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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.

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.

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.

Comments (70)

  • AVIOS BOOKINGS–booked before July 31. Pls clarify.
    1) BA does not cancel flight, but I want to cancel; BA charges £35.00 per person, even for a one-way?
    2) If flight booked with Avios is cancelled by BA I can rebook through Manage my Booking, but outbound and return must be completed one year from date that Avios booking was made.
    3) This would mean that if I want to ‘chance it’ to Italy in July, I’d have more flexibility to book with money, correct?

    • mr_jetlag says:

      Er no. They’ll give you a voucher not hand you your cash back.

    • Anna says:

      Don’t assume you can do 2) online (i.e. the sensible option!). I had a booking which said could be changed via MMB but when I tried to do it I just got a message to call the contact centre. I couldn’t face that, so I opted for the future travel voucher which will hopefully extend my 2 4 1 until 2022!

  • Louie says:

    It would be great if you did a similar article about the various FF schemes bookings cancellation fees, requirements for award space to be available or not if you need to change flights, etc.

    • Louie says:

      I mean specifically temporary changes due to the current crisis.

  • Tom says:

    Singapore Airlines have a curious policy in place for flights after 31st July. If you booked before 4th March (i.e. pre-COVID restrictions), tickets are not eligible for any change. However, if you booked from 5th March onwards for the same dates, you are eligible to reschedule your flight.

    I have a vested interest … business flights from Stockholm to Auckland for December 2020 booked and paid for in January.

  • Sam says:

    Think we’re going to chance our arm at a trip to Seville and Madrid in September. Iberia policy seems pretty decent and straight forward.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Vueling also have a good policy on this. You should be fine at the Spain end, what the UK will be like for your return, who knows.

  • Judy says:

    What about BA Holidays for 2021? Is there no protection and a right to a refund if, for instance, the destination country did not allow UK nationals (in my case) to enter?

    • Anna says:

      I don’t think there’s any automatic right to a refund as it’s not BA’s fault if the country won’t let you in. You’d have to see what BA’s cancellation/change policy is at the time of booking or check that your insurance would cover you for such a cancellation.

  • WilliamD says:

    I have a BA holiday (Flight and car) booked for Oct 2020, deposit paid only, which was made in Feb 20. Do the flexibility rules apply on this?

    • Rhys says:

      Rules vary depending on when you book. This article is just about future books from today. Take a look at BA’s own guidance which we linked to.

    • Adam says:

      These policies only seem to count for bookings made since 3rd March. I made a booking in Feb for a flight in Oct and have zero options (can’t get a voucher, can’t change date). Seems a bit odd since I had even less chance of predicting this when I booked in Feb than someone who books after 3rd March

      • jc says:

        Unfortunately it’s BECAUSE you had less chance of predicting it. The generous voucher promise is there first and foremost to incentivize people to book, back in February you didn’t need an incentive.

        • Adam says:

          I don’t think other airlines are taking this approach. Easyjet is waiving date change fees regardless of when you booked (i.e appreciating the uncertainty faced by their passengers rather than just trying to incentives new bookings). As a result i’ve just booked my ski flights for 2021 with Easyjet rather than BA (even though i’m BA Gold) as I feel they are taking a more reasonable appraoch.

          • Lady London says:

            be careful. easyjet has changed pricing and rules without notice and operated new changed basis literally months without announcing any change.

            have you got sonething that definitely means you will always be able to change that booking fee-free? Easyjet’s change fees are more than BA’s unless you can change quite far ahead.

  • Alex says:

    Are there any articles or does anyone know how it works for those that have used avios points and cash for theBA reward flights for flights that will either be cancelled by the airline or which passengers will have to cancel because of covid19 fears (albeit the government may not advise you not to fly). I have 5 reward saver flights booked to Barcelona last week in August be t have travel insurance. We can’t self isolate for 2 weeks upon returning as kids have school and would rather not risk it. If BA don’t cancel it, would I cancel the flights and pay cancellation fees, get the avios back and travel insurance cover me??

    • Rob says:

      As they are Avios tickets you cancel them anyway, albeit for a £35 fee per person. Your best bet is to wait as late as possible and hope BA cancels the flight, which means you don’t need to pay the £35.

      • Alex says:

        Thanks Rob, will wait then as you suggest and hope that if it is me that cancels not BA that my travel insurance pays out

  • Bagoly says:

    For Emirates, Etiahd, and Lufthansa you say:
    “There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel after 1st MMM YYYY.”
    For Aer Lingus and Iberia you say:
    “There is NO flexibility for bookings made now for travel from 1st MMM YYYY.”

    Are the first three really from the 2nd of the relevant month?
    It seems more likely that you got more precise as you went on, but didn’t yet carry back the good idea?
    (if you do change, do delete this comment to avoid confusing later readers!) 🙂