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.