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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 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.

Avios wing 14

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’ 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 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 ….

how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

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British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (274)

  • The Original David says:

    As I pointed out when the £1 cancellation fees appeared, the T&Cs still clearly said a £35 fee. Seems fair enough that anyone trying to game the system has now been caught out by it.

    • Andy says:

      I agree

    • Kevin says:

      Was going to say the exact same thing.

      You play the game and sometimes the game wins. Besides, one could argue that booking multiple reward tickets with no intention of travel is selfish behaviour.

    • Erico1875 says:

      You just can’t feel sorry for someone like that.

      • Mikeact says:

        It’s not a question of feeling sorry for the person or gaming the system. No way…I’ve cancelled out flights at £1 ….. what was I supposed to do ? Call BA and say I’d rather pay £35 ?

        • Nathan says:

          It’s exactly gaming; would that person be raising the issue, dare I say complaining, about a series of £35 feed if they had intended to pay full whack for their intended cancellations anyway?
          Besides ‘locking in the seats’ on the off chance = denying them to someone else, and that’s hardly cricket now is it. But it is ‘part of the game’.

          • Nathan says:

            ^£35 fees

          • Mikeact says:

            Disagree…BA were obviously happy to offer the £1 option, otherwise why would they have done it ? Perhaps they didn’t think it through with many members having thousands/ millions of Avios stashed away for future use.

    • Rob says:

      The article does not criticise BA and makes it clear that the rules always said £35. However, BA has never actually done applied this – it is 9 years since Reward Flight Saver came in, and for 8 years a £17.50 one-way tickets could be cancelled just by losing the £17.50 with no extra to pay.

      But, yes, BA makes it clear that the fee should be £35.

  • Sam G says:

    Just got it to work on Safari on an iPhone 8, turn off javascript under settings > safari > advanced in the sequence as per the original instructions

    • Inspector Vince (from a force that shall not be named) says:

      yes, don’t believe user error people who say it doesn’t work

      they are user error people, though the HFP article was never very helpful (incomplete and inaccurate) though the comments were good & explained all

      • Sam G says:

        To be fair it does not work on my PC at all now in Chrome or IE, so they have made some changes to it

        • Dan says:

          Thanks lifesaver! Cancelled 4 avios trips using my phone and getting everything back.

          • Lady London says:

            Almost worth buying an iPhone for, this.

            Has no one got it to work on Android? I guess it would work if you download the Safari browser to your Android phone?

    • Rob says:

      Thanks. I will try this again today as I need to update the article.

      • Dan says:

        Can confirm that I have just cancelled 4 avios bookings getting all avios (minus £1) using my iPhone. My MAC and PC doesn’t work – BA seem to insist in closing all routes for customers to legally get a refund!

      • Mikeact says:

        Be careful, you’ll have some on here saying it’s not fair, and you shouldn’t use the work around.

  • Dino says:

    Afraid no sympathy for your reader as they are a muppet for depriving others of redemption seats. You gotta love karma 🙃😛😄

    • Inspector Vince (from a force that shall not be named) says:

      look after number 1, it’s not selfish

      • TGLoyalty says:

        In this case it’s extremely selfish and they’ve just got a huge slab of karma.

        Anyway £35 was always in the T&Cs never rely on IT bugs to last.

      • Spursdebs says:

        That’s a very Harry thing to say.

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      At one time BA golds used to get free refunds when cancelling Avios tickets (I think GGL still does, but I’ve never hit that level). Some people used to book blocks of reward flights and then just cancel all but the one they needed nearer the time. I seem to recall people abusing the free cancellations was one of the reasons they removed this benefit for golds.

      So now we’re in a situation where BA needs to hold onto as much cash as it can I can see why BA are now strictly enforcing the £35 fee. Sometimes people take advantage of a good thing way too much even when past history shows it to be short sighted.

      So I have zero sympathy for the person who has block booked most weekends this year. Not only is it selfish and denies availability to other people it probably (if many others did the same) accelerated the desire for BA to fix this cancellation fee loophole.

      • Big Bob says:

        It was better than this. With complimentary UK regional flights, and no fee, I would always attach a UK domestic onto my fortnightly inbound from CDG or BRU. As I live up north, I used most of them. But had plenty of long stopovers. And with plenty of same day availability it got to the stage where I would call BA just as I was arriving at LHR to change my oldest banked segment to the next flight. Fully within the terms and conditions too!

  • Olly says:

    What constitutes “substantially retimes your flight”? Is there a hard and fast rule?

    • Inspector Vince (from a force that shall not be named) says:

      2 hours

    • Rob says:

      With BMI it used to be 15 minutes. You could have hours of fun with that. You could book Dublin – Heathrow – XXXXX to avoid Air Passenger Duty. The Dublin flights were retimed almost monthly so all you had to do was sit and wait. When the flight moved, the call centre would let you drop Dublin – Heathrow whilst retaining the rest, and without recalculating the taxes!

