Coronavirus cancellation and refund policy summary: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Hilton, Marriott and IHG

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Due to rapidly changing policies over coronavirus cancellations and travel waivers, we have decided to compile all the information we have in one up-to-date reference post. Hopefully this gives you an overview of your cancellation and refund rights with the major travel companies we cover on HFP.

As well as links to the offical guidance, we have included information from the anecdotal data left in our comments.  Thank you to everyone who has left feedback.

We will update this as changes occur.  It is currently correct as of 13th May.  If you have experienced something different to the policies described below please let us know in the comments or email rhys @ headforpoints.com

Coronavirus airline and hotel cancellation and refund policy summary

British Airways coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the British Airways COVID-19 travel advisory here.

Cash flights: all flights up until 31st December can be cancelled in exchange for a British Airways voucher which is valid on any route until 30th April 2022 (this extension applies to previously issued travel vouchers, too).

If your flight has been cancelled by British Airways you are entitled to a full cash refund instead.   The only way to do this now is to ring BA at 0800 727 800. Do NOT select any of the options. Your call will eventually go through and you will here the customary BA hold music. This process took me about 15 minutes the other day, although recent comments suggest the lines are currently very busy.

Your refund should include any seat selection fees and other additional payments.

Avios redemptions:  you are entitled to a full refund in the event that British Airways cancels your flight.  Follow the instructions above if you want a cash refund rather than a voucher for your taxes and charges.  If your flight is still operating and you cancel an Avios redemption of your own volition, you are entitled to a refund of all the Avios and taxes and charges paid, minus a £35 fee.

‘Avios + Money’ bookings (Avios bookings where cash was used to reduce the Avios required):  these work on the same basis as standard Avios redemptions. You are entitled to a refund of your Avios and cash regardless of whether British Airways has cancelled your flight or not.  A £35 per person cancellation fee applies if your flight is still operating.

‘Avios part-payment’ bookings (cash bookings where Avios was used to reduce the cash required):  British Airways is offering a voucher for tickets where the flight is still operating. The voucher is for the original cash price – ie. if your flight was £900 before you reduced the cost with Avios you will get a voucher for £900.  Cash refunds are available instead of a voucher if your flight has been cancelled but, as per the above, you will need to call to request this or try our workaround.

Flight & hotel/car or BA Holidays package:  if British Airways has cancelled any part of your holiday you are legally entitled to a full refund in cash.  If you choose to cancel of your own volition BA will retain your deposit.  There are strict UK laws surrounding package holidays but these have been relaxed slightly. You should still receive your cash within a reasonable time frame, however.  There will be no attempt to make you take a voucher.

American Express 2-4-1 vouchers:  all British Airways Amex 2-4-1 vouchers have been extended by 6 months.  This includes vouchers which have already been used – if you cancel, it will come back with an extension – and all forthcoming vouchers which will be issued by 30th June 2020.

Lloyds upgrade voucher:  you can apply for a six month extension if your Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card upgrade voucher is due to expire in March or April by calling Avios

Executive Club status extensions:  if your British Airways Executive Club membership year ends in April, May or June your tier point requirements to renew have been reduced by 30%.

British Airways coronavirus refund and change policies

Virgin Atlantic coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 travel advisory here.

Cash flights: All flights cancelled by Virgin Atlantic are eligible for cash refunds.  These cannot be claimed online and require a call.  Remember that there is no rush and that as long as your flight is cancelled you can claim your refund at a future date.  Virgin Atlantic has been reaching out to passengers with existing bookings to offer targeted rebooking incentives including bonus miles, upgrades and cash cards.

If your flight is still operating, Virgin Atlantic has implemented a flexible booking policy. Tickets booked between 12th March and 30th June for travel until 31st December 2020 can be rebooked free of charge for dates up to 31st May 2022, although you may have to pay a fare difference. Virgin will keep your ticket open for you to rebook at your convenience.

If you booked on or before 19th March there is no change fee AND no difference in fare as long as your travel prior to 30th November 2020. A fare difference may apply for rebookings between 1st December 2020 to 31st May 2022.

Virgin Flying Club miles redemptions:  You will pay £30 if you cancel your booking at least 24 hours before departure to receive a full refund of all miles, taxes and fees.  The fee is waived if your flight is no longer operating.  Virgin Flying Club redemptions booked between 6th March and 31st March are eligible for free changes although reward seats must be available on your new dates.

Virgin Flying Club status:  Virgin Atlantic has announced that it is extending Gold and Silver members’ status by six months. Companion, upgrade, credit card and Clubhouse vouchers have also been automatically extended by six months.

Virgin Atlantic coronavirus refund and change policies

easyJet coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the easyJet COVID-19 travel advisory here.

