Which airlines will let you book now with flexibility for late 2020 and early 2021?

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A reader recently got in touch to suggest we write an article on how you are protected if you book cash flights now for later this year or early 2021.

It was a good idea.  After all, you may wish to book with the airline which will give you the most flexibility.

As each airline has its own policies we have divided them out.  We have included the guidance that applies when a flight is NOT cancelled – eg. your flight is still going and you are in good health (so your travel insurance won’t pay) but you simply no longer wish to travel. 

There are various reasons why this may happen:

additional restrictions may be imposed at your destination which would make your holiday less enjoyable

additional quarantine restrictions may be imposed on your arrival or on your return to the UK

you may become concerned at a peak in coronavirus cases at your destination

….. or for a myriad of other reasons which are not covered by travel insurance.

If your flight is cancelled or rescheduled you will have additional options, of course, including a cash refund.

If you want to book a flight for travel in 2021, be careful

Whilst airline policies vary, on the whole there is a lot of flexibility for new bookings made for travel later this year. Most airlines are offering rebooking policies and waiving change fees, although you may still be on the hook for a fare difference. You may also be offered the opportunity to take a voucher or even credit in the airline’s loyalty scheme.

For early 2021, however, it is a different story.

Unfortunately a lot of these policies end at the end of 2020, and bookings for 2021 do not come with additional flexibility. Whilst this might change in the future, bookings made for 2021 are not as flexible and will depend on the ticket policy you book.

The following airlines are not allowing voluntary cancellations, for cash or voucher refunds, for tickets booked now for travel in 2021:

  • British Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Emirates
  • Qatar Airways
  • Etihad
  • Aer Lingus
  • Iberia

…… so be very careful before booking.  We would recommend these airlines:

Lufthansa guarantees to let you move a flight booked for January to April 2021

KLM guarantees to let you move a flight booked for any future date

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

British Airways

Bookings made until 31st July for travel completed by 31st December 2020 are eligible for free date and destination changes. However, whilst the usual change fee has been waived, you will have to pay any difference in fare.

You can also request a ‘Book With Confidence’ voucher. The same date restrictions apply as above. The voucher is valid for two years and you must travel before 30th April 2022. The voucher can be used as payment or part-payment, so you can top it up with cash if required.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel in 2021.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Virgin Atlantic

Bookings made on or before 30th June 2020 for travel before 31st December 2020 are eligible for rebooking until 30th September 2022. The change fee will be waived once only, so you can’t change your mind several times. You will have to pay any difference in fare.

If you do not know where you want to go,  you can complete the ‘open ticket’ form which will let Virgin Atlantic keep your booking open and let you rebook at your convenience. The same date restrictions apply as above.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel in 2021.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Emirates

Bookings made on or before 30th June 2020 for travel prior to 30th November 2020 are eligible for an ‘open ticket’.  Opening a ticket extends its validity for 24 months and can be rebooked on any flight to the same destination or region at any time with no fees.

The regions are:

    • Africa
    • Australasia
    • Europe
    • Far East
    • Gulf, Middle East and Iran
    • Indian Ocean Islands
    • North America
    • South America
    • West Asia

For example, a booking from London to Sydney could be rebooked to Auckland, New Zealand, for no extra charge. There is NO change fee and NO difference in fare, as long as you stick within the original region.

Alternatively, you can request a travel voucher for the value of your ticket. This is valid for one year from date of issue and can be used for any Emirates flight or Emirates product or services. You do not need to spend the voucher in one go and can use it over multiple purchases. Emirates also suggests the voucher can be extended by an additional year, although it is not clear how.

There is one catch here.  From my reading of the guidance, you cannot cancel just because you feel like it.  If there are no travel advisories or quarantines in place, either for leaving your home country or for entering into your destination, then you may not be able to cancel.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st December 2020.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Qatar Airways

The following options are available for bookings made before 30th September 2020 for travel starting on or before 31st December:

You can hold on to your ticket and extend its validity for use by 24 months from original booking. You can change your travel date or destination as often as you like as long as you travel before 31st December 2020. You may change your origin city to another city in the same country and your destination to another destination within a 5,000 miles radius of the original destination free of charge.

