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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 (June 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

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

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 a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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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.

  • Ellen Rawlinson says:

    This work around is no longer effective.

    I used it 7 days ago and again 2 days ago with no problems. BA sent an email confirming they were processing a refund (although no sign of the money yet obviously!)

    Today I get taken to a new-look page. There’s not even a button for ‘cancel and refund’ anymore; just options to cancel or change. Pressing cancel takes you to the voucher page whether javascript is turned on or off.

    Can’t help but feel that BA are deliberately and systematically making it virtually impossible for me to request the refunds that I am legally entitled to.

  • John says:

    Yes, the workaround doesn’t work any longer. I managed to use it last week and the refund for a cancelled flight is back in my Amex account. However, a later flight has also been cancelled but trying to use the workaround today does not allow me to look at cancellation options any more. BA ought to be ashamed. A national institution, previously of repute, is now a cynical money-grabbing operation trying to fleece its customers. Disgusting.

  • Michael says:

    I agree Michelle. We stand to lose much less money – two flights London to Milan and two flights Venice to London; first flights cancelled and the second two bound to be cancelled.
    It’s the utter cynicism of BA which gets me; years of cost-cutting, a culture of profit before all else, staff and customers, and now this.
    I expect our taxes will bail out their wage bill and their executive salaries (God help us if Cruz pays bonuses too!). But we will remember this treatment. We fly London to Pittsburgh once or twice a year, and BA are the only carrier to fly direct, but next time I will be looking for a different airline.

  • Koala123 says:

    We have 2 (2-4-1) Avios Club World open jaw to Africa in a July and purchased 1 child seat in cash. The booking was then combined into 1 booking number. I have no idea how to obtain a refund. Our travel insurance helpfully doesn’t cover pandemics. We would like to rebook for July 2021. Would it be best to request a voucher? We worked hard to book the Avios seats, ringing the call centre at odd hours so it would be a real shame to lose them. Thank you.

  • esperluette says:

    i cancelled a avios reward flight London- Beijing return booked for June2020 ie well over 24 hours before.I was taken to the voucher page which I reluctantly filled in as there was no other option. A few days later I got an email telling me my flight was NOT eligible for a travel voucher.I was not offered a return of the 132000 avios used , nor of the 575£ taxes paid.The miles had not been credited back either.I have now emailed BAEC but have only received the holding reply.
    I dont think i will be using the BA AMex card or the airline much in future.

    • Luke says:

      They’ve refused to refund your Avios? I’m in the same situation, having requested a credit for an Avios flight booked for September this evening.

      I reluctantly booked this flight after BA refused to refund the £2600 I’d paid for hotel rooms in Dubrovnik next month. BA state that the hotel portion of the booking was not refundable, although if I’d booked directly with Hilton I could have cancelled free of charge.

      I take at least 4 transatlantic flights a month with BA. Not anymore, and my company won’t be keeping BA as our preferred airline either.

      • Rob says:

        In this scenario, your booking is not cancelled. In which case, ring up BA and do a standard Avios cancellation. Everything will be returned.

  • M.cassidy says:

    Have tried numerous times to telephone British Airways for a refund when they answered and I pressed the required buttons they just cut me off. It’s so frustrating this could easily be dealt with online.

  • Laura H says:

    We booked hotels in the Netherlands and the UK using Avios points but our flights to Europe are booked with KLM (Using credit card not Avios), not with BA. Do you think there is any hope of us getting our Avios points refunded or getting a voucher? The hotel reservations are “non-refundable” but given the current situation it is not even possible to get to Europe for the foreseeable future. I’ve emailed BA but will be surprised to get a response.

    • Rob says:

      I’ve not heard of anyone getting an Avios hotel refund unfortunately. It is an Expedia ‘front’ but that makes little difference. Expedia can’t make a hotel change its booking terms. This is what travel insurance is for, to be fair.

      • Laura H says:

        Hi Rob. I do not understand the “Expedia” reference. My husband and I both hold a huge number of Avios points from when we lived in the UK and we booked these hotels via the BA website using Avios points. If BA will not refund or issue a voucher for the points do you think it is worth contacting the hotels directly?

        • Rob says:

          The hotels on the BA Hotels website are provided by Expedia. It is Expedia’s website just with BA branding and charging in Avios rather than cash.

          You’re missing the point though. Expedia / BA Hotels is an agent. They simply book the hotel for you on your behalf. The HOTEL, not the agent, sets the cancellation policy. The agent cannot unilaterally change that policy and refund you, because it has already paid the hotel. The hotel gave you a better price than usual because you agreed your rate was non-refundable.

          This is what travel insurance is for, at the end of the day.

          However, yes, it does no harm to contact the hotel. I can’t see why they would give you a refund – what’s in it for them? – but they might let you change your dates.

          • Laura H says:

            Hi Rob,

            Just an update for anyone in a similar situation. We have now received confirmation directly from Avios that three of our hotel reservations have been cancelled and the Avios points will be refunded. We have three still outstanding but the cancellations seem to be going in order of date of check-in so we are hopeful that in the coming days we will hear about the others.

  • Mark P. says:

    My partner followed the work around instructions & it failed with a voucher being issued. How can we revert & get our money/points back on a BA cancelled flight? Please help!

    • Mark P. says:

      Forgot to advise we tried calling BA now within 72 hours of the flight and they rudely hung up not wishing to hear us out not help at all. Is a formal complaint the only avenue to resolution now?

      • Rhys says:

        Did you select any options? The only way to speak to an adviser is if you DON’T press any numbers when they ask you to! You eventually get the normal BA hold music. I called yesterday and had a response in 15 minutes.

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