Cash flights: As of 30th March, easyJet has grounded its entire fleet.  Any flight cancelled by easyJet is eligible for a full cash refund. Some people have had success in emailing [email protected] for a refund. You should include the booking reference, departure date and preferred language in the subject line in the following format: Booking Reference/Departure Date/EN. If this does not work, you will have to call 0330 365 5000.

You CAN request a voucher for a cancelled flight via Manage Bookings.  These vouchers are valid for six months from the date of issue – the rules are vague but it seems that you only need to book, and not fly, within six months.

easyJet is waiving its change fees for flights allowing you to rebook on different dates and/or routes if you wish.  This is possible irrespective of whether your flight is cancelled.  You must pay any differences in the fare.

Any ticket booked with easyJet at the moment for future travel will be covered by the ‘free changes’ waiver although fare differences must still be paid.

It is reportedly exceptionally difficult to reach easyJet by telephone.  One reader who speaks Italian contacted the Italian call centre, for a UK booking, and had his call answered virtually immediately and his refund processed.

It is not clear if easyJet Plus members will have their annual membership extended.

easyJet coronavirus refund and change policies

Hilton coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the Hilton COVID-19 travel advisory here.

All existing bookings are fully refundable, for cash, on stays until 30th June, irrespective of the original room rules.

New bookings made until 30th June will be fully refundable irrespective of how far in the future your stay occurs.

Hilton Honors status:  Hilton is automatically extending member status for an additional year, to 31st March 2022.  In addition, any member who was due to lose status on 1st April has had it extended to 31st March 2021.

Points expiry has been put on pause until 31st December 2020.

Hilton coronavirus refund and change policies

IHG coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the IHG COVID-19 travel advisory here.

All existing bookings made by 6th April for stays until 30th June 2020 have had their cancellation fees waived.  There is NO cancellation or change policy for bookings beyond 30th June 2020.

However a new discounted ‘Book Now, Pay Later’ rate has been introduced that allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival.  You can no longer book prepaid rooms.

‘Best Flexible Rates’ now have free cancellation until 6pm on the day of arrival.

IHG Rewards Club status: IHG Rewards Club status has automatically been extended by 12 months, carrying over until early 2022.

IHG Rewards Club elite status points requirements for 2021 have been reduced by 25% for all members.

Spire Elite members will receive an additional ‘choice benefit’ of 25,000 points or Platinum Elite status for a friend.

In an email, IHG has confirmed it would be extending Ambassador status by three months for those who pay for it although this is yet to appear on accounts.

Credit card free night vouchers expiring after 1st March 2020 have been extended until 31st December. All certificates earned in 2020 will be valid for 18 months.

IHG coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Marriott coronavirus refund, change and status policies

Read the Marriott COVID-19 travel advisory here.

All existing bookings are changeable or cancellable for no charge up to 24 hours before arrival until 30th June 2020.  For clarity, this includes bookings for stays AFTER 30th June but the cancellation or change must be made before 30th June.

Hotels are allowed to refuse to honor this policy if your stay is “with special event restrictions or peak demand weeks”

New bookings made before 30th June, for stays at any point in the future, will be changeable or cancellable free of charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival.

Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott are excluded from these policies.

Marriott Bonvoy status:  Status earned in 2019 will be extended until February 2022.  It has paused points expiration until February 2022 and extended the expiration of suite night awards by one year (to December 2021).

Free night awards from credit cards, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel packages due to expire in 2020 have been extended until 31st January 2021.

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Comments

  1. A word of caution- imparted by my travel agent – The return portion of a flight is almost worthless as the outbound leg is what the flight value is based on, so asking for the refund of your return part of your ticket wouldn’t necessarily give you the cash you’d need to book on another flight with another carrier.
    We’re current stuck in New Zealand. Our Emirates flight home was cancelled 2 days before departure I’m informed that Emirates won’t recommence schedule flights until 2nd June. A single ticket to LHR in business class with Qatar is currently around $NZ 17000 (£8000) for mid April – roughly the same price we paid for our return ticket…..

    • Bentoni says:

      This may sounds stupid – is this covered by travel insurance? I read quite a few cases about people stranded abroad, makes me wonder if travel insurance are useless …

    • Emirates have a responsibility to get you home, no?

      I know actually getting them to do it is a different matter, but you should not have to shell out again…

      • The trouble is EU261 and its duty of care provisions only applies to non-EU airlines for outbound flights from the EU and UK. It does not cover you for inbound unless it is an EU based airline. As Emirates is a non-EU airline they won’t necessarily bother to help. NZ or other countries may have their equivalent to EU261 for flights departing from there. This is one of the pitfalls of using a non-EU airline.

