As it was a slow news day yesterday, I thought I would dig out an interesting story which we first ran a couple of years ago and which highlights a quirk when it comes to cancelling Avios reward flights.
A reader had flown to Australia with his girlfriend for an extended trip. They decided to stay for an even longer period and no longer needed their return flight.
The couple had paid 250,000 Avios for a Club World redemption to Sydney, using a British Airways American Express 241 voucher.
(Don’t ask how he managed to snag the seats, given how tough Sydney is to get. He didn’t say!)
The outbound had been flown. They wanted to cancel the return flight and get 125,000 Avios back. The BA agent said ‘No’.
Was this correct?
My first thought was that the agent was wrong.
Return Avios tickets were notoriously inflexible once the outbound was flown, which was silly as there were rarely savings to be made booking 2 x one-way versus a return.
About seven years ago, however, BA changed their policy. You can now CHANGE the date or time of your return Avios flight after the outbound has been flown. I have done this myself. It is a handy feature if a better-timed flight opens up at the last minute, or your trip is going very well or very badly.
It seemed logical to me that full cancellation would also be possible. I was wrong.
You cannot CANCEL the return leg of an Avios ticket, after the outbound has been flown, for a refund.
When should you book an Avios flight as a return?
So, you may well ask, what is the point of booking Avios flights as returns, given that I have less flexibility? Here are a few reasons:
Because you’re using a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher so you don’t have any choice – one voucher cannot be used to book 2 x one-way flights on separate tickets
Because you are flying to a country where BA has higher surcharges than the UK – the USA is a prime example. Booking 2 x one-way flights means that you pay a mix of the UK and US fuel surcharges and, overall, you pay more than booking a return starting in the UK.
In other cases, consider booking 2 x one-ways – you may even save money
Booking a trip as 2 x one-ways gives you added flexibility to cancel or change the return leg.
It can, in some cities, also save you a substantial amount of money.
Hong Kong, for example, has banned airline surcharges on trips which depart from the city.
If you book a return redemption from London, BA adds surcharges to both legs. If you book as 2 x one-way flights, you only pay surcharges on the oubound.
This is how it works in practice, saving you £164:
Return Club World peak redemption London – Hong Kong:
- 180,000 Avios + £592
2 x one-way Club World peak redemptions London – Hong Kong:
- Outbound: 90,000 Avios + £393
- Inbound: 90,000 Avios + £35
- Total: 180,000 Avios + £428
Note that, due to a BA website bug, the £35 charges figure for the return leg only shows on the final payment screen.
But don’t forget ……
Booking a redemption as 2 x one-way flights has one snag.
If you need to cancel, you will be hit with double the cancellation fees. The Hong Kong ticket above would cost £70 per person to cancel rather than £35.
You need to take a gamble on whether the saving in surcharges – or the ability to cancel your return flight without having to fix a return date – is worth the risk of doubling your cancellation fee.