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. Turkish are offered 10,000 bonus miles for every 10 euros of ticket value, which seems extraordinarily generous. Unless they follow it up with an instant devaluation of their programme…I have a ticket worth about 900 euros in April, so I guess that’s 90,000 Turkish miles for me?

  2. Cwyfan says:

    It would be neat if there was a bonus for avios bookings too.

  3. Nicola Walton says:

    We have a flight booked through Virgin on. Delta flight to New Orleans out on 9th April we were originally catching a cruise on 12 April which was cancelled so we changed our return flight to 13April, we had booked premium economy tickets, we were charged £720 to change our tickets which we did 2 days before they said there would be no charge to do so. This was a trip for and on my birthday. We are still waiting for the flights to show as cancelled and we do not want vouchers or a future flight before next April. Are we entitled to a refund? And will we get it all back including the flight change cost? It’s about £3k in total with the change cost.

    • Shoestring says:

      You wouldn’t be entitled to a full refund until the outward flight gets cancelled (provided outward and return legs are on the same ticket), though if you are not allowed to fly outward, that might help. Was your £700 the change fee and / or fare difference? Maybe both – I don’t think you’d get back the change fee though you never know – but the fare difference, yes you’d get that back.

      Did you pay on *credit* card over £100 each? Because then if you’re forbidden to fly, you’d also be covered by Section 75 protection (which is why the credit card cos are holding back so much of the airlines’ cash).

  4. Lochlann says:

    30% off voucher for future booking from LOT – definitely a major factor in rebooking over a refund

  5. It will be interesting to see how airlines and hotels emerge from all this. Corporate travel may never fully recover as companies will have become accustomed to doing business without the need for face to face meetings so may rely less on travel in future. Alternatively, it could go the other way as business makes a huge effort to get the economy growing again. For leisure travellers ongoing fear of the virus, cancelled flights, and being stranded overseas might mean it takes a long time to rebuild customer confidence. Alternatively, everybody might be so desperate to get away we could see panic buying come to the travel industry. Incentives like those described in the article will give the industry some clues as to the scope and scale of the challenge they face but it is probably a bit too early, I doubt there is any incentive that would make some book future travel at the moment. The time to hit the market with these incentives will probably best be when cases and deaths start falling in most countries.

    • Spursdebs says:

      Speaking only for myself I’ve got leisure trips booked end of September beginning of November middle of January. Prepared for September to be cancelled might cry if I lose November, if I don’t get January I will proper upset. But all booked on points 1 241 used end of world I’m in for 5 lots of fees and taxes and approx 300k points. Won’t be happy obviously to lose any money or points but it was an acceptable risk for me. I just wanted us to have something nice to look forward to with so much worry and stress around it’s important to try and have a light at end of tunnel to think about.

      • Cancelled our summer trip to Japan/Thailand for a refund. Kept our Xmas/NY trip in place. Hopefully we will still have opportunity to go someplace before then but not really expecting it.

        • Spursdebs says:

          Well as you know BJ my big trip to Japan was cancelled, then this week Norway got pulled as well.
          I wanted to use my 241 before it ran out next feb ( before extensions were issued) so booked for ex daughter in law and my Grandson for Jan. September was booked because I really wanted November but no availability with points, so booked that. Then November dates became available and I booked them. All to UAE all for purposes of resting and being looked after all to same Waldorf at Ras al Khaimah but I like hotel, it suits my mobility or lack of mobility needs . I’ve had to come to terms that globetrotting to fab places and seeing lots of different things is probably over.

          • Hope things settle and something works out for you sooner than later so you get the break you deserve after multiple disappointments.

        • I would be prepared to take a deep breath and pay Xmas hotel prices if that was the only option but my OH is already rostered to work Xmas week and no chance whatsoever of changing that 😢

          • Mikeact says:

            We’re holding out for 2xJ on the Qantas non stop to Perth any time after Christmas, and then 4wheel drive up the West coast.

      • Michael C says:

        Totally agree, Debs – reserved a late “fall leaves” trip, can always get vouchers back.

