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BA loses arbitration case over Future Travel Vouchers – and what happens in April 2022?

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Which? magazine launched a broadside against British Airways and easyJet yesterday over their treatment of cancelled flights and the issuance of vouchers.

You can read their article here.

Which Magazine british airways refunds vouchers

Getting cash back from British Airways wasn’t easy

As regular HfP readers will know, British Airways removed the option to request a cash refund online at the start of the pandemic.

(Back in March, we published this article on how to ‘hack’ the BA website to force it to bring up the cash refund box. The article was read 101,000 times and is our most read piece of 2020.)

If you follow the online path to requesting a refund, you will (hopefully) notice that you have actually requested a Future Travel Voucher, valid to April 2022, and not cash.

April 2022 is, of course, getting nearer by the day. This leads us to the big question – is British Airways going to cancel all outstanding vouchers on 30th April 2022 and keep the money?

Remember that 30th April 2022 is NOT a ‘book by’ deadline. It is a ‘travel by’ deadline.

The European Union has issued guidance that any unused airline voucher should be refunded WITHIN 14 DAYS OF EXPIRY for cash. So far, neither easyJet or British Airways has committed to this.

Many people believe that they were misled into taking a voucher

Here is a typical case as reported by Which?:

BA passengers have told Which? they received vouchers for cancelled flights when they thought they’d applied for refunds. Jackie Harbridge says when she called BA to request a refund a recorded message directed her to Manage My Booking on BA’s website, but when she clicked on the Refund button, she says, she received a voucher for £2,118 for the flights to San Francisco.

She tried to call BA immediately, but struggled to get through. When she eventually got to speak to an agent she was told that since she had requested vouchers the decision could not be reversed.

‘I was completely misguided by the instruction in BA’s Manage My Booking, which specifically quoted “Refund” but turned out to be for a voucher, which is completely useless to us,’ said Jackie.

[…..]

BA has refused to show Which? the specific form it says Jackie filled out.

British Airways cash refunds vouchers

Some Future Travel Vouchers are being turned into eVouchers

British Airways has begun the process of converting Future Travel Vouchers for cash tickets into standard eVouchers. This will allow the voucher to be used online, unlike a Future Travel Voucher. The latest version of the BA app can also accept eVouchers.

The plan was to convert ‘cash only, one passenger only’ bookings first. Once done, the plan was to start dealing with multi-passenger cash bookings. It isn’t clear if Future Travel Vouchers which contain Avios can or will be converted into something else.

eVouchers carry an identical 30th April 2022 expiry date.

BA has lost at least one arbitration case over Future Travel Vouchers

What was really interesting from the Which? article yesterday is that it found a case where BA had been taken to CEDR arbitration – and lost.

To quote:

Some passengers who have been issued with vouchers they didn’t want have been successful in getting a refund instead. Kim Norris received a cash refund of £1,099 after taking her case of an unwanted voucher to the airline’s alternative dispute resolution service, CEDR.

It said that, on the balance of probabilities, she had not agreed to accept a voucher. BA said that Kim applied for a voucher via its website, but it only provided CEDR a screenshot of the type of form it says she filled out, not her specific form.

BA acknowledged that Kim had asked twice for a refund, by phone and by email. CEDR found that when BA issued the voucher, it was unlikely that Kim had voluntarily consented to accept it.

In its ruling, CEDR also pointed to the recommendation from the European Commission that if vouchers haven’t been redeemed by the end of their validity period they should be automatically reimbursed within 14 days.

British Airways cash refunds

What next for British Airways?

At some point soon, British Airways is going to have to make a statement about what will happen to unused Future Travel Vouchers on 30th April 2022.

It is unfortunate that the European Commission has only issued a recommendation and not a ruling that vouchers must be turned into cash on expiry if unused. That said, it isn’t clear if such a ruling would have been converted into UK law anyway.

As CEDR has already forced the airline to swap at least one Future Travel Voucher for a full cash refund, it is possible that other cases will go the same way. It would make life easier for everyone if there was clarity sooner rather than later. It is an odd world when Ryanair is leading the way by committing to replace vouchers with cash refunds on request.

