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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 ….

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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

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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:

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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

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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)

  • Keely says:

    Morning ! Can anyone confirm please how long Avios takes to be returned if I cancel a 2-4-1 booking please? (I know it’s normally reasonably quick but not sure in current climate…). I want to reschedule to Feb (Can now do as voucher extended ) but can’t rebook til I have the Avios back. Am I better calling (they told me £50 change fee when I booked – via the call centre) or will this cost me more than the £50 x 2 I’m expecting to be charged ? Thank you 😊

    • Anna says:

      It seems to vary. I’ve had 2 lots of Avios return within 24 hours but a third lot had to be chased up by phone after a week. Fortunately this was for a F booking and I got through to You First who sorted it then and there. Still waiting for most of the cash though, the only monetary refund I’ve had was from using the HFP workaround.

      • Keely says:

        Thanks Anna. I’ll think I’ll just give them
        a call as looking at availability, the Avios cost seems to have shot up dramatically….(still off peak dates ).

        • Cathy says:

          Hi Keely, I rang the BA contact centre yesterday after BA cancelled our Avios flights to Miami and back which should have happened yesterday, I used the workaround which confirmed refund and had been waiting approx 2.5 weeks. Voucher extended but still showed as used. Found two CW return flights to Miami late October so decided I would like to book these but 2-4-1 voucher and Avios hadn’t been released. Rang at 07.45 and answered at 08.05 after hold music which wasn’t too bad. They rebooked for me, extra £52 tax but I can live with that, kept original booking number which was good as booked last April before current situation. Lady who I dealt with was lovely and really helpful but was working from home as many call centre staff are. Assuming she was from Avios Warrington call centre as she was NorthWest based. All sorted now, good luck with your changes.

  • Doug M says:

    If you state something contractually, but then practice something entirely different for 8 or 9 years, how does the written contract stand up if challenged. Is there such a thing as amendment by customary practice. I’m sure this becomes a complex legal argument, but wondered if anyone was aware of a similar example.
    I stole the ‘Customary Practice’ term from an HR lawyer I dealt with a couple of years ago.

    • Lady London says:

      Custom and practice does work but once it takes more effort to prove. Also ensure you produce enough examples that can’t be distinguished from those to which the new practice – or actual written rules – are now being applied.

      It would be easier if BA hadn’t originally published the rule they now reverting to.

  • Adam S. 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 ….

    He fully deserves it. It’s inconsiderate people like him that left the rest of us with no available flights to choose from.

    • Tom P says:

      My thoughts exactly!

    • Kev 85 says:

      What did the reader want Rob to do about it?

      Shouldn’t he/she have read the terms and conditions before booking?

      • Doug M says:

        Possibly nothing beyond thinking the information would be useful to Rob. I’ve emailed things before that I’ve become aware of. It seems like a small payback for the information I gain here.

        • Kev 85 says:

          You may be right but there do seem to be a lot of compo chasing people who can’t take responsibility for their own errors so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to suggest that the person in question might have run to Rob to cry about his/her misfortune.

          • Rob says:

            No, this guy has been in the game for at least 15 years and is more than capable of taking a few punches.

      • Rob says:

        Where do you think we get our content from? If you have some interesting news or insight, send it in. We can look into it, compare it what we hear from other readers and hopefully publish it. You are helping out your fellow readers.

    • onlysuites says:

      Serves him right.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Its like coming on and complaing it’s hard to move in your lounge because of all the loo roll, pasta and soap you’ve hoarded.

      *sound of world’s tiniest violin playing*

  • John 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 ….”

    Good. Selfish person.

  • Michael C says:

    Just in case there are any BA insiders around: does anyone know if the Fly with Confidence “we’ll replace any flight up to Dec 31 with vouchers” applies to BA Hotline flights, too?