      • Yorkieflyer says:

        And we wonder why they went bust….Some of us were happy to fly from BRU etc

      • Mikeact says:

        Sounds a bit like ‘gaming the system ‘ to me !!!!

      • Lady London says:

        How envious those of us are that weren’t in the game then!

        When I came into it just before BMI went down, I used to tear my hair out trying to get 2 agents, or even 4, to quote vaguely similar amounts of tax on longhaul itineraries. It was impossible!

      • the_real_a says:

        Then there was Denis in the Pune call center. His geography wasn’t very good and he wouldnt have made a good nurse either. I wont say what we did here because of the condemnation of the moralists in situ, but lets just say reward booking zones could be “creative”.

  • AK says:

    Anyone know if this affects low cash cost Avios bookings done for example in the US (normally $5.60) or ex-Asia?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It affects all bookings as the call centre will insist on £35 cancellation fee or the equivalent in your account locations currency.

      • Lady London says:

        Nooooooo…. !!! Rob that’s a very big hit caused by this.

        Thank you to @TGLoyalty that one would have ended up costing me a lot.

        • Lady London says:

          Actually this is a pretty big avoid devaluation…. Never let us imagine BA could ever run out of ideas to devalue the avoid earned by loyal customers 🙂

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Once they put the website back to the way it was it’ll be back to normal and the lower of £35 or whatever TFC you paid.

  • Inspector Vince (from a force that shall not be named) says:

    [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.]

    Because you are booking several flights for the same approximate date, knowing you will cancel all but one of them for 50p cost each?

    • Kevin says:

      The point is that the same 50p each way fee was charged even if you paid the original avios points and cash, ie around £17.50 and therefore Rob’s point stands.

    • Rob says:

      The person who booked the Spanish holidays did not actually take the 50p route, because he knows it is bad value.

    • Mikeact says:

      Naughty, naughty. You’ll wind some up on here!

  • Paul says:

    I find sending a private message to BA on Twitter a far more efficient way to go than phoning. It can take longer for them to action your ask but you send 1 message and it’s done – especially helpful when the call centres are as inundated as they are now. Ensure you include all the booking details and a number they can call you on if they need to.

    • C77 says:

      My most recent experiences of the BA Twitter team have been somewhat underwhelming. Repeated requests for identifying info to establish who I am even though it’s already been provided in an earlier
      tweets. Still waiting 8 days on for a response. I’ve since called through to the UK call centre and completed what I needed doing ….. The tweeters are clearly struggling to keep up with demand

  • HAM76 says:

    When I cancelled a redemption ticket almost two weeks ago, I already paid 42€ per person, not 1€ as the article implied. Another flight I booked for 1€ was cancelled. For that flight I might eventually get my 1€ per person and Avios back when the duration of seven BA days (approx 49 days on Earth) is over.

    Rob, if you can‘t see any situation where a £1 Avios fare makes sense, you have never tried to sell your family a FREE trip in Club Europe in return for all the days you spent traveling for work. £4 per person is a lot easier to argue than £140 per person, if the alternative is a DIRECT flight in economy that isn‘t that much more expensive, or even no flight at all.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s an extremely bad use of Avios in every case, throwing away the Avios required for a decent length eco flight that costs £100 plus at the best of times to save £49.

      I’d also take 2x economy returns in ET rather than 1x business with £1 fees.

      • Peter K says:

        Circumstances in different families differ. While yes, it is a poor use of avios, I also can see situations where using avios at a poor value gets you something worth wasting them on that might not happen if you were to look at paying cash.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          But it being good for a persons circumstances (no cash?) still doesn’t make it a good use/deal.

          Using more Avios to convince people they got a ‘free’ holiday is a poor use of Avios when you can explain that using a little bit of cash will allow them to either go further or more often.

          People who say “I have more Avios than I know what to do with” are also in the wrong game as collecting them at say 1 avios/£ instead of a straight 1% back card and then using them to redeem at 0.38p per Avios is madness.

          • Rob says:

            Just lie to the other person about what it cost! Thus are happy marriages made ….

            Two years ago I couldn’t get reward rooms in Dubai over October half term at the place we always go to, so I paid cash (a substantial bill after 10 days, this being October half term). I told my wife it was on points. Kept her happy. Easy to pull off as the bill always takes 30 minutes to settle and runs to about 5 pages after 10 days so she always sends me off the night before departure to settle it on my own. We could afford the cash so I was fine about it but my wife has a more Germanic approach to spending it – I am totally happy to die broke (as long as I live well every day up to that point) whereas I think she believes there is a prize if she doesn’t. I also value quality time with the kids whilst they are young.