      • Shoestring says:

        WHO is advising that once Covid-19 is widely being spread in the community, then cancelling flights makes almost zero difference to transmission rates unless a country ring-fenced itself in very early on

        so for N America, most of Europe – there’s actually no logical point in keeping flights banned from a Covid-19 point of view, though of course commercially it’s completely different as flying empty planes is suicide

        [This is all because the barriers are going up right around the world, even though the World Health Organisation says once you’ve got local transmission there is no point having international travel bans.]

        so Donald Trump saying he’s going to push for 12th April to re-open for business may sound stupid on the face of it but he has a point, endorsed by WHO, who go on to say that no-fly policy can do more harm than good

        • Problem is, is anyone’s travel insurance going to cover for COVID-19 now?

          • Spursdebs says:

            No is my guess and I’m sure future polices will have a pandemic clause in them.

          • Got an email from Nationwide stating they would not cover Covid-19 for any bookings made from 18 March.

        • I think the logic is all about limiting mortality and managing strain on health services. Apart from that it could probably be business as usual. One plus out of these dark times is that hopefully our health service and many others will emerge better able and equipped to deal with acute care needs in the future.

          • Spursdebs says:

            I’m hoping people will emerge being able to adapt and think outside the box a bit more, instead of being spoon fed their lives. But more chance of Spurs winning a cup than that happening. Lol

          • Spursdebs says:

            I couldn’t believe it when I heard on TV someone complaining about being 2 meters apart as they didn’t know how long that was. 🙄 Did so many of these my eyes nearly got stuck.

          • Shoestring says:

            silver lining as in Mourinho has just bought an extra year IMV even if they play the Premier League rest of season behind closed doors

            I reckon that’s a good chance of happening, all healthy young men and the older team support can be strict about social distancing

            plus it would definitely make self isolation much better with 3-4 live matches scheduled every day

          • I could imagine the comedian Peter Kay doing a sketch with a 2 metre stick, telling people to back off, 2 metres apart
            Sorry my sense of humour

    • ankomonkey says:

      It’s an interesting one to ponder, BJ. I’ve become resigned to the fact that my May holiday isn’t happening. Just last night I was considering trying to recreate it for October half-term as I feel we will be desperate to get away and do something, assuming we can travel in and out of countries by then. So I’m in the latter camp. Also considering trying to replace our summer trip with something at Christmas!

      • Spursdebs says:

        Plan for it we all need to have something positive to look forward to. Try and minimise your financial risk with flights booked with miles if possible, fully refundable hotels etc. But even planning and researching future trips will be a positive thing.

        • Jill (Kinkell) says:

          Our philosophy entirely. Might be a crap holiday at the end of the day but such pleasure planning and the subsequent anticipation of the trip is spirit lifting. My husband then spends days going through all the photos and compiling a photo book …..thus reliving the trip all over again. On a dreich day, a quick trip down memory lane with a flip through a book, not to mention they will come in handy as reminiscing tools when I’m in the NH with dementia. ( worst nightmare , but genes not looking good)

          • Spursdebs says:

            Jill I hear that! I take care of my Mum advanced dementia the thought it might be genetic horrifies me. I only get 12 hours respite care a week and now not even that. I’m going to research and book trips It’s only thing keeping my sanity.

          • No such thing as dreich days in your part of tbe world, just different types of good days 🙂

      • I was quite happy with two trips a year and apart from that exploring the UK in depth. Now that it’s almost impossible to go anyplace, I find myself itching to get away someplace 🙂

        • Spursdebs says:

          It’s the old adage we always want what we can’t have.

        • @Jill, Highland and Islands Airports are closing except to support essential services.

          • Jill (Kinkell) says:

            Thanks BJ. At least services are available on an emergency and transfer basis…it’s a lifeline for the Islands. I’ve got 2 friends flying up from LHR on Friday . They were in Mexico on a Thompson trip. Finally got away last night. They are overnighting in London tonight and booked on a BA flight to Inverness. They’ll just make it home before closing. Very fraught and stressed, and then have to turn up for work at the hospital… ICU.
            I had other friends caught in the Costa Pacifica debacle , and they were featured in the DM recently. I think they are traumatised by the whole experience of near riots on the ship, appalling communication, downright lies, felt wholly unsupported by FCO. ( although I am sure they were working behind the scenes). Eventually allowed to disembarked in the Covid 19 hotspot of Genoa yesterday They are now heading home to Morayshire and self isolating .