You can request a travel voucher for the original value of your booking, plus 10%. The voucher is valid for 24 months from issue and can be used on any flight in the Qatar Airways network. It is not clear if the voucher can be used across multiple bookings.

You can swap the value of your booking to Qmiles at a rate of US$1 to 100 Qmiles.  This HFP article looks at whether it is worth taking Qmiles instead of cash when cancelling a Qatar Airways flight. 

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel in 2021.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Etihad

If you are due to travel by 31st July 2020, Etihad is giving you various options for refunds or rebooking.   Unlimited date changes are permitted on all new bookings made for travel before 30th November 2020 (fare difference applies). If you are unable to travel, you are eligible for Etihad credit.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st December 2020.

You can read the guidance here.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Lufthansa

Bookings made before 30th June 2020 for travel starting on or before 30th April 2021 are eligible for rebooking.  Your rebooked trip must be started prior to 31st December 2021. Whilst the change fee is waived for your first change, you must pay any fare difference.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st May 2021.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

KLM

For new bookings made after 22nd April 2020 you can change your flight dates without paying a change fee.  You will have to pay any difference in fare.

You can also use the full value of your booking to change your destination. You will not have to pay a change fee when rebooking on KLM, Air France, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, and Kenya Airways flights.

You can read the guidance here.

There does not appear to be a cut-off date, so you should be protected for flights booked now for travel in 2021.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Aer Lingus

You can change the date of your trip if you are due to travel prior to 30th September 2020. Change fees are waived but any fare difference will apply.

If you are due to travel prior to 30th June 2020, you are eligible for a travel voucher for the full amount of our booking plus 10%. The voucher is valid for five years from issue date and can be used across multiple bookings.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st October 2020.

Which airlines will let you a cancel a flight for free?

Iberia

Bookings made prior to 30th June for travel starting on or before 31st December 2020 are eligible for a date, time, origin or destination change free of charge. You will have to pay any fare difference.

You can read the guidance here.

There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st January 2021.

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Comments

  1. Aleks says:

    Morning, any idea how Virgin’s policy of “Bookings made on or before 30th June 2020 for travel before 31st December 2020 are eligible for rebooking until 30th September 2022” will work in practice given the fact (I assume) the flight schedule for 2022 won’t be available until 2021?

    I have 2x HK-LHR flights booked for 10th December 2020 and would look to rebook these for mid 2022 but I have a feeling they’ll try and force me to spend these in 2021 with claims that the booking window is available that far in advance.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Roger Wood says:

    We took the opportunity to book decent Premium Economy BA flights during the sale in January to travel to Rio early December and out or Santiago just before Xmas. Anticipated a few days in Rio then flight to Buenos Aires to board a Cruise around the Horn. I doubt the cruise will go ahead and my wife is anxious about travelling.

    Tried to change for a Future Flight Credit but the Book with Confidence kicked in ? 3rd march so the folk who booked January/February are at a disadvantage. The flight in non refundable. I can make changes to dates only (a week in South America !!).

    Any views.

  3. Gavin Cooper says:

    The issue I have with Virgin is if you booked before 19th March 2020 and due to the travel after 30th September 2020 they will not do anything for you, I have flights in October 2020. I don’t understand why there are two policies before 19th March bookings and after 20th March bookings?

  4. M Jones says:

    Might be a good idea if KLM start issuing their vouchers first. I am 9 weeks in from a cancelled flight and a voucher request with no response with a voucher. Exactly how KLM expect to retain Customers who wish to re-book when they still haven’t issued their vouchers to existing Customers is beyond commercial comprehension. Not only that but KLM have cynically blocked their complaints channel for enquiries to these voucher requests. The PNR is no longer recognised for cancelled flights and therfore a complaint or request cannot proceed. Nice scam if you can get it!

  5. How can you base an article on KLM terms and conditions when they change them without customer notification and retrospectively use changed conditions to penalise their customers. It takes up to an hour to reach someone on the telephone and then do not address your question. They are by far the worst customer service experience in my life and you are writing an article indicating they provide hassle free changes

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