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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 (June 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:

British Airways American Express card

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

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

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)

  • BJ says:

    The part I am unhappy about is them charging 4x£35 to cancel a 241 booking instead of 2x£35. These are supposed to be return flights on a 241 with one PNR, that we end up with two PNR is due to the way BA choose to process the bookings. Any way to challenge this?

    • Genghis says:

      “ 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 this correct? Are RFS fees not limited still to £17.50 per person per one way and hence cancellation fee limited to £140 (8 x £17.50)?

      • Sam G says:

        No, if you call in then they’ll charge you the £35 and refund you the taxes separately

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks. And online for those having success with the workaround? Are BA charging the cancellation charge separately?

          • Genghis says:

            Ie is there still value in 2 x one ways for added flexibility (post CV for all with no workaround required) or has the IT been changed already?

          • Rob says:

            At 2 x £35 to cancel, you have to assume not.

          • Sam G says:

            This morning I cancelled a avios (not cancelled) flight using my iPhone using the workaround and it worked, 50p fee and the avios back immediately

            So it’s not a change of policy, just them (trying to) block the online form. As others said, it’s actually always been the policy to pay a fee, just that BA never charged it online.

          • BJ says:

            No, on the workaround the £35 x X is deducted as opposed to charged followed by a full refund.

        • Lady London says:

          It’s the way Lufthansa had always done it. They make you pay them the cancellation fee before they process any refund.

      • Rob says:

        No, BA is now taking £35 off you and then doing the refund.

        • Lady London says:

          For some flights that would be worth walking away from, not cancelling and losing the avios.

          Imagine how vicious BA and other airlines are going to be on their ts and cs enforcement and huge extra charges when we start flying again.

          This is why I don’t think they should be allowed to get away with what they’re getting away with on refusing to give people the refunds in cash they are owed.

    • Michael C says:

      This was my case, BJ: in fact, they originally asked me by phone for £50 per person per legal (the return was from HKG where the taxes cost less than that!).

      However, on the phone they waived everything (BA had cancelled).

      Although…no money has actually arrived!

  • MT says:

    Slightly off topic but when they introduced the £1 fare with higher avios this affected the Gold use double avios to open up a seat., Does anyone know if it is still possible to book the double Avios at the old taxes rather than just £1 as last time I called the agent was certain there is not.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Hang up and call again it’s absolutely still possible the agent just doesn’t know how to

    • Rob says:

      A reader who works in the Avios call centre told me at the Winter Party that you could still do this for double the ‘old’ price BUT it required a bit of jiggery pokery by the agent, as the system tries to charge the £1 level. Whether this has changed since January I don’t know – haven’t tried to sort out next February’s ski trip yet!

  • Richmond_Surrey says:

    I have only 3 future rewards tickets and I certainly did not anticipate to pay £35 cancellation for something that cost £10-17 in taxes. So now have to wait for BA and Aer Lingus to cancel my flights, when time comes.

    I will not buy any future tickets, with any airline. They don’t want to do refunds or make it almost impossible to get one, then I’m not going to credit them.

    • Kev 85 says:

      Why didn’t you anticipate it? It’s in the terms and conditions.

    • Lady London says:

      This is one reason to use a travel agent. Agents can hold reservations in their system till the fare conditions say they have to be ticketed. For the cheapest fares this was usually close to immediately. But for other fares the deadline to ticket by used to be much closer to the actual flight.

      I think that rather than give the money to BA I might start supporting my local decent travel agent. I might start taking a squizz at fare conditions to see if it’s still possible to gain flexibility this way and what the fare gap is.

  • Go says:

    My son was booked to return to university in a weeks time flying Business using Avios with BA to Heathrow. Obviously university is not happening and I wanted to cancel the flight. BA emailed me yesterday to say they have cancelled the flight but rebooked him on to an Aer Lingus flight on the same day. The flight is no use to us and Aerlingus would be economy not business. Also, apart from a comment in an email that it has been booked on Aerlingus, we have not received confirmation of the new booking number (if different) nor times and details of the flight. It also doesn’t appear as a booking in my account! How do I cancel or tell them the change is not acceptable? Will we get hit with the cancellation fee?

    • Sam G says:

      Need to call them for a full refund

      0203 250 0145 seems to work – I’ve read that early morning (before 8am) is a good time

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If they even talk about a cancellation fee insist you’re not paying it since your original flight was cancelled and you didn’t choose the re-routing.