        • You still have a contract with the airline, even if no EC261…

        • Lady London says:

          If all on same booking and departed from UK or Europe iirc eu261 covers outward and return? even if non EU airline? Non EU airline standalone from outside Europe not covered though.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      And how much is a return ticket home?

      ie book a return leg for how ever far out the far rules out allow and either use it or drop it, no one will come after you.

      • Lady London says:

        You mean to throw away the return half?
        You are right would normally work out cheaper.

    • Well, no, the inbound portion will have a defined value as shown in the breakdown of the ticket’s fare construction. It could be very high or very low compared to the outbound portion.

      The fact that most airlines do not sell one-way tickets at the same price as the inbound portion of a return ticket is neither here nor there.

      • Charlieface says:

        It is true that a half round trip does have a value in the ticket, but generally an airline will reprice it as a one way. What you need to do here is tell them they haven’t fulfilled their contract, ultimately contract law still applies even if EC261 does not.

    • Lady London says:

      Completely irrelevant
      Emirates hasto pay cost of getting you home whatever that is. Qatar is still flying also try Air Canada via Toronto if they fly out of NZ – there is one terminal at Toronto that does not force you to immigrate if transiting.

      If Emirates won’t provide replacement ticket – and if your booking departed from UK or Europe they have to under ec261 – then buy if you can and sue them or ask your insurance or credit card to help. Credit card is also liable to provide same under s75 if a UK credit card.

      Have you contacted the British.Consulate in NZ? They should be keeping track of any repatriation flights so you should let them know you are in need

  2. Does anyone know what happens if your BA flight is cancelled and you do nothing…. do they have to simply refund the cash at some point as they cancelled it or do you have to proactively ask for the refund or voucher or risk losing the cash altogether?

    • +1 I am in the same boat here. Any help appreciated, thanks.

    • I think they are obliged to refund and I believe you have 6 years to claim. But if you leave it to BA under current circumstances they might just issue a voucher, if they do anything. If you want a cash refund you need to be proactive and call them. It’s their own fault if it clogs the phone lines up even more. BA don’t want to refund cash if they can get away with it.

  3. Let’s see how getting a refund on my Marriott points stay for the Monaco Grand Prix goes as that did have very punitive cancellation terms as it was a special event.

  4. AndyC says:

    We accepted a BA voucher for flight and car (=holiday) back on march 19th. Apart from initial , weve not heard a thing since after the first immediate system reply! How do we get this voucher or money back please?

    Our booking has been wiped off of our Exec Club account so no way tracking of it , can anyone kindly help us unravel this please? Thank you

    • Gavin says:

      I requested a voucher on 15th March and received an email on 18th March saying they were processing it, and that it will arrive after 7 days (initial confirmation screen said 48 hours!). I’ve not heard anything yet 15 days later. I assume there’s a backlog.

    • Managed to speak to BA Call centre about this (mine is flight only) when calling in early to ask for cash refund about my other flights.

      Note that I asked for voucher a couple day before my flight was due to depart and heard /recieved nothing since then.

      I was confirmed by the ba call centre that my flight “voucher” is in place and in the system. Just make sure I keep hold of my booking reference and bring that up when call in to make a new booking. Seems to me that it is just a cheap and easy way for them to keep track of these voucher in such time rather making a new IT flow system to send out voucher code to everyone.

      Hope that helps.

    • If you know your PNR from your original booking you can try logging into it on the Qantas site. That apparently show the value of the voucher.

      • Gavin says:

        I tried this and can see a strange additional flight in my booking (original booking is between LHR and GVA):

        BA8695 Greenwich Mean TM to Mont Joli
        Departs12:00 (Mon) Arrives14:00 (Mon) Duration:7h 00min

        Can’t find any reference to the voucher or value though.

  5. Thanks for this, s useful summary all on one place. With the £50 back on £200 promotion, many of us with have booked travel plans with American Express Travel. What are readers experiences when seeking changes or refunds through them?

    • The Original Nick says:

      @BJ, I’d like to know this too?

      • My hotel stays are June and July so a bit early for me to test the water yet myself.

    • I cancelled a hotel booking with Amex travel that was for £250 for which I had got the cash back of £50.
      The £250 was refunded by Amex Travel and a few days later the £50 cash back was reversed. So I got net £200.

      Annoying but fair.

      • That’s the way it works. Was your hotel reservation flexible or non refundable? Mine are nonrefundable.

        • LewisB says:

          I used this offer on 3 different cards for non-refundable hotels this summer. I was assuming it was dead and I would need to hope for FCO advising against travel to claim on the insurance. I looked over the site yesterday if they had changed their policy but nothing. Would be good to know if anyone has been successful with this!

      • How did you get a response from Amex travel, was it email, chat, phone, wa… ?

  6. Born2sKydive says:

    Still not showing in my IHG account the lower target to 55,000 points to Spire. Still says I need 75,000. Though was meant to be updated now. Does not inspire confidence.

