Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios flight bookings?

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Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios BA flight bookings?

One topic has dominated my inbox and the HFP comments over the last couple of days – the withdrawal by British Airways of the ability to refund an Avios flight online for cash.

EDIT:  We have a found a way to get around BA’s block and to allow a cash cancellation.  This article shows how.

If you have a British Airways booking made for cash then you can, under the BA ‘Book with Confidence’ guarantee, refund it in return for a British Airways voucher.  This voucher is valid for 12 months from the date of the flight which you had to cancel.

This policy is for people who are holding non-refundable flight tickets.  It has NOTHING to do with Avios bookings.

Any Avios bookings you hold were made under the standard British Airways rules.  These allow you to cancel your flight up to 24 hours before departure in return for a full CASH refund of your taxes and charges, plus the return of your Avios.  A fee of £35 per person is payable.

These rules have not changed, and indeed it is debatable that they could be changed retrospectively.

Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios bookings?

What happens when you try to cancel an Avios booking online?

If you go onto ba.com and try to cancel an Avios redemption, this is the page you are taken to:

Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios bookings?

(If your flight is one which is unlikely to operate, you may not see this.  You may just see your cancellation options greyed out.)

This is the form you fill in to receive credit for a CASH flight.  It is NOT designed to be used by holders of Avios redemptions.

It appears that BA is deliberately trying to encourage holders of Avios tickets to accept a 12-month travel voucher, even though they are legally entitled to a cash refund.

If you ring British Airways, you WILL receive your cash refund.

Unfortunately, you are putting extra pressure on the call centre by doing this and stopping people who need immediate help from getting through.  This is a situation of BA’s own making, however.

People are getting the same problem when a flight is cancelled

I have also heard a similar story from readers whose flights have been cancelled.

Instead of triggering an immediate cash refund, they are directed to the same page on ba.com where they are asked to request the ‘Future Travel Voucher’.

Again, you do NOT need to do this.  If your flight is cancelled and BA only sends you a link to the voucher claim form, you need to get on the phone and request cash instead.

Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios bookings?

There is one caveat to this …..

If you have an Avios booking and you cancel it, you lose any money you have paid for seat reservations.  This could be substantial.

My understanding – although I am not 100% sure about this – is that if you take the travel voucher then it will include a credit for seat reservation fees, either as part of the voucher or as a marker to allow you free seat reservations in the future.

Don’t try to call BA if you can help it

It is frustrating that British Airways is making you call their overrun call centres in order to get the cash refunds to which you are legally entitled.

However …. there is no rush.  Unless you are trying to cancel an Avios booking for immediate travel, there is nothing to lose by holding off.  Once British Airways grounds the bulk of its fleet in the next week or so, there will hopefully be a period when it is easier to get through and fewer people are in need of urgent assistance.

Workaround found! How to trigger an online British Airways flight refund using Google Chrome
Can you claim EC261 compensation due to coronavirus? The EU clarifies your rights

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Comments

  1. I just rang BA to cancel some flights where I selected the 50p plus Avios option (because chance of cancellation even without Avios was high). I know I should wait for the flights to be cancelled, but for £5 (5 people, return), I just wanted to get the Avios back in the account.

    I was told that the policy had changed and that the cancellation costs was now fixed at £35 per person, per flight (so a total of £350 instead of £5!). Did I miss this change? I just cancelled a flight 3 days ago and they only charged me 50p… Surely they can’t change the terms of cancellation for a flight I already booked?!

  2. Will Mellows says:

    We are currently trying to return from Kenya having had our flights at the end of April cancelled. Most of the tickets were on Avios. Trying to do anything online is impossible – its either cancel your flight or request a voucher, the Kenya numbers are “currently out of service”, and I gave up trying the UK call centre after an hour on hold. Emails invite a form response advising you to go online or call – its utterly hopeless. Aren’t our confirmed tickets a contract for them to fly us (at some stage) without a huge cost increase? Can BA really just bump their tickets up from around $400 to $2000-3000 one way?

  3. Michael says:

    I gave up calling BA; better things to do, and emailed the CEO; also sent it signed-for delivery by Royal Mail, requiring and requesting politely but clearly a refund, and mentioning EU261. The issue has just been aired on BBC Breakfast, but no mention of our beloved national airline.

  4. BETH GLAZER says:

    Im trying to cancel some avois flights – usual case is cancel online and they charge you £35 per ticket. They seem to be blocking online refunds and offering voucher. I dont want a voucher – I want my miles and money back.

  5. Roseanna Burns says:

    I booked a flight yesterday evening, so am still in the 24 hours where any flight should be refundable, it’s an Avios booking too, so worst case I should only have to pay the £35 fee. However I cannot do this due to being sent to the voucher page, and of course I can’t get through to CS… I don’t even want to cancel, just need to amend the dates but it also won’t allow me to do this unless I pay £140… Annoying they’ve unnecessarily changed process and in turn added to their call volumes.

  6. I booked flights in December 31st for use on April 9th-21st, for two different family members with part cash , part avios, requested a voucher in march at start of travel restrictions. it took around 2-3 weeks to get the vouchers, i have them so all is well. in that respect.
    The Avios however (72k) have not re-credited to the Executive club account.
    Plus all the flight have nearly doubled in price, so the voucher is relatively useless for re-booking without paying again and acts only as an insult.

    About the Avios;
    I emailed the EXEC club and they said: “Our Executive Club Servicing team do not handle Avios refunds, so you will need to call your nearest Contact Center, the number for which can be found online at ba.com/contactus, who will be happy to help you”.

    Well I cannot get through to the local call center. I appreciate it is not urgent, but, never the less I earned those Avios , they are avoiding contact and pushing up flight prices.

    The policies they have put in place are nothing but a band aid.

  7. Dave C says:

    Do you know what the situation is with companion vouchers? We have two first class flights booked for July that were booked with avios and a companions voucher, and the rest cash. What should I expect in a voucher and is it feasible for me to get a full cash refund?

    • Michelle Vanlint says:

      We had flights booked for the Easter weekend using companion tickets and cash for the taxes. We have been issued vouchers for the cash we paid but I have no idea the amount that the voucher is for as you are only sent a code. When you want to use the vouchers you need to book by phone. I have emailed BA to check the amount of the vouchers in the first instace. It took 2 weeks to reply and now they want to know the billing address of the card I paid with and the last 4 digits. Still no response on whether the companion tickets will be reissued. My feeling is probably no.

      • Your vouchers includes EVERYTHING – you’ll note the voucher number is the same as your old ticket number.

  8. Andy says:

    I to have just tried to cancel flights to Athens in the autumn, using a 2-4-1 voucher. It seems that they will only offer vouchers valid until 2022, and not the Avios refund that we are legally entitled to and they are no longer taking calls on their phone lines about these issues.
    I have around 130,000 Avios, all of which were earned through my own bank account, and spending through their retail partners.
    I even if they refund my Avios, chances are I won’t have any opportunity to spend them.
    I know that this is not of their own making. I know that they are about to make 25% of their staff redundant. I absolutely empathise with everyone affected.
    But that includes their customers, who have stayed loyal to BA when maybe other alternatives might have been better, only because the Avios and 2-4-1 vouchers are a decent perk.

    I think that I have chosen the wrong loyalty scheme…

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