Virgin Atlantic offers incentives to rebook flights, Aer Lingus gives a 10% bonus and Lufthansa offers €50 – will BA follow suit?

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Now that the majority of flights are grounded, different airlines are choosing different strategies on how they try and retain future customer bookings.

(We are not, for once, talking about the ‘strategy’ of denying customers their legal right for a full refund on cancelled flights, which is what many airlines are doing.)

Whilst British Airways outlined its ‘Book With Confidence’ policy fairly early on in the crisis, it has now been leapfrogged by other airlines who are offering considerably better options for customers.

Virgin Atlantic bonus for taking coronavirus travel voucher

Virgin Atlantic has launched a range of incentives to encourage people to rebook for a future date with the airline, rather than take a refund or voucher.

A reader, Minhaal, got in touch to say he had been offered a choice of three things if he moved the date of his booking in late March, rather than taking a cash refund.

This was a targetted offer so if you have a Virgin Atlantic booking in the next month or two you may have received a similar incentive by text or email. This is what Minhaal was offered:

  • 4,000 bonus Flying Club miles per person per flight, or
  • a free upgrade to Economy Delight, or
  • a £25 cash gift card per person

It’s not clear whether you get 4,000 bonus miles per flight booking or per segment. We also don’t know what passengers with tickets in Premium and Upper Class have been offered.

As a reminder, this was a targeted offer and you may not receive one yourself if you have an existing Virgin Atlantic cash booking.

Other airlines are taking different approaches

The incentive for airlines to offer a change of date or issue a voucher is clear – it improves their liquidity.

BA’s sister arline Aer Lingus is offering passengers booked before 31st May the option of taking a cash voucher.  This includes all taxes and charges as well as ancillary spending such as seat reservation and baggage fees.  The voucher is valid for 5 years – far more generous than BA’s 12 months validity.

Crucially, the Aer Lingus voucher comes with a 10% bonus.  If you were due €1,000 back, you will receive a five-year credit worth €1,100.

This mirrors the recent Lufthansa announcement that it would offer an extra 50 to anyone retaining their booking as credit.

The five year validity of the Aer Lingus voucher offers exceptional flexibility as long as you are willing to take a punt on Aer Lingus making it through this crisis.  Even if you aren’t planning on rebooking in the short or medium term, five years is long enough to make 10% bonus worth considering.

If you have a booking with Aer Lingus, I would consider taking the voucher.  It is a risk assessment you will have to make, but 10% is attractive enough to warrant consideration.  I think that the Irish Government would stand behind the airline if it was about to fail, given its strategic importance.

British Airways would do well to follow in Virgin Atlantic’s and Aer Lingus’ footsteps.  Instead of blocking cash refunds of Avios tickets online and offering travel vouchers with 12 months validity it should be offering better incentives for existing customers to retain their bookings.

A lot of British Airways passengers retain goodwill towards the airline and would happily take a voucher or rebooking if there was some incentive.  However strong your love of the airline, it is simply irrational to take a voucher when you can get an identical amount of cash.

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  1. Saga cancelled my mum’s holiday to Crete at the end of April. They’ve offered a full cash refund or a voucher worth £100 more than her booking for a flight+hotel or £400 more if it is a cruise booking. Both valid for 12 months from original booking

    What is quite a good idea is they say don’t call us we will call you to discuss your options meaning they are dealing in turn with the most urgent cases first.

    Thus far I’ve advised my mum to take a full cash refund as you never know if Saga will survive and prices are very likely to increase as they try to recoup losses.

  2. Anyone know if AF/KLM are offering anything similar? The closure of LCY will definitely result in some of my flights being either cancelled or moved to Heathrow and would be good to know my options.

    • We got a refund last week agreed for a KLM routing where the first flight was cancelled. They did try to insist on us taking a voucher but we persisted.

    • Stuart says:

      I, on the other hand, could not get KL to give a refund. No matter how much I persitted due to a cancelled flight. Have raised an AMEX UK dispute. Having Flying Blue Platinum status makes no difference in their attitude.

