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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.

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.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

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.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

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Comments (259)

  • Phil G says:

    My booking shows BA have cancelled the outbound flight of my late April avios booking but not the inbound. They are telling me to call them for my options. No rebooking options
    BA (and their blinkered supporters) cannot moan about how busy staff are when they do this

  • Coume says:

    Is you take a voucher for Avios booking, if assume you get the cash part back as voucher and the avios refunded? Or do they simply give a voucher for the cash and you lose the avios? It is not explained anywhere.

    • Shoestring says:

      people have said you do not get the Avios back but that they are held in suspense ready for you to use the voucher + Avios

  • Frank Swemer says:

    I cancelled our JAL booking for flights yesterday on Monday morning, the 16th.

    At that time the cancellation process worked the normal way and received the Avios refund plus tax refund minus £70 for 2. The tax refund had already credited to my Amex.

    It seems that BA is trying to hang on to cash, which makes sense for them, but not for the customer.

  • Ceri Chaplin says:

    I cancelled avios (and 2 for 1) flights booked for the beginning of April on Sunday. Had email confirmation but no refund of either avios or cash/taxes yet. Presume it’s too do with volume of work. Not planning on calling at this stage as think I may have a long wait!

  • John Pagani says:

    I’ve not called in respect of regret situation and I’m truly a BA fan but holding back my taxes and continuation of inflicting fees for Avios bookings just leaves me feeling sick. I’m sorry but I’ll be on the phone today!

  • Dina says:

    I’m just appalled by BA at the moment. They haven’t officially cancelled my flight despite on leg going via JFK. I understand the load on them – I work in the hotel sector myself – but the lack of comms and clarity here is just shocking. Paying £7k in flights .. surely not something we can just let go of!

  • david says:

    I booked a one way LHR-ATH for £17.50 and avios for 03 April. Flight still not cancelled. If I ask for a refund will I be charged a fee as its less than £35? and receive my avios back?

    “This is a situation of BA’s own making” well put Rob.

    • Jonathan says:

      No, cancellation fees are capped at the cash you’ve already paid. Fees are actually £17.50 each way so you will get no cash back just the Avios. (If you had paid more Avios & less cash then fee would be lower.)

  • Dawn says:

    Sort of O/T I’m in Australia and not due to fly to UK until 21 April with Qantas. But today Qantas announced they are suspending all international flights at the end of March (no exact date given) until the end of May. The only email I’ve received says we can get a voucher – not much use to me as it only lasts until next January 2021. Now to decide whether to stay here and overstay the 90 days as we can’t fly anywhere to activate a new 90 days. Or fly back to UK by end of March if we can get on a flight. It’s safer here as not so many cases of COVID-19. Not sure if Qantas will give a cash refund and trying to contact Flight Centre as we booked through them for this multi city trip.

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