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:
….. 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.
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).
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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