There are two sides to the story of course …..

To be fair to BA, there are two different scenarios under which vouchers were issued.

If British Airways voluntarily let you cancel your non-refundable flight for a voucher – even though the flight was still departing – should you be treated differently to someone whose flight was cancelled? I’m not sure of the answer.

A lot of these vouchers have been issued to travellers who would otherwise have been covered by their travel insurance. If a passenger cancelled their ticket but the flight departed, should British Airways be forced to turn the voucher into cash? Isn’t that what travel insurance is for? Which? does not make this distinction but I think it is an important one.

PS. HfP has its own ‘how to take British Airways to CEDR arbitration’ guide which you can find here. If that fails to work in your favour, Rhys also wrote a guide on his experiences of launching court proceedings.


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Comments (133)

  • cinereus says:

    lol at disabling Javascript being a “hack”. Not even using element inspector to re-enable hidden options which is standard practice navigating these enterprisey sites…

    • Aston100 says:

      Mate, you aren’t on your World of Warcraft forum right now.
      Know the audience please.

    • Lady London says:

      what’s the string to look for to re-enable? presumably there’s a start string to remove and then a similar-ish end string at the end of what you re-enable, that both have to be deleted to re-enable? I havent done modern scree coding but always wanted to know which elements to search for and tweak when I’ve accidentally brought the screen up

      • AndyGWP says:

        There’s no set route – very much depends on the situation LL (ie. the underlying code, the lazyness / experience of the coder etc etc)

        For example, even in CSS, it could be through a multitude of ways such as:
        visibility:hidden;
        or
        display: none;

        You wouldn’t have a start / stop, you’d just change the above values (ie. to visibility: visible; or display:block; and that’s how it would treat the whole element that’s being referenced)

        • AndyGWP says:

          (when I say it depends on the underlying code, there’s some sites where it’ll happen serverside, and you’ll never get around that… there’s also some sites where they might tweak CSS / Javascript to do a quick and dirty frontend solution, but put a second check into the backend to validate the option came through as they expect / want it too)

        • Lady London says:

          thanks @AndyGWP this gives me a start. Luckily there are lots of coders who will do the quick and dirty and leave me enough to work with as in the first half of your reply…these are the ones whose code I used to earn mone debugging…! less options if they’ve done a proper job like in your second half hmmm must take a closer look next time I’m booking a hotel at points/prices/promotions Tx

  • L Allen says:

    Sadly the refund hack on the new style MMB doesn’t work. You have to force BA to load the old style.

  • ChrisW says:

    I think BA will extend all FTV voucher expirations by six months. If a vaccine is rolled out soon there should be a lot more travel options next summer than this summer.

  • Clive Watts says:

    In August, BA cancelled one segment of flights I had booked to/from South Africa as they canned the London-Durban route.
    I had an email from them saying I should go to Manage My Booking for next steps, which I did. I can’t attach the screenshot that I have but the wording is as follows:
    Where will your voucher take you?
    We’re replacing your booking with a voucher. Your voucher
    will be in your email inbox within48 hours.
    At no point did I request a voucher. This is a clear example of BA’s deception tactics. The Page does not mention the option for a refund anywhere, to which I was entitled. It does not refer to the general terms and conditions where BA say this entitlement is mentioned.
    I called and eventually BA agreed to make a refund. This took 70 days and much chasing to appear in my card account.
    The process here is clearly devised to fool the customer into believing that the voucher is the only option. Shame on BA.

    • Lady London says:

      BA should be done for misrep.
      They should have to reimburse everyone who took a voucher during the period in which BA took refund request off their website and forced people unknowingly into taking voucgers. BA should also have to pay % damages on the suns involved with a minimum flat rate of, say, £50 per transaction. This since punitive awards are not making it into European/UK law.

      BA atill wins as for now, they still get to keep the money and use it for their business. Which was their minimum aim. So they still won.

