British Airways has just made some sweeping cancellations for 2021, in many cases cancelling routes entirely.
The following routes have been permanently suspended, according to internal communications:
- Abu Dhabi
- Jeddah (although a temporary Hajj operation will exist in July 2021)
- Kuala Lumpur (from late March)
- Seychelles (from late April)
Three routes have only been suspended for the 2021 Summer season and are due to return in November 2021:
- San Jose Costa Rica (from mid April)
You may already have received an email alerting you if you had a booking on one of these services.
What are your options?
Flight cancellations are governed by EU law EU261. These regulations will continue to apply following the end of the Brexit transition period on 1st January 2021 as they have been subsumed into UK law.
You can read the full text of EU261 here. Article 5 of EU261 deals with cancellations:
1. In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall:
(a) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance with Article 8;
Article 8 outlines the duty of care an airline has towards you in the case of cancelled or delayed flights, including the right to reimbursement or re-routing.
Here is the relevant extract from Article 8:
Article 8: Right to reimbursement or re-routing
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered the choice between:
(a) – reimbursement within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant,
– a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity;
(b) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
(c) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.
As you can see, there are three clear options: a full refund (clause a), re-routing as close to the original flight timings as possible (clause b) or re-routing at a later date (clause c). It is your choice which of these you choose, not the airline’s.
There does not need to be Avios seat availability if your cancelled flight is an Avios redemption and you would like to be rerouted.
What if British Airways no longer flies there?
EU261 is clear that the right to re-routing is not dependent on whether a particular airline flies to the original destination.
For example, British Airways has cancelled its Kuala Lumpur flights permanently. Malaysia Airlines is now the only airline offering direct flights between London and KL.
In this case, you could reasonably argue that “comparable transport conditions” include re-routing onto the only direct flight available with Malaysia Airlines, rather than a connecting flight.
Some agents will claim they cannot reroute you on another airline because they do not have an agreement with each other. This is unlikely to stand up in court: EU261 does not make such a provision.
That said, you cannot pick what alternative airline you wish to fly. BA can put you on any flight as long as it gets you to your final destination at the “earliest opportunity” and under “comparable conditions”.
Can I switch to a different airport?
Yes. BA’s policy is to let you rebook to airports within a 300 mile radius of your original destination.
In our example where British Airways has cancelled its Kuala Lumpur flights, it is still flying to Singapore which is less than 217 miles away. In this case, you may prefer to be rerouted to Singapore.
BA have also said that they will allow re-routing to Vancouver for Calgary bookings and Riyadh for Jeddah bookings in this specific case.
EU261 is a little more vague about your rights in this case. Here is Article 8 (3):
3. When, in the case where a town, city or region is served by several airports, an operating air carrier offers a passenger a flight to an airport alternative to that for which the booking was made, the operating air carrier shall bear the cost of transferring the passenger from that alternative airport either to that for which the booking was made, or to another close-by destination agreed with the passenger.
It is not entirely clear how EU law defines ‘region’ here. It is debatable whether Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are in the same ‘region’ – they certainly aren’t the same city!
Do I get compensation?
In some circumstances, monetary compensation is provided in addition to any duty of care, refund or re-routing rights.
EU261 also outlines the circumstances in which you may be entitled to compensation.
Article 5 states that:
1. In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall:
(c) have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier in accordance with Article 7, unless:
(i) they are informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
(ii) they are informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or
(iii) they are informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.
As virtually all the cancellations have been made with more than two weeks notice you will not be entitled to compensation.
What other options do I have?
British Airways is offering Future Travel Vouchers as well as cash refunds if you do not wish to rebook. Unless your booking involved a British Airways American Express 241 voucher or a Lloyds upgrade voucher, cash is obviously the sensible answer.
The only reason to take a Future Travel Voucher is that it protects your 241 or upgrade voucher and extends it to 30th April 2022. All travel must be completed by this date.
How to contact BA
If you would like a full refund of your flight you must use the form here. You can only request a voucher on Manage My Booking.
For re-routing options you must call British Airways directly on 0800 727 800. If you have BA status then you should call the relevant status line as you have a substantially greater chance of getting through. If you have a booking in First you should call the ‘You First’ number here.
Phone lines are likely to be very busy in the coming days given the number of cancellations. Your best bet is to give it a week or so for things to calm down and then try again.
It is important to be clear that you may well not be offered the options that EU261 legally provides, especially if you have an Avios ticket. You may find that you will be left in the position of having to pay cash for a new ticket from another airline and then take British Airways to CEDR arbitration or Money Claim Online in order to reclaim your money.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
If you have a small business, we especially recommend Capital On Cap’s Visa card which comes with a generous bonus worth 10,500 Avios:
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)