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British Airways now charging £35 cancellation fees – not £1 – on short-haul Avios flight tickets

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British Airways started offering short-haul Avios redemptions for as little as £1 in taxes and charges last year.

As we have covered numerous times on Head for Points, the £1 deal is a bad deal.  If you look at the sliding scale of Avios and cash combinations you are offered when booking, for example:

£1 Avios cancellation fees

….. the best deal is usually the one which one is nearest to the old-style £35 taxes (or £50 for Club Europe) option.

In the example above, for example, taking the £1 deal vs the £35 deal means you are saving £34 in cash to save 9,000 Avios.  This is terrible – you are basically ‘selling’ 9,000 Avios to British Airways for just 0.38p each.  I cannot see any scenario – any scenario – under which this makes sense.

(The easiest way to work out the best deal is to apply your value of an Avios point.  I value them at 1p, which is conservative but sensible.  Applying a 1p valuation, the six options above turn into £176, £153, £130, £120, £132.50, £137.  The best value is the fourth – ie the ‘original ‘ £35 taxes option.)

There was one positive upside though, which benefitted everyone ……

The trial came with one upside – £1 cancellation fees

It is meant to cost £35 per person to cancel an Avios booking.

Because of limitations in the British Airways IT system, however, this was never really the case.  Because ba.com was not set up to demand more money from you when cancelling, the reality was that you paid ‘£35 or the taxes you paid, whichever is lower’.

When the £1 trial started, BA had to make another tweak.  Online cancellation for short-haul Avios bookings was set at just £1!  A one-way flight was just 50p.

Importantly, this was irrespective of which payment combination you used.  Even if, in the example above, you had booked the 8.500 Avios + £35 combination, you were still only charged £1 to cancel.  You got £34 back in cash.

British Airways now charging £35 cancellation fees

You can no longer cancel Avios bookings online …..

For the last three weeks, we have been encouraging people to try a couple of workarounds devised by readers to get refunds from British Airways.  These allowed you to ‘force’ ba.com to show you the page for online cancellations.

This method now seems to be dead, at least for people using a PC.  I see the occasional success for Mac users.

Cancelling a short-haul Avios redemption now requires a call to British Airways.

…. and British Airways is charging £35 on the telephone

In recent days, according to reader feedback, the British Airways IT system has been changed.  It is now impossible, even if the agent wants to do you a favour, to cancel a short-haul Avios redemption without paying a £35 per person fee.

You need to pay the £35 in cash to the agent.  Your existing booking is then cancelled and the entire fees and taxes you paid are refunded.  Even if you only paid £1 tax in the first place, you need to pay £35 to get the refund.

(To be fair, the avios.com system always worked like this in the days before the Avios Travel Rewards Programme was closed.  Few people knew it because, unless you were trying to cancel a one-way booking with £17.50 of tax, it never came up as an issue.)

Some people will have to pay £70 per person!

It gets worse.  For anyone who booked their redemption as 2 x one-way flights, you will be charged £35 each way.

Imagine that a family of four had booked 4 x one-way flights on Avios to Amsterdam and 4 x one-way flights back.  They were expecting to pay a grand total of £4 to cancel them all (8 x 50p one-way cancellation fees).  Instead, British Airways will now ask for a whopping £280 (8 x £35).

British Airways now charging £35 cancellation fees

Is there any way around this?

Not that I know of. 

All I can suggest is that you hold off cancelling as late as you can, in the hope that either:

online cancellation returns and you can again get away with paying just £1, or

British Airways cancels or substantially retimes your flight, in which case you can request free cancellation

One of the readers who contacted me about this had booked reward flights to Spain for most weekends in the Summer to lock in the seats.  His plan was to cancel most of them for £1 and just fly a couple.  They were all booked as 2 x one-way tickets.  He is now facing a very expensive raft of cancellations ….

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Comments (274)

  • Trevor says:

    If the ‘new’ system stops people block-booking flights when they don’t intend to take the majority of them, then it must be a good thing and fairer for the rest of us.

    • Mikeact says:

      Of course it doesn’t stop people booking numerous flights. If they have a massive number of Avios and are prepared to cancel out whenever, for £35….it can be a no brainer against high cost revenue flights in Summer or skiing flights in February half term. That’s the way it is, with any ‘Air Miles’ type scheme, whether here or overseas.

      • mvcvz says:

        I don’t have children and as such have less than zero desire to travel to popular locations during schools vacation time. As such, I find that I can obtain the seats I require in the cabin I require on the flights I require using Avios approximately 75% of the time. If I can’t, I simply pay for the seats (remember that?) and keep the Avios in my account for next time. This has been serving me extremely well for years. horse for courses, that’s all.