    • Doug M says:

      No fee, full refund. Rebooking or refund when flight is cancelled is your choice not BAs. Whether they play ball or not is another matter. But in the hopefully near future and better times there’s MCOL and CEDR to take them to task.

    • Lady London says:

      It’s YOUR right to choose a refund not theirs to automatically put you on a different flight even at close to the same time. So call them and insist on the refund that is your choice to receive under EC261/2004.

      Even if they had rebooked you to another BA flight, as soon as the flight number changes you have the right above as well as other rights.

  • Ryan says:

    Can’t say I am unhappy that someone who has booked flights throughout the summer with little or no intention of utilising flights, is now going to be charged extra, given that they have prevented genuine customers who tried to get Summer Weekend availability (myself) to no avail.

    • GT says:

      Ditto, smacks of bulk buying toilet rolls to sell on eBay. Selfish and greedy!!

    • JP_MCO says:

      Totally agree – they are getting entirely what they deserve!

      • Kev 85 says:

        More importantly, the terms and conditions state £35 cancellation fee so they can have no complaints/can’t cry about poor treatment etc (unlike people who haven’t yet received their legally required refund within the legally stated period).

    • Doug M says:

      Whilst I’m not blaming the person for doing it, it is a gaming technique for what you want, it was the inevitable conclusion. Commercially £1 cancellations make no sense, and if you have a lot of Avios then the booking 5 flights to take one made sense to the passenger, but not the airline. It’s a bit like offering 9000 Avios for flights costing £20 that you don’t have to take 🙂
      Incidentally I know several Irish friends that do a version of this with Ryanair. They’re season ticket holders at London football clubs with family in London, and they book flights in advance as cheaply as possible knowing they’ll only use about half of them, as games are moved for TV or arrangements change. Repeatedly told it’s still cheaper to book them in advance and waste half of them, as compared to waiting until you certain and then paying 5x or more for the same flight.

      • Lady London says:

        Let’s not forget that as Rob pointed out after the 90000, airlines are able to estimate quite closely the number of no shows for a flight.

        • Doug M says:

          I don’t believe they could with this. Airline IT is typically quite lumbering and slow to adapt. They created a set of circumstances different to anything they’d previous known, their modelling would almost certainly have been flawed. The flights were paid for anyway, and maybe they just wanted to sell a lot of Avios and didn’t care. It hasn’t yet been repeated though has it.

      • Ryan says:

        Avarice as someone else eloquently put it.

        Probably had a house full of dried pasta too a few weeks back

        In terms of the Ryanair analogy, slightly different given the low cost model they operate in and against the exceptionally limited numbers of tickets that BA offer in order to utilise Avios.

        • Doug M says:

          If you meant me I’m type 2 so I don’t eat pasta, very bad for BG levels. Also I didn’t panic buy as I’m too lazy to panic, it requires a level of motivation I lack.
          A huge swathe of content on this site if how to get the most for the least. So yes, avarice is pretty common here. Like say someone complaining they couldn’t get a flight they wanted on points because someone else got their first.

          • Ryan says:

            For clarity, pasta comment not aimed at you.

            You have however stuck a chord with me in relation to the many on here to seek to be avaricious in the extreme.

            And quite frankly, it’s making feel quite uneasy.

          • Doug M says:

            The thing is Ryan, greed is a judgment, one persons greed is anothers sensible. It’s all about the degree to which something is done, and your own value judgement of that behaviour. If I take a pen and pad from work is that stealing, perhaps, if I take a couple of laptops the view of most people will change. When it’s about your personal attitude to something I always think of my favourite (alleged) Churchill quote.
            Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?” Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
            Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
            Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!” Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”

        • Chabuddy geezy says:

          It seems like most posters agree booking a load of reward flights to a destination with the intention to cancel is very selfish.

  • Rob says:

    Depends on the agent you get. I have been charged for cancellations but not for changes (a change is not, technically, a cancellation). I know others have had free cancellations. No idea what the official rule is.

  • Andrew says:

    Rob I know you have your calculations for what an Avios is worth, but personally I have booked the £1 option several times. For me, I have a lot of Avios and struggle to find long haul availability, and if I want to retain my Gold (I don’t travel that much for work) I need to be booking long haul J/F cash tickets (and often reduce the price with Avios, something else I know you disapprove of). I used to like the concept of actually getting a free flight (well £1) to Europe with my Avios, going back to the good old days of Air Miles. As other blogger sites have said, the value of Avios are all relative to the personal circumstances of their holder so I don’t think you should be so dismissive of things you personally don’t feel offer the best value although of course your advice is always useful.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I have loads of Avios that I can rarely find any reason to use and can only spend in ways that are extremely limited.