          • HAM76 says:

            Not everything is a matter of money, or the lack thereof. The flight I canceled was actually a positioning flight to board our paid-in-cash flight in First, booked as on of the offers BA ran last year. It might be hard to grasp, but not everyone loves flying as much as we do, or loves going to some distant place for just a few days or even a weekend. Some of them happen to be in my family.

            A free flight makes it a lot easier to convince my family to go, just like a free hotel does. The number of Avios doesn‘t matter (they come mostly from flying), because there isn‘t that much to do with them aside from flying and maybe booking a hotel. You have to spend them to make use of them which requires that you have something to spend them on, in a first place. Completely different to Amex MR that can be cashed out (depending on your country of residence).

      • Rob says:

        I think Club Europe is massively underrated if you don’t have status. If you’re off to Berlin, say, an extra 4500 Avios to put the outbound into Club Europe lets you eat and drink the lounge dry before the flight, fast track security, priority boarding, empty middle seat, champagne, some sort of meal. EASILY worth 4500 Avios.

        • Michael C says:

          In my early Avios days I just “presumed” they were for amazing long-haul Club flights I wouldn’t normally pay for, but between the amount of points and VAST amount of taxes, I prefer to , say, pay for a Premium Economy on long-haul, and use points throughout the year on Club upgrades for all of use, as you say. It also means I can wprk comfortably on board for an hour, more than offsetting any ticket costs!

        • Mikeact says:

          Agreed…that’s the only way to do it with RFS around Europe, particularly outbound…..if you can get seats.

        • Nick_C says:

          As someone with no status, I wouldn’t book a Club Europe redemption if Economy was available. Having a spare seat next to you does not compensate for the lack of comfort and lack of leg room. On my flight back from Lisbon in CE in November, I spent 15 minutes on a bus waiting to be transported and allowed to board the aircraft. I was on board for 50 minutes before I was offered a drink. The only choice of food was take it or leave it.

          I enjoyed the lounges at T3 on the way out, but if I had been flying economy I would have simply arrived at the airport later.

          But I’ve enjoyed great comfort and service on Domestic First flights of the same duration on various US airlines.

      • HAM76 says:

        It‘s a small surcharge to make a family happy. Flying twice in economy instead of once in business reminds me of a friend‘s story when we meet at a conference. He went for dinner the evening before and wanted a rare steak. It was late and the place could only serve him a steak that was well-done. To make up for it he got an extra complimentary steak. Twice of what he didn‘t want instead of what he actually wanted.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          you misunderstand the comment.

          If I want to book a business flight to Madrid on any random two days in July it’s

          27750 + £50 or 40750 + £1 that’s 13000 Avios to save £50.

          An Eco flight to Madrid is 14k + £35, cheapest cash price for equivalent class / luggage = c£180.

          I’m better off paying £83 more cash total and getting an eco flight in the future or collect more Avios and fly business in another 2 years time as it’s not hard to build up 14k Avios.

          • HAM76 says:

            That’s how I understood your comment. But that is not what I’m talking about. My choices are:

            Pay 40,750 Avios, have my two day trip and a happy family
            Pay 27,750 Avios plus money, have long discussions about whether it’s really necessary to fly away for just two days, maybe have a trip, maybe not.
            Pay nothing, don’t fly at all. Family is happy, but I don’t have my trip.

            How much a cash flight costs just never enters the equation, neither does how much more I could fly using the Avios I saved. My wife shares the approach of Rob’s wife with regard to spending. I just happen to have a different approach than Rob to a happy marriage.

          • Rob says:

            There is another quirk if you own your own business. When I fly for HFP reasons, I use the fewest Avios possible and the most cash. Why? Because the cash is a business expense, reduces my profits and so reduces my tax bill. I would actually like to see ‘1 Avios + £200’ for a Club Europe return, because to me the net cost is more like ‘1 Avios + £115’. I can’t get a tax write-off for the Avios.

          • Lady London says:

            This assumes using 1 avios gives you access to cheaper cash cost than the actual cash cost of an all-cash ticket? Guessing this would not work Transatlantic but does work RFS?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            @HAM76 I get that it gets your partner off your back because they believe they’re being thrifty because you are going somewhere for ‘free’ but the reality is still that it’s a bad use of extra points.

            Agree with an earn and burn scenario but to a point, when was the last time we saw a 66% devaluation? Swap it for a nice hotel at 0.55p or some wine etc instead.

    • Lady London says:

      So BA’s ‘7 days to refund you’ are now lunar days? Or at least dog years? That seems to be about right.

      • HAM76 says:

        Yes, that’s my hypothesis based on the time it takes them to execute a refund. I can be wrong, though.

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