  • The other Kevin says:

    So, I cancelled a one-way August Avios flight a week ago and applied for a voucher. Have now received an email saying that the booking is not eligible for a Future Travel voucher. Obviously didn’t expect to get my £17.50 back, but will I still have to phone up to claim my 7500 Avios back ?

    • Rob says:

      You can use the iPhone workaround discussed in these comments, or call. You got lucky anyway as the voucher is too restrictive.

  • Mikeact says:

    For those just reading, and complaining about lack of reward seats, despite BA guaranteeing 4xEconomy and 2xClub seats on each flight, you should be aware that on average around 1 Million Avios are awarded around every 5 minutes….not just by BA.
    That means, there are Billions floating around to be used. Luckily, for IAG partners, they are never ever redeemed in one swoop otherwise all the airlines would be bankrupt….it’s even more significant in the US.
    I guess airlines know that a good majority are left in the drawer and forgotten about, a bit like Tesco vouchers.
    I am happy to be corrected.

    • Kev 85 says:

      Collecting Avios and then complaining about a lack of rewards seats is an odd one.

      If you think there aren’t enough seats/can’t find any for a place you want to go to then why are you collecting Avios 🤷🏻‍♂️

    • Rob says:

      Yes, that number is roughly correct. Over 100 billion are issued annually.

  • Charlieface says:

    What no-one seems to realise is that availability can and does come up well after the 4+2 are made available a year earlier, and last minute availability is often pretty good. Also, BA oversell based on how many they think will cancel, this guy being one of them, and Avios availability goes into the same algorithm. So he’s only taking from those who must book a year in advance.

    • Ryan says:

      How does that help anyone?

      So don’t book EasyJet, TUI, Jet2 etc for your family holiday as seats ‘may or may not’ come up?

      I can assure you there was no availability on the flights I was looking at.

    • Neil says:

      A ridiculous justification if you ask me. That’s like saying it’s ok for someone to walk into a supermarket during current times and buy the whole stock of toilet rolls because other people might be lucky enough to get some next time they go there.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Whilst you are correct that avios availability can be added any time after the original 4+2, it doesn’t happen on busy flights – like summer flights to Spain…

      • Mikeact says:

        That is not correct, or maybe a general observation. We have twice had to return home, using and amending our Avios one way tickets on both occasions..one from Tenerife, one from Malta….next day Avios flights were available, albeit Malta we had to upgrade to the front. Tenerife was early July, Malta..early September..still UK school holiday period.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          Then they weren’t full flights!

          • Mikeact says:

            Obviously, but they could well have been cancellations from others put back into the pot…there is such a thing as no shows as well if you want to take a chance at the airport . And they were certainly full when we got on board.
            I’m just saying that it is possible , even when Avios/BA show no seats available. Avios.com also have a quirk that sometimes shows availability when BA don’t … and you can also do a check on JAL as well. And if seats show it means a call to BA and the agent to pull up the page you’re viewing.There are other ways as well, to double check and keep checking.
            But don’t assume nothing available at first glance…. that’s my experience.

          • mvcvz says:

            Take a chance at the airport? Where do you live – 1973?

  • Mikeact says:

    You obviously haven’t lived in the States….got on an AA flight in January.
    Over here, admittedly not quite the same, but it does and can happen..you don’t have to take my word for it….went to Glasgow airport to try for an earlier flight…nice chat..no problem.
    I started flying in the 60’s , way before ’73.

  • Ste says:

    That definitely isn’t correct about the telephone cancellations. If the person has paid less than £35 per person in total on a booking then they just lose whatever they have paid and get the avios refunded. They wouldn’t be charged £35 to cancel a £1 ticket. I am a gold member and I called to ask about it as I cancel a lot of these and nothing has changed.

    • Rob says:

      I have a stack of emails saying otherwise.

      • Geoff says:

        Had a £1 per person avios booking cancelled by BA, called up BA on 3 May to ask for a refund and we got all the avios back plus £2 – no £35 fee.

  • Simon says:

    “One of the readers who contacted me about this had booked reward flights to Spain for most weekends in the Summer to lock in the seats. His plan was to cancel most of them for £1 and just fly a couple. They were all booked as 2 x one-way tickets. He is now facing a very expensive raft of cancellations”

    Im delighted. So selfish.

    • Sam says:

      Sorry to say but delighted to see now someone deserves what he/she gets after an malicious abuse of the system. What a smart alec.

  • john says:

    I’ve been trying to cancel my 2-4-1 flights to Orlando but BA have made it impossible to do so without accepting a voucher in exchange. They tell you to call them to cancel on the website but when you phone they are too busy and tell you to call back later. Frustratingly I booked car hire through BA as well. Again it is proving impossible to cancel this. Unfortunately I booked it separately to the 2-4-1 flights and its impossible to have either dealt with. Maybe one day someone will answer the phone at BA, but that looks like no time soon.