      I have some cash but I use this often and have little problem finding multiple ways to do so.

      I value cash much higher than I value Avios, and critically in this particular case I view the increased uplift in Avios as de minimus.

      Unlike HfP I can see lots of reasons to continue to utilise the £1 option from a pricing perspective although the imposition of the cancellation is a negative.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Out of interest are all(majority) of these Avios earned via flying on company travel?

        If any are via credit cards have you considered getting a £ back card instead?

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Most of them were company travel when I used to fly coast to coast USA in Business or First for work a couple of times a month. The odd sign up bonus on c/c since then having rotated through the BA card a few times.

          Most of my c/c earning (and referrals) used to go to Amex and MR points which I then converted to Hilton. I have done the same with Virgin c/c (and financial products).

          At present I am sitting out the 24mth personal Amex. Occasionally dipping into the Business Amex. I have no card of interest! Everything goes on the Tesco c/c just because returns everywhere are so dull it’s not worth the effort to switch.

          I am awaiting a potential slew of Amex MR points when my 24mths is up. I will get a Hilton USA card when I can next travel there for a slug of more points. I pray for a UK Hilton card.

          • Lady London says:

            Have you considered the Business Amex? 6 month gap and better insurance. Something you said the other day about being in business?

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            I have used it previously but most of my suppliers do not take it so I am selective about when I apply because for most of the year it is worthless.

    • Rob says:

      But but but ….. you could use the same Avios for a hotel and get 0.55p per point. Book the £35 taxes flight and use the Avios saved (where you were getting 0.38p) to book a hotel where you get 0.55p.

      • Andrew says:

        Whilst I don’t fly much for work I stay 2 nights a week in UK hotels, always at IHG, so I have more IHG points than I know what to do with so would never need to use Avios for hotels as I always stay free when I travel for personal reasons.

        • Save East Coast Rewards says:

          Plus you don’t get status benefits if you book hotels with Avios

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        I have more Hilton points than I do Avios!

    • Genghis says:

      I get ya. Let’s assume you have 30m avios and you can get 1p of value on a future RFS flight. Are those 30m avios really worth 1p each, given significant devaluation risk and you can’t really use them all up?

      If you’re still transferring to avios from an MR earning card say or converting from Tesco / a CB site, then you should reassess.

      • Lady London says:

        Looking after a small child these days, are you, @Genghis? Brain fog comes with the territory…but the upside of lockdown is you get a chance to spend time with your child you’d normally miss out on.

      • Rob says:

        No. In the same way that I didn’t want to turn my 2m Virgin miles into 3m Hilton points, because 3m Hilton points are effectively worthless to me given that you only get decent value on standard rooms – with huge difficulty getting connecting rooms guaranteed – and we travel as a family of 4.

        There is a lot of value, however, in 500,000 Hilton points. Using 380,000 for 4 or 5 nights in a suite on a HFP trup at, say, the new Conrad Midtown (which is all-suite) in New York has huge value. I would do that once per year at most however. If my wife wanted to go back to the Maldives (she doesn’t) then 1m Hilton points would have real value for 12 nights at the Conrad. All relative.

        • HAM76 says:

          Exactly… Right now I have more inflexible Avios and IHG points than opportunities to use them. I could accumulate them for a future time when I have more opportunities or use them to reduce the cash component now. It all depends on the situation you are in and what your preferences are.

  • Waribai says:

    There will be many flight cancellations by BA we’ll in to summer is my guess. Having furloughed so many staff and parked their planes, it will take a good few months to return to ‘normal’

    • Rob says:

      …. especially as the pilots and cabin crew will need compulsory retraining before they can fly again. The aircraft will also need special checks.

      • Matthew says:

        Minimum hours requirements for keeping licenses valid for pilots and controllers has been extended by the CAA which will help but not a big extension for reasons of maintaining safety. However it may help some who had clocked a lot of recent hours just before the lockdown.

      • Matthew says:

        RYR are doing training circuits with all there aircraft to keep aircraft airworthy.

      • Michael C says:

        747 crew have been asked which aircraft they’d preferably retrain for.

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