    Can’t see any mention one way or the other on the intranet.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    Hmmmm listening to all the comments here everyone plays the game one way or another.
    Is it fair to buy insurance (pet) then cancel when points arrive ?
    Even Rob (although i don’t blame him) Is it fair that Rob can and does Bump a passenger/s who has booked a seat out of the cabin because Rob or anyone with GOLD is that morally justified.
    believe me i would do the same
    The difference being I’m on here to “play” the game, without judging how anyone else plays
    So less of the “Hypercritical” please

    • Kev 85 says:

      I agree but if you get caught playing the game and have to pay as per the terms and conditions then you’ve got nothing to complain/cry about it. Move on rather than bleat about it.

    • Ian says:

      Those scenarios dont directly impact others. Booking weekly flights over summer knowing you wont use 90% of them does! Serves him right.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Ian, How can you possibly say “Those scenarios don’t directly affect others”
        If Rob or anyone with Gold Bumps passengers out of 1st or Business class
        (in Rob’s case he admits to bumping 4 passengers out)
        “How can that “NOT” be directly affecting those bumped off
        That is not a criticism of Rob

        • Anna says:

          I thought being Gold let you force BA to let you book award seats, not to usurp people who have already booked?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            It forces open Avios seats in a seat class that’s still for sale. No one gets bumped.

        • ChrisC says:

          When did this happen? Can you post a link?

          • Lady London says:

            Always been the case for Gold. Pay 2x the avios even if no avios availability on the flight and if any space in the class BA will make a seat available for you. Obvs you have to phone.

          • Lady London says:

            Has to be a certain time ahead though. Think it’s 30 days.

        • Rob says:

          You can’t bump people out. Gold Priority Rewards only work if there are unsold seats.

          • Chris Heyes says:

            Hi, Rob, sorry if i wrongly stated you as being gold had bumped anyone out of a 1st or Business cabin.
            But i can tell you it does happen me and my partner was due to fly in Business a few years ago
            and we was told we “HAD” to be downgraded because a party of Gold Members was requesting seats in Business and there wasn’t enough seats for them
            We was well compensated but that isn’t the point it happened

          • Rob says:

            That’s nonsense. Only a BA Premier cardholder, I believe, has the ability to throw people out of their reserved seats and even then they can’t force downgrades.

            BA Gold’s are, relatively speaking, 10 a penny and don’t have any special power. Even Gold Guest List / Concorde Room cardholders will tell you that they don’t have any real power to get anything done. HOWEVER …. if BA has overbooked the cabin then a Gold WILL have priority over you when looking for people to downgrade.

          • Genghis says:

            BA don’t treat GCHs that well!

          • Michael says:

            There’s reservation assurance (or something similarly named), allowing Golds a guaranteed cash seat 48h out. I’m not sure if it only applies to full-fare economy but could conceivably result in a bump for someone else.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Used to be guaranteed an economy seat regardless of what class you’d booked. Golds are down to pecking order to be bumped but it’s not guaranteed they won’t be.

    • ChrisC says:

      The pet insurance example is wrong because someone taking it up does not prevent anyone else taking up the offer.

      Block booking limited reward seats does affect other people because is denied them even the opportunity of being able to use their Avios. And not many people will be able to take off to Spain with little notice because the block booker cancelled their Avios booking.

      • Mikeact says:

        Flexibility, dates etc., has always been the key to this ‘hobby’. (?)

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        It impacts the financial viability of the firm which impacts the ability to generate profit, to employ people etc.

        Don’t pick and choose your principles.

      • Doug M says:

        How do know that. Maybe the insurance company limit the number of policies sold this way. All the criticism of the guy booking the flights boils down to they might have stopped me from getting what I want. Then they call him greedy and selfish.

  • Mark 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 cancellation”

    Serves him right, I hope the selfish so and so he pays through his nose.

  • ADS says:

    have BA *ever* charged 35 quid cancellation fee for a single RFS ?

    i’ve only ever cancelled a few over the last decade – but i don’t think i’ve ever been charged more than 17.50 gbp

    if BA have spent the last 8.5 years (since RFS was born) charging 17.50 for cancelling a single – surely that counts as “custom and practice” ?

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