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UPDATED: Two readers get upset because BA Holidays is too quick to pay refunds!

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UPDATE: BA Holidays contacted us this morning to say that any customer who has had their holiday cancelled but does still want to travel WILL be rebooked on request and where available, if they do not wish to book a new trip on ba.com. They will not be asked to pay any additional money for the same holiday based on alternative flights, irrespective of the current ticket price.

British Airways has, to its credit, been one of the better airlines when it comes to paying out cash refunds during coronavirus.

OK, it removed the website refund functionality on ba.com and effectively gave you a choice – claim a Future Travel Voucher online, or hang around on the telephone to ask for a refund. Once you called, however, your refund was generally paid promptly.

In its recent investigation into airline refunds, the Civil Aviation Authority was relatively pleased by how British Airways had handled things.

Has BA Holidays been a little too keen to refund people?

In the past week, two readers have contacted me with concerns over BA Holidays. Put simply, they feel that BA Holidays has been a little too efficient in refunding them.

BA Holidays operates under different rules to the airline. As a package holiday business, it must – by law – pay out refunds in cash within 14 days of a holiday being cancelled. Failure to do so would lead to the loss of its authorisation to sell package holidays.

This is the email the readers received:

We are contacting you about your upcoming British Airways Holidays trip.

As you may already be aware, your booking has been affected by flight cancellation(s) due to a revised flying programme in response to coronavirus COVID-19. This means we are unable to provide your British Airways Holidays itinerary as originally booked.

We are currently receiving exceptionally high call volumes and are very sorry if you have been unable to reach us by phone to discuss your options.

To prevent the need for you to contact us, we will be cancelling your British Airways Holidays itinerary and processing a full refund. This will be returned to your original form of payment within the next 7 – 10 days.


If you have already been in touch to arrange alternative plans following the cancellation of your flight(s), these will remain in place and you can disregard this email. You can check the status of your trip in Manage My Booking on ba.com. Your booking will only be refunded if it contains a cancelled flight.

While your original flight is no longer operating on your chosen date or time, you can check ba.com for alternative packages based on our revised flying schedule. When you are ready to rethink your travel plans, we have introduced additional flexibility so you can book with total confidence. This includes the removal of change fees for new bookings and low deposits on package holidays that can be paid in full as late as three weeks before travel. View the full details of our Customer Promise.

Prepaid seating refunds for your original booking can be requested using this claim form, please mention that your booking was cancelled due to COVID-19 when submitting your form.

We are very sorry that your trip has been affected in this way but look forward to assisting with your future travel plans.

British Airways Holidays

Here’s the problem …..

Neither of these readers want a refund.

They want a holiday!

Long-haul premium flights are currently very expensive. With airlines carrying few passengers, fares have shot up on the grounds that those who are travelling must travel and will pay whatever is needed.

BA Holidays could have rerouted these readers on other airlines, but presumably decided that it was too expensive. Instead, it chose to wash its hands of both readers and simply send back their money.

You will see from the wording of the email that, for anyone who had been able to get through to them, BA Holidays was willing to rebook. Once the email was sent it was too late.

One reader told me that he had repriced his trip and it would cost him an additional £8,000 to rebook it.

It is perfectly possible that some of these holidays could have gone ahead. We are not talking about people due to fly to New Zealand next week.

One reader (not the one whose bill had risen by £8,000) was going to San Francisco in February 2021 on a package booked in a recent BA Holidays sale. Whilst I wouldn’t want to place a bet on San Francisco accepting tourists next February, we are looking six months ahead and a lot can happen in that time. The odds are certainly not zero.

Issuing a refund now, without discussing it with the customer, seems excessive.

Comments (43)

  • Paul says:

    Had no issues altering my BA Holidays booking, after receiving the standard flight cancelation email, called up and had it altered. If you leave it I suspect they auto-cancel.

    • Danksy says:

      Hi Paul – do you have a number for them ? I’m trying to pay the balance on my BA holiday booking using a voucher I had refunded and I’m having a terrible time getting through – with the balance being needed to be paid in the next 3 days!

      • pavioj says:

        Email [email protected] and they will apply the voucher to your new booking.

        • Rob says:

          If it’s a BA Holidays voucher you can email the details in to [email protected] (the instructions are included in your original voucher confirmation). If it’s a flight only voucher you do need to contact the call centre to redeem.

          • Danksy says:

            Thanks guys – unfortunately I never received the email (flight) voucher, but apparently I have one. The call centre staff just bounce me around…. meaning I get no-where fast; at this rate I’ll have to fork out a load more cash for my holiday and be stuck with an expiring flight voucher that i didn’t want!

  • Jody says:

    Our outbound flight to Nice was cancelled for a holiday booked with BA for this November. However, i contacted them the same day and was able to change to a different flight the same day (think they had cut down on the number of flights per day). Nothing to say the holiday was cancelled, in fact the lady said she would be emailing the helicopter transfer company (booked as part of the offer with free transfers!) to let them know we were on the earlier flight!

    That was 2 days before Monte Carlo (where we are actually staying) was added to the FCO essential travel only and quarantine for 14 days list, so who knows what will happen! Keeping fingers crossed as November is a few months off yet and things can change.

    • Dan says:

      Jody – when was this cancelled? I got the same offer (with heli transfer) booked 01-04/10. So far looks like it is still on!

      • Jody says:

        Dan, it was cancelled on 11th August. We are due to fly on the 6th November. Flight was at 9.55am, seems like they’ve stopped that one. We were able to get re-booked on the earlier flight (8.20am off the top of my head) with no problem at all. The email just said the flight was cancelled and I should contact BA for further options, nothing to say holiday had been cancelled.

  • SteveR says:

    Very interesting how it took me a painstaking 1 hour phone call to get cash refunds from 5 flight booking references, all of which BA cancelled so could easily be automatic (presumably some people have hundreds, how long must that take!?) yet they are able to refund people that don’t need it immediately!

    • Rob says:

      As the article says, package holiday law is VERY strict.

      • Jody says:

        Rob we all know it’s supposed to be strict, but BA seems to be one of very few companies who have actually stuck to the law in terms of refunding within 14 days. Many, many companies haven’t, including big ones like Tui, Virgin Holidays etc, not to mention the travel agent I bought my cruise package through and ended up having to go through my credit card to get refunded.

        There doesn’t seem to be any punishment for any of these companies who have stuck to the 14 days, so whilst it is admirable that BA have, it does kind of beg the question as to why they’ve bothered?

        • Char Char says:

          to avoid rebooking at a higher cost to them i guess

        • Arnie Lord says:

          Hi Jody – Its really interesting how some peoples experience of BA has been good and some awful. I am still waiting for BA to refund flights from a cancelled skiing trip in March. I have now claimed via AMEX and received a suspension of charges but nothing from BA. Same with an Edinburgh trip in May etc. Customer services simply send me e mails saying we are on it!!! They have also cancelled our main holiday in Mauritius for September having changed our flight status from 1st class to premium, to economy, to premium economy and back to first class and then cancelled. We had our deposit back within 7 days but no holiday. Ive given up with them and if I can will avoid for future. Virgin on the other hand told me outright that it would take 3 to 4 months to refund 8 flights I had booked on an itinerary to the USA in May and throughout each month sent me a mail saying we are working on it and have now settled them in full. Given the credit card companies unwillingness to pay Virgin in case of a major default and administration I think Virgin have done a pretty good job and deserve some credit for their overall actions during this pandemic.

  • Callum says:

    Has anyone been able to reinstate a ticket after an automatic cancellation?