          • Hope your friends are all ok.

  6. Has anyone had any luck with refunds from Lufthansa? Currently had flights in mid-April cancelled (on their part) and been unable to get through on the phone or process on-line. Any insight would be appreciated!

    • It seems they are being extraordinarily difficult. I’ve been in contact with them online about a cancelled trip and have been variously told (a) I can only have a refund for the cancelled sectors, not the whole trip (but the whole trip was not possible due to the cancellations) (b) I can’t have a refund of bid upgrades paid for because ‘these are non-refundable’ despite not flying! and (c) no refunds on seat reservations. All nonsense of course. In the last communication they said they would process a refund but didn’t state the amount – that was a week ago and I’ve received nothing. I have another booking coming up with them and that’s sure to be cancelled – on the basis of this experience I will certainly not be taking a voucher – even with the EUR50 incentive!

      • I had a work travel booking with Luffy for next week – both flights now cancelled. Work travel agent has submitted it for refund at the start of last week, no idea if or when it will come through.

  7. Does anyone know if Qatar are offering any incentives? Booked flights for the family in the sale a couple of months ago and awaiting the flight to be cancelled currently, but would be interested in taking an incentive instead of cash refund if offering decent additional value.

  8. SAS are doing a voucher to the same value but you have to start the new booking by 30th November 2020. Rebooking is allowed up to February 28th 2021. I’ve already booked all of my ARN-LHR travel up to Xmas so the voucher doesn’t work for me at the moment. They’ll hopefully extend the rebooking date as I only have two flights left that I can move. My flights have actually survived the cancellations so there’s no automatic refund option at the moment. My biggest temporary saving is remembering to cancel my annual Priority Pass renewal just before they took the money yesterday.

  9. A morbid but genuine question.
    What happens to the voucher (or its cash equivalent) if you die before it can be redeemed? I am afraid I do not believe that the airlines have not added this in as a premium to their large interest free loans from customers.

    • mr_jetlag says:

      nah. 1% mortality doesn’t move the needle.

      • David the 1st says:

        Suspect it’s much more than 1% amongst those that are heavy users of airlines though.

        • Genghis says:

          I’d say it’s most likely less:
          Airline users perhaps have more chance of catching it in the first place.
          However, airline users are more likely to be young’uns, not from the 70/80+ cohorts where we’ve seen the highest deaths.
          Hence, airline users probably less likely to die.

    • Depends if it is transferable or not – and no-one has answered that question yet.

  10. Thing is … I’d gladly rebook with BA – if they’d care to refund the cash, avios and AMEX 2:1 viucher they said would be refunded within 48 hours over two weeks ago. I guess BA see it as a zero sum game (as they haven’t refunded) but it really doesn’t help them to set undeliverable expectations in terms of refunds, nor to fail to issue refunds when they have agreed to.

    ‘guess this isn’t at all unusual, but very unhelpful.

  11. Regarding LH. I’ve got a return trip to Sydney booked for later September/October in the recent companion sale. Does accepting a voucher mean I am still entitled to a return trip, or just the value of the ticket paid? Clearly there is going to be a big difference between the sale fare and whatever fare is on offer at some point in the future and I’m confused what i’m actually entitled to here.

    • Harry T says:

      I believe the voucher will be for the cash value of the flights only, which is sub optimal and another reason to insist on cash.

      I have companion tickets to Hong Kong in November which I hope I will be able to fly. But I will insist on cash if they are cancelled.

      • Thanks.

        Sub optimal indeed – well no need to panic yet I guess, there’s a long way for this to go before needing to do anything. Slightly pssed off with myself for using may capital on tap card for these flights, i assume im not entitled to S75 protection as a result, unless anyone knows any better?

        • You could well be covered by the voluntary Mastercard chargeback scheme which covers debit products.

          • Thanks Rob

            Looking at the CoT help, there does appear to be some sort of system for disputing transactions so will go down this route if necessary. Keeping fingers crossed we might just return to some semblance of normal life by then, but who knows. I’m not up to date with the situation in Germany but I would assume Lufthansa will be bailed out by the german authorities if necessary. Its also possible airlines policies will change as time goes on so I’m happy to sit it out for the time being

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