to come back after… or well be let in at Heathrow lol. I hold an EU pass but live in London.

    What do you guys think? is it too risky to fly now when so many things are changing on a daily basis because of the virus madness or… ? I haven’t been on a flight since dec, and this was supp to be the first holiday of the year…

  • Lee says:

    Liverpool victoria has stopped selling travel insurance.

    • Anna says:

      So many people have rung in to programs featuring Martin Lewis etc and said they have trips booked but no insurance!

      • Lady London says:

        Guilty as charged. I take annual travel insurance most of the time but if there’s a gap in work I renew as and when I book a longhaul flight ut that’s triggered as soon as I book a long haul flight. Looking at next long haul, but hadn’t gotten round to renewing. That will teach me.

        The howls of BA gouging on change fees when there’s currently no official reason backing people’s (understandable) disinclination to fly don’t get my sympathy because I don’t want to fly several booked trips this month and April and May but I regard it as fully my fault for not renewing my insurance.

        There will be price gouging on fare prices for flights people haven’t booked yet as soon as airlines are able to officially be backed to cancel lots of other flights. I thank heavens I do have a lot of existing bookings on flights which now cost 10 or 20 times as much to those who have to travel. I’m viewing what I paid as the option price for the right to travel on that flight and know it’s my own decision to walk away and lose that price if I don’t want to fly now. Not insured and I’m an adult but at least I did some planning and bought the options.

  • JRich says:

    BA now has a waiver in place for flights to from the US as of 11am UK time. I was re-booked from March 14 to June 9 between London and New York same cabin (Club World) for free. Re-routing wasn’t available. Not sure how far out you can push the flights, but they will re-issue tickets that were coming close to their one year expiry (where as they weren’t willing to do that beforehand).

    • JRich says:

      Seems you can push flights out to AUG 01 at the latest.

      • Lady London says:

        Niiiice. I should have gotten round to booking my next trip to the US. Lucky people who did. There’s a silver lining in every cloud 🙂

  • Linda says:

    I have a BA Amex 241 voucher due to expire 27th March, contacted BA to ask if possible to extend validity after reading that some HFP readers had some success with this….sadly received email today advising me it will not be extended 🙁 ….Can I ask those who have been granted extension, how did they manage it? Does it depend on status?

    • Anna says:

      I think extensions have been given to pax who had already booked flights. When exactly were you going to use your voucher if it expires in 2 weeks?!

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Looks like BA is no loading the summer timetable cancellations:

    My 1st April EDI-LHR LHR-ZRH has now been cancelled.

    Good news for me – the air show I was going to was cancelled a few weeks ago.

    • Lady London says:

      Good one. This is why it’s best to wait. If it had been me I would have looked at a break in Interlaken area instead.

  • Martin Weaver says:

    BA Update:
    “To allow greater flexibility, we are enabling customers to change their destination, date of travel, or both for free, on all new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Sunday 31 May 2020, as well as any existing bookings that depart up to Sunday 31 May 2020. Find out more.”
    https://ba.com/confidence

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