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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.

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.

Comments (259)

  • 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.

  • Asif Sadikot says:

    Before our flights were cancelled, we were offered a Future Travel Voucher which we thought would be the only option, i.e. no refunds available but soon after we applied for the voucher our flights were cancelled which meant we would be a allowed a full refund.

    Having spoken to BA, they are saying that as we applied for and received a Future Travel Voucher we cannot change this for a refund. The Future Travel Voucher is very limited as you can only book by calling BA so I would prefer a refund for taxes, a companion ticket and air miles.

    Do you have any information on how to deal with this situation?

  • Matt Churchill says:

    We’ve an Amex 2-4-1 first class booking for May, which currently remains in place. We’ve not got an issue in taking a travel voucher as opposed to a cash refund – would I be right in thinking that the travel voucher include enable us to replicate our trip, so include money, miles and the 2-4-1?

  • Michael Buckley says:

    What a way to treat its customers, I’m one of the many by the look of it. Our Avios points return flight from Phoenix to London was cancelled by BA! After trying to contract BA WITH 118 phone calls, and also being disconnected by BA when pressing the options 1 & 3 . We managed to book another Avios points from Los Angeles for the same date without the help of BA! We managed to get an answer to the call centre, and requested a refund. I was told that would be sorted out but would lose my Avios point as it was pass the date of travel, only because no one would answer my 118 calls?
    Received a email yesterday saying I wasn’t entitled to a voucher and my tickets was classed as open? We are booked and paid for a trip to Phoenix on June 15th so wish us luck!
    MAYBE WE NEED A CLASS ACTION AGAINST BA TO GET OUR LEGAL RIGHT OF A REFUND?

  • PC says:

    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?!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.