      • It was the Platinum line which we called (other half is Platinum for Life). But we have another one which has just been cancelled so maybe won’t be so lucky when we seek a refund for that one.

  3. I phoned up + cancelled with KLM on Tuesday. I should get a voucher/s which is valid until 23/3/2021 (nothing yet). The flight booking, and also seat booking (if paid for), come on different vouchers apparently. The agent told me that if this voucher isn’t used by 24/3/2021, I can then exchange it for cash. I don’t have this in writing though.

  4. Wouldn’t some customers just book and immediately cancel for 110% credit, meaning BA is just undercutting themselves later? Hardly the most efficient way of doing it.

    Also, airlines are lobbying hard to get the ‘must give refunds’ rule relaxed. France and Spain are supporting their airlines in this – it’s a relatively cheap way of propping them up. Get all refunds requests in now before it’s too late.

    • If you look at the package holiday rule changes, this will only happen IF the Government agrees to guarantee the vouchers. It is about to guarantee to underwrite vouchers issued by travel agents and package holiday companies.

  5. Has anyone worked out what happens with AL when you have a cash ticket but upgraded it with Avios to Business Class? (Yes I actually managed to upgrade a transatlantic return)

    Would I get a refund of the Avios + 110% of the cash ticket as a voucher?

  6. It’s probably been mentioned somewhere and I missed it, but looks like Virgin have extended validity of their companion/upgrade vouchers too now.

  7. the trouble is that you don’t know whether the airline you originally booked with will actually operate the route / date that you want in future – the airlines may reduce or change their schedules as they eventually get back to operating flights

    you also don’t know whether they will be offering sensible prices for when you want to fly. especially if they come back with a slimmed down schedule to keep up their prices. so if you have £500 voucher with BA and they want £700 for the new flight, but Virgin only want £500 for a similar flight – you’re going to be pretty pissed off.

    surely you will need to be offered a pretty large “bonus” in order to make a voucher more attractive than a cash refund ?

  8. American Airlines were pretty good at giving me a cash refund for some upcoming flights (LAX–LHR, LHR–JFK, and LAX–AUS return) when I rang up earlier in the week. When my girlfriend called to do the same with an upcoming flight, she was offered the choice of a) cash, or b) a voucher plus a guarantee that if she rebooked the same route (LAX–LHR return) within 12 months the price would be fixed at the price she originally paid (which was already pretty low as it was booked well in advance). She took the second option—I maintain she should have gone for the cash—but this was the first time I’d heard of that particular incentive being offered.

  9. I know most HFP readers wouldn’t be caught dead in a Travelodge, but… they’re offering cash refunds on non-refundable bookings or a 25% bonus on a voucher.

    • Why’s that? I’ve been in a Hilton that was worse than all seven of the Travelodges I’ve stayed.

  10. I booked a return Virgin Atlantic flight from LHR – SFO, and then Dulles back to LHR.
    I flew the outbound flight to the USA (SFO) and my return is meant to be from Dulles to LHR, but Virgin cancelled my return journey, which was a direct flight.
    Unfortunately I booked this all through Opodo, despite Virgin emailing me with details of a flight they’ve rebooked me on (2 flights so indirect, and going through JFK) and saying I can rebook online if it’s not suitable (which I am unable to). I tried to contact Opodo to see what my options were, but they are so busy I just can’t reach anyone. Does anyone know if I am still entitled to a partial/full refund, or rebooking by Virgin? As they cancelled my original flight – the rebooked flight is no longer suitable, and i’d like to either 1) fly from another airport, SFO or 2) get a full refund and book for myself.
    thanks all

  11. Expedia decided to automatically issue me with a credit for my cancelled Lufthansa flight. Given LH cancelled it I want my money back instead, but trying to get through to Expedia is a nightmare – when I finally spoke to someone they then put me on hold and I ended up back in the queue!

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