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Same here, i contacted IHG Rewards & they stated accounts were being updated in batches?
      By the time they update, I would of made 75k.

      • mvcvz says:

        Not exactly an earth-shattering priority (pun unintended) in these bizarre times though, is it?

    • Andrew says:

      +1 and such a disappointing concession by IHG. With all its cash and profits I would have expected it to follow Hilton and extend everyone for a year. Reductions in points needed to retain this year do not compensate for the lack of opportunity to benefit from the status we earned last year.

  7. BA told me my 241 voucher stays with the original booking. Did the application online for a cash refund. Not had that back yet but in no rush.

    • Yes that’s what happens with Avios bookings where you take the e-voucher and worse when you come to use the e-voucher you have to phone to redeem it and there has to be Avios reward availability. So you definitely did the right thing asking for a cash refund with the 2-4-1.

  8. “Flight & hotel/car or BA Holidays package: if British Airways has cancelled any part of your holiday you are legally entitled to a full refund in cash…. There will be no attempt to make you take a voucher.”

    Not true, our flight & car package has had the flight cancelled by BA and we are only getting the travel voucher page (workaround doesn’t work).

    • Andy S says:

      +1

      had a ba flight(+car) cancelled by them in march and got full refund to the credit card paid. cancelled one myself for may and got a voucher (well more like a credit note)

    • @SP that could be because you are trying to proactively seek a resolution. When was/is your outbound flight?

      We were due to depart 18th April. Had an email just over a week ago, advising the holiday was cancelled, followed by a second email two days ago advising a full refund will be paid back to the card used for the booking.

    • People who take a voucher are being sent cash anyway. A few readers have reported this.

    • Lady London says:

      If you booked a BA Holiday then penalties for them not giving you cash back are quite high
      So I would not hesitate to call them and say I did not say I wanted a voucher and I want all my cash back paid promptly now.

      The above only works if it was them that cancelled any part of your BA Holiday. If it was you that wanted to cancel before they cancelled anything then depending on your terms you might actually be quite lucky to get a voucher!

  9. Does anyone know what happens if you have paid for seat selection with cash/avios and BA cancels your flight?

  10. grammer says:

    Any advice on a Avios reward flight booked for August using a Lloyds upgrade voucher…if I cancel is the voucher lost or do I get it back?

    • Mikeact says:

      I have one booked during July..I am just going to sit tight at present and call up closer to the time, if/when the flight is cancelled.

      • Voucher lost. But if flight is cancelled voucher is returned with 6 month extension, sit tight.

  11. Keith says:

    Does anyone know how travel insurance fits in? I have an Avios flight to Vancouver and back from SF. That is covered in the article but I have flights with Alaska and AA between cities. They are offering vouchers for travel but I have no intention of travelling with them before their deadline. Will insurance cover the cost of the flight as they are not offering refunds? Even AA are saying they are not offering refunds to cancelled flights.

    Anyone had experience of something similar?

    • Mikeact says:

      We were on an internal AA Avios flight three weeks ago. Due to the obvious problems looming, AA rebooked us on a far longer flight for an alternative connection to get back home. No mention was made of Avios, and no request for additional Avios was made, I guess as the original flight was of course made through BA.

    • Andy S says:

      my TI company emailed saying they’re not covering anything to do with COVID! That was out of the blue, so must have gone to all “customers”. (hereafter known as “suckers” !)

      • Lady London says:

        You are entitled to the original terms valid at the time you signed up for your travel insurance for the length of time you purchased coverage for. The insurance company cannot change your coverage midway to though the policy.

        On a renewal, terms might change but then you would have a copy of them and they would be
        valid for the new length of time you renewed for.

        To shore up this fact – avoid arguments later I suggest you write back if you receive anything like this – saying you bought a policy with the agreed coverage at purchase date at the price paid for the agreed term and for the avoidance of doubt you do not accept any policy amendments within the term of the policy. (Have a squizz at the terms just in case there is something that lets them get away with it such as a pandemic exclusion).

        You do not have to.accrpt an amendment midterm. Otherwise who would buy insurance?

    • If it’s an Avios booking via BA you have the same right to a refund as all award flights, see the relevant part of the article above. Not sure if this is the same if you book through a partner airline.

      • Keith says:

        Sorry let me explain more. All the flights are booked separately. My BA Avios flights I’m fine with. I paid for my Alaska flights and AA in cash. They are only offering vouchers for future travel to sometime in early 2021. I’ve already got my AA flights booked that I would fly before that date and no intention of flying with Alaska. It’s kind of dead money to me having it as a voucher. I was hoping the travel insurance will cover it as travel is only recommended for essential travel which it will not be.

        My travel insurance also sent an email saying new bookings are not covered but I booked these before they removed the cover so they should be within scope of insurance

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