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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.

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’ 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 ….


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)

  • Mark says:

    So to clarify, any fees paid on an Avios booking even a Companion 2-4-1 booking are paid back (minus the admin fee of course) in full and BA cannot or will not offer a voucher ( which I do not want) . Is that correct?

    • Rob says:

      No. BA WILL offer you a voucher at the moment on Avios bookings. These are a VERY bad deal because the voucher is for the Avios and the cash – you don’t get the Avios back. This means that the voucher can only be used against a future booking which uses Avios and cash, and not a ‘cash only’ ticket.

      Ring and insist on cash, with the Avios returned separately.

      • Matthew says:

        True but if they don’t cancel my flights, I’m on the hook for £280 in cancellation fees so might have to consider the voucher…

  • Claire says:

    I booked 2 x Avios £1 redemptions Club Europe MAN-LHR-AMS return end of July. Also cashed in 1 IHG voucher night at Kimpton De Witt and second using IHG points. So whole trip has cost me £4. We were going to see Pearl Jam but they have since moved the European tour to next year, we found this out yesterday but was expecting so this article is perfect timing for me. So if I cancel these flights are they £35 per flight (so x 4) or per person total? Would also lose my IHG voucher if I cancel that I suspect. Or should we just hold off and go on the trip for a little getaway anyway?

    • Rob says:

      I am pretty certain (but never done it) that the IHG voucher comes back as long as it isn’t past the expiry date – which is possible, as the expiry date is the booking date and not the stay date.

      You are looking at £140 to cancel. I would therefore NOT cancel but wait because I am pretty sure at least one of your legs will be cancelled and you can therefore get free cancellation.

    • Harry T says:

      I was meant to see Pearl Jam in July in Hyde Park but they cancelled the event!

      • mvcvz says:

        Sounds like a bit of good fortune to me.

      • Polly says:

        Harry
        Did they hold on to the cash for the concerts next year or refund you? We got 2 tkts for our daughter and bf for July also, but have had no notification re rescheduled concerts. Hope you get your flight cash back….

    • Doug M says:

      Of all the cancellations I’ve faced so far none has been as annoying as Pearl Jam.

  • Roosit says:

    Regarding bookings cancelled or rebooked by BA: Do I have to to call them within a timeframe from when I receive the emails alerting me to the changes? I thought I’d do it closer to the time (still have four weeks before I was due to travel).

    Regarding BA holidays: Would BA be able to deal with a cancellation for a holiday packet (flight + car) under the same telephone number or is this all separate? Haven’t received any information about this particular booking yet, as it’s only in June. If cancelled I’m hoping to deal with it in one call, saves my time and also frees up the call centre for other people.

    Thanks for any thoughts!

    • Chabuddy geezy says:

      You can call them closer to the flight date. When you call BA there is an option for BA holidays which can deal with enquiry.

  • Joan says:

    Oh that’s annoying . I booked 2 single flights to Malaga and back for a wedding in Spain in September. I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to go but thought that if I couldn’t it would only cost me the 50p each way fee and I’d get all my avios back ☹️.I thought booking two single flights instead of a return would give me more flexibility if I needed to change my plans .
    But it seems now I’ll have to pay £70 if I cancel . Grr 😖

    • Rob says:

      Wait. The flights may be cancelled OR online cancellation may be brought back. Either will save you £70.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        I might be being unduly optimistic but here’s hoping cancelled flights are rare in sept!

  • AlexT says:

    Cancellations using iOS Safari and the trick mentioned above do still work. Just cancelled 4 pairs of flights for later in the year.

    • Matthew says:

      I can’t get past the ‘Are you a passenger in this booking?’ since when i select an option, I won’t let me progress to next page with Javascript on or off. No idea why….

  • Relaxo says:

    How does the credit voucher work for avios redemption flights? Is it a way of bypassing the £35 cancelatuon charge? Do you get the avios back & the cash element as credit? Or are the avios converted to cash value (presumably at a rate BA chooses)?

  • Rashad says:

    Can we cover about Air Maroc Avios redemptions that have already been loaded on BAEC? Thanks 💅🏻

  • lcylocal says:

    Any idea if this applies to partner airline redemptions where the taxes and fees were less than £35?

    • Tim says:

      I’d like to know this too. We have a JAL redemption booked for a few weeks’ time which we need to cancel, but have held off cancelling to avoid burdening BA.

      • meta says:

        Have the flights been cancelled by JAL? You can probably cancel them online now with the workaround and not pay £35.

        • Annabelle says:

          I cancelled four JAL flights last month on line. Got avios immediately back and Amex refund in a couple days – less £35 per person.

        • Tim Rogers says:

          The flight has been cancelled once, and we have been automatically moved to a flight 2 hours later.

          On Manage My Booking, the only two options offered are “View and accept rebooked flight(s)” and “Choose alternative flight(s)”, but both display a “Invalid get itinerary details request” message when you click them.

          There is also a small “Why can’t I refund?” link which helpfully opens a modal saying “Sorry, it is not possible to change this booking on ba.com. Please call your local British Airways office to change this booking.”.

          Guess I am stuck with calling them!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It applies to all Avios bookings as per the T&Cs

      It’s up to the person on the phone if they will enforce the rules

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