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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.


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Comments (258)

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

  • Cwyfan says:

    If you take the voucher, and it is based upon a lloyds free upgrade voucher, does anybody know what the voucher allows you to rebook, for instance same class, different destination, or do I need to go through avios in some way?

    I too believe it is unreasonable to make us call an already busy call centre. I makes BA look like they neither care about staff or customers, when they will need us both after this.

    • Iain says:

      Yes it would be useful to have some clarity on this.

      An historic Lloyd’s Avios article had comments which mentioned this is manually processed and some people received the full Avios back ie club world equivalent when having booked an upgrade from prem economy.

  • Michael C says:

    I rang about cancelling my avios booking to Japan next week as, again, only saw the voucher online.
    The person dealing with me also only offered the voucher. When I said “But can’t I just cancel like a normal avios ticket for 35 GBP each?”, he said, “Well, yes…you could do that, too”.

    He was insisting on the cancellation fee (in fact, asking for 50 GBP to include “service”), so I said wasn’t that just making people wait for the cancellation?

    Long story short, cancellation email arrived an hour later.

  • Genghis says:

    I don’t think the exam question was quite answered. So “Why is British Airways deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios flight bookings?

    Deliberate ploy to keep cash or “IT error”?

    • memesweeper says:

      The jury is out given the behaviour is inconsistent on different apps/browsers/platforms.

      When they fix *that* we’ll know what they were trying to do. For the time being I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Dave Barron says:

    This is exactly the position I’m in. We have an Avios booking on 3rd April from Newcastle to Chicago via Heathrow. The booking was made last summer using 92k Avios, two 241 vouchers, plus £1152 in “taxes”/fees. The flights have yet to be cancelled by BA and Manage My Booking still show them as scheduled. Reviewing the schedules BA appears to be cancelling 4 out of the 5 daily flights to Chicago (retaining the mid day flight presumably for US nationals returning home). Currently I can verify this on BA.com up to a week in advance but my scheduled flights are just over 2 weeks away. In terms of the domestic leg most flights are still running at present.

    My legal right is cancel up to 24 hours prior to departure if flights are cancelled for a full refund but I can’t yet request this as they’re not cancelled. For now I’m not prepared to cancel and be subject to the £35 per person fee (£140 loss for the 4 of us) so based on what I’m currently witnessing on BA.com I’m waiting until flights are officially cancelled approximately 7 days before departure – this will legally entitle me to a 100% refund of Avios, Cash element plus also return my two 241 vouchers (one of my which ordinarily would be close to expiry and the other which has approx 12 months validity left – although based on advice on HFP I would expect one or both of them to be extended).

    Since my booking was made last summer the taxes/fees element for these flights have changed and today would cost me approximately £200 more. I presumed if I rebooked for a future date I wouldn’t be charged more although given a future suitable date for us to go the the US (even if planes fly) would now be in the summer which would constitute peak Avios pricing and based on the terms of my original booking would result in an increased Avios fare as current tickets were booked as an Off Peak fare.

    I’ve decided to wait an get a 100% refund next week rather than a reduced refund now or a voucher. No doubt I will need to call BA to get it which is frustrating (particular given that only a week ago BA cancelled my domestic departure before the travel ban hit and despite then offering me a full refund online I opted to call them and rebook to an earlier domestic connection – being proactive a week ago is now delaying my refund!)

    The airline industry globally is in its knees but hopefully will bounce back as normality returns. I expect taking a longer term view the government will support the industry by abolishing Air Passenger Duty for a period – this theoretically could mean for example an Avios booking in 12 months time for example would be cheaper anyway. All theoretical of course but like I say personally I’d rather see my 100% refund now and review other options later down the line.

    Good luck folks and don’t be railroaded by BA (or others) denying you your rights.

    • Dave Barron says:

      P.S. Thanks to Rob and HFP – brilliant site.

      • Shoestring says:

        if flights get cancelled you have the right to be re-ticketed at no cost to yourself

        • Dave Barron says:

          My understanding is if the flights are cancelled and changed by me from the existing off peak tickets to peak tickets (e.g August) I would need to pay the increased Avios but there would be no change to charges applied?

          • Shoestring says:

            yes if you are choosing a much later date

            but if you had a non-peak date & that flight got cancelled, & the next possible date were peak, you wouldn’t in theory have to pay the difference

        • Dave Barron says:

          Thanks for your clarification Shoestring.

          • Dave Barron says:

            Just to confirm BA officially cancelled my Avios booking Thursday afternoon so I immediately called them. After a 15 minute wait I got through to a very helpful and friendly advisor who ordinarily was based at their Warrington call centre but was actually working from home.

            Full refund requested and advised to allow up to 10 working days to credit my Amex account. Avios were refunded immediately and to show in my account. My 2x 241 vouchers will apparently reappear in my account within 24-72 hours following manual intervention and advisor states they would in due course be extended if necessary.

            I really can’t praise the advisor enough and look forward to monies hitting my account soon.

  • Paul says:

    Yes this does indeed seem to be a deliberate policy. They are also dragging their heals on cancelling services they know today have no chance of operating.

    I am due to fly to IAH in 2 week returning from a PHL 10 days later. They have known for a week that neither IAH nor PHL are on the list of 13 entry points but have not cancelled he outbound service but have cancelled the return. MMB tells me to call and I do not get the option of a voucher, not that I would touch that.

  • Alex says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but if I access the cancellation option in Manage My Booking via my laptop, I get the voucher page. If I access via my iPhone using the safari browser, I get the avios cancellation page and can cancel for the avios + taxes? So the ones where I wanted to cancel (flight to South Africa) I could do this without calling BA, and got my 2for1 voucher, avios and cash back already. The one where I called up to cancel (imminent flight to US), I got my 2for1 and points back, but still waiting for refund from BA. Charged the £35pp fee in both cases.

  • Karen says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I just today went online to cancel several avios bookings in May and got the voucher page.

  • memesweeper says:

    OT: no bits (and a similar situation)

    I have a hotel booking in a few weeks in a hotel in France that is part of a small chain, and closed.

    I emailed to ask for my money back, they have offered a voucher, I have asked again for my money back and they have not replied. Next step is S75 via Amex I guess, but how long do I leave it? Will Amex need me to wait for the date of the booking to pass without the hotel being open? Or is their email saying it is closed on my dates now sufficient?

    • Genghis says:

      I put my first “Corona” dispute in with Amex on Tue night for something for today which had been cancelled and it was approved immediately with case closed. Never had that before. They didn’t even ask for supporting evidence.

      • Crafty says:

        How much money? Most of my Amex chargebacks have been for small amounts (sub-£20) and were approved without any checks. I think it’s a risk based approach, which is very sensible.

        • Genghis says:

          Only a tenner. When I’ve done similar amounts in the past they have gone for review. A risk based approach makes sense.

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

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