      • meta says:

        In my household, we took only one FTV for a cancelled flight in April. My partner’s employer was paying and they weren’t interested in getting the money back as it would complicate things for expenses already reimbursed. It was a total disaster with rebooking, especially with reissuance of tickets, that I banned taking FTV in our household and advise all my friends not to take it. You don’t want to spend hours on end trying to get BA to ticket 2-3 days before the flight. Granted this was in summer and things might have improved, but still I’d rather have a refund. I don’t care if my 241 voucher expires. I have too many already because I have not used them this year.

        • Jack says:

          I had a similar issue too over the summer – they ticketed me in the end like 6 hours before travel. So stressful.

          • meta says:

            We got the ticket 2 days before the flight in the end, but only because I insisted to wait on the phone while they do it. It took over 3 hours to get it done (and that’s after half an hour wait time). The poor CS agent had to call ticketing department every 15 minutes as no-one was answering him. In the end he got through and it was done within 5 minutes.

            There is another issue here too with FTV. If you have to pay anything extra for the new ticket, they authorise your CC when you book. However, it is only authorisation and payment is taken when the ticket is issued. Authorisation can only last a maximum of week, so because BA is slow with ticketing, they can’t process the payment, so they will need to take your CC details again. They won’t even call you or email to tell you that. They should have just issued personal promo codes from the beginning.

  • AJA says:

    The European Union has issued guidance that any unused airline voucher should be refunded WITHIN 14 DAYS OF EXPIRY for cash. 

    The thing is since BA’s FTV has an expiry date of 30 Apr 2022 that means BA only has to refund for cash by 14 May 2022 to comply with the EU recommendation.

    • ChrisW says:

      Then it is surely in BA’s best interests to extend the expiration date of the vouchers just before they expire rather than refunding the all?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Depends as they will all sit as liabilities on the balance sheet.

        • AJA says:

          Better an unpaid liability on the Balance Sheet than actual cash flowing out the bank account.

      • Lady London says:

        Yes and if our toothless regulators ever get off their ch***s to punish BA for that or at least require enhanced refunds, BA will offer to extend thr vouchers but only if people sign aaay their rights to ever turn them into cash.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It doesn’t need to comply with a recommendation either

    • meta says:

      By then UK will be out of EU and BA can just ignore EU recommendation.

    • Kevin says:

      AJA the actual recommendations state that a refund should be offered after 12 months of issue – so no reason to wait until April 22.

      • AJA says:

        That’s interesting although I was merely quoting the text from the article. That said I am happy with the one FTV I have which was originally for a non-refundable booking so I benefit from BA’s generosity – it’s also not for a huge amount of money and I am pretty sure I will book a flight before April 2022 to take advantage of it.

  • Sima says:

    What no one seems to take issue with is the fact that these vouchers are not linked to your BAEC account meaning that you have to trawl through emails to find the voucher number and/or booking ref number for that particular flight. In other words BA are hoping you’ll forget to use it

    • AJA says:

      I just added a reminder to the emailed voucher in my Outlook calendar. That way I won’t forget it as it pops up in my daily list of reminders. I also did a pdf print of the email using the booking ref as the document name and have that saved on my desktop. I am also a bit of an Excel geek and have a spreadsheet of my Avios earned and flights taken so have made a note in that workbook of the booking reference.

  • VINZ says:

    “If British Airways voluntarily let you cancel your non-refundable flight for a voucher – even though the flight was still departing – should you be treated differently to someone whose flight was cancelled? I’m not sure of the answer.”

    This is very interesting. If BA have been nice – for once – I don’t think they should be penalised for offering vouchers to those who otherwise would’ve lost their money or as rightly pointed out gone to their insurance. Not sure though how practical and possible would be for BA to keep track of the different types of vouchers…

  • Paul says:

    “British Airways has begun the process of converting Future Travel Vouchers for cash tickets into standard eVouchers.”
    “The plan was to convert ‘cash only, one passenger only’ bookings first. Once done, the plan was to start dealing with multi-passenger cash bookings.”

    Has anyone any practical experience of this taking place? I have a couple of FTVs issued in March/April I have heard nothing about conversion to eVouchers (which I would value more highly for obvious reasons)

    • Reney says:

      Hi Paul,

      I requested my FTV around 14th March. Mine was a cash booking with 2 individuals. My FTV voucher was converted to e voucher on 18 October. Hope this helps.

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