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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.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (July 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points AND (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel Read our full review

Run your own business?

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.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (258)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Gigi says:

    Booked direct with BA a flight this morning to get home from MNL-MAN (CX and BA mix). Got a message an hour later from a friend saying no transits through HKG tomorrow. Contact BA – won’t do a damn thing. Email from Cathay saying to contact who I booked with as “We are waiving all cancellation and refund fees for all bookings impacted by this new regulation”. I’ll be getting rid of my OneWorld membership.

  • Wayne Gallaway says:

    Thanks for all the insight.

    Last Monday, went into the BA app to what what my cancellations options were for a Avios flight with BA Companion voucher to the Seychelles on the Saturday, as the Seychelles had just banned EU visitors. Rather than giving me my options and refund value on the next page, it just said it was cancelled. I have received an email saying it was cancelled, but have not had the £1100+ or 150,000 Avios refunded?? I called BA and they said I was getting a voucher and could book under the same booking reference within the next 12 months and to check my email. I didn’t get a message saying I was getting a voucher so was confused.

    It’s been a week and I have heard nothing from BA, so currently have no refund, no returned Avios, no new voucher and no email. Starting to get concerned…..

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi 🙁 this doesn’t work anymore. It just asked for credit card and then never actually takes you to another page.

    • Sue says:

      If you are talking about the hack. I also found that they gave patched it. Plus was not at all clear how it would work as I booked return flight later on a different credit card so could not risk it.

      I finally got through to BA and they point blank REFUSED to refund me. Told me I had to call again 72 hours prior to departure date.

      As that is Easter weekend I very much doubt I will get through.

      I am hopping mad that BA are blocking my legal right to refund and will be unlikely to retain my loyalty to them in the future.

      If anyone knows what else I can do to secure my refund info would be gratefully received

      • Shoestring says:

        go to https://headforpoints.com/2020/03/19/how-to-trigger-an-online-avios-flight-refund-using-google-chrome/

        you can’t cancel for a refund unless you are logged in

        please follow my instructions very closely on a laptop/ PC

        quick reminder: most people failing forget an important step (Enter or restart Javascript)
        Full sequence:
        Google Chrome
        MMB, logged in as a/c holder who paid
        Find booking (put in reference & name)
        Turn off Javascript
        Click ‘Cancel & refund flights’
        New page ‘Are you a passenger on this flight?’
        Turn Javascript back on
        Tick ‘No’
        Hit Enter button
        New page ‘Error please enter a valid email address’
        A new option now appears below ‘Are you a passenger on this flight?’
        New option is ‘Did you pay for this booking’, tick yes
        Fill in details to claim refund

        • bagus says:

          Is this still be working? I followed your steps using Chrome but it wasn’t succesfull . FYI, in MMB there’s no “cancel and refund” option, only cancel booking and change booking only. Tried press the cancel booking button and followed your steps but it didnt work. Any tips or maybe you have the video to do that? thanks

        • Bagus says:

          This webform link from headpoint is also doesnt work anymore now. It will redirect to future travel form 🙁

  • Brendan says:

    I had a reward flight saver booked from LCY to LIN that was cancelled. Stupidly I just followed the link to the claim voucher page and filled in the form. Does this mean I will receive a voucher for the taxes I paid (£15), and the 4000 or so Avios returned to my account?

  • Emma Longrigg says:

    I’ve booked a reward flight £1,000 cash and 220,000 Avios and a companion voucher. They are only offering me a voucher to the ‘value of cash plus Avios’. What are they valuing Avios at? It’s disgusting they are shoe horning everyone to get a voucher and there is no transparency about what value you will actually receive.

  • Kevin Willers says:

    I’m finding the workaround isn’t working. BA have greyed out the cancellation links.

    I just tried calling BA – message says they have consolidated their call centres and suggest only call if travelling withing 72 hours. Mine’s a companion flight in April so I will hold off for now.

    I would be interested to hear if anyone is able to use the workaround – maybe it’s just me doing something wrong (Chrome browser)

    • Rob says:

      My SanFran flight was like this last week, before it got cancelled. The cancellation link came back eventually and the next day the flights were cancelled. If they are officially cancelled, and you’ve had the email, you can cancel using the 2nd route at the bottom of the article.

  • Alex Jewhurst says:

    Wish I had seen this article before. We had Avios flights booked to New York on 10th April which were cancelled and BA sent us a voucher email with 3 codes. No idea of the value.
    We paid out £2100 in taxes and 170000 avios and a companion voucher for 3 buisness class seats. Any idea if we can get these back now that they have issued a vocuher? Any idea of the value of these vouchers?!

    • Rob says:

      That’s bizarre – I thought the email told you what they were worth?! The Avios and 241 should be back in your BA account.

      • Alex Jewhurst says:

        nope, just a very generic email with three voucher codes and instructions to call them when you want to redeem! Nothing back in my BA account either.

        What really galls me is that I went to cancel the flights myself but got distracted by a phone call mid-process then when I went back to do it, BA had removed the ability to cancel online. Now got this faff to deal with (appreciate we’re lucky we’re not actually stranded abroad somewhere though)…

  • Sue says:

    Am I reading this correctly that with an Avios 241 voucher I could get a cash refund of the taxes, my voucher and my Avis returned, , but I would have to pay them £35 per person.

    If the taxes for the flight are £70 for 2 people then wouldn’t a voucher for 2 be better? Sorry if I am missing something.

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