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British Airways drops Flight Pass and will refund existing pass holders

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British Airways has decided to close Flight Pass, its ‘bulk buy’ discount scheme for regular travellers.

We have covered Flight Pass a few times, most recently here.

Flight Pass allowed you to buy route passes for economy travel on flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and City.

It was managed on behalf of British Airways via a company called OptionTown. You could not buy a Flight Pass directly from British Airways.

British Airways Flight Pass optiontown

Flight Pass was only available for economy flights. There were multiple permutations based on:

  • how many people would share your pass, up to six
  • how many tickets you wanted to pre-pay
  • whether you wanted it for a specific city or a whole country
  • what expiry date you are willing to accept and
  • how close to the date of travel you wanted to book

Here is a Flight Pass in practice

At one extreme, you could buy 12 one-way flights between Heathrow and Newcastle for £821so £68 each.  This includes taxes.  

To get this price, you had to book all the flights within three months AND you must have booked for travel 90 days in advance.  The only person who could use the Flight Pass was the original purchaser. This is obviously very restrictive but would work for a weekly commuter to London.

Taking another example, 12 one-way tickets, shared between two people with 12 months to use them and booked 30 days in advance, would have cost £893, so £74 per seat

‘Real’ flexibility came at a cost. If you insisted on being able to book your Newcastle flight four hours before departure – instead of 30 days – the price shot up to £165 per seat each-way.

The net result was always the same, however. Your flight price was fixed, irrespective of what a ticket was selling for on the day you booked. You could pay for your pass in instalments.

A number of readers had significant issues with Flight Pass and OptionTown during coronavirus, usually linked to an unwillingness to extend the life of passes and the difficulty in getting refunds for booked but cancelled flights.

British Airways now appears to want to draw a line under the entire episode. If you have outstanding coupons, you have the option of cashing them in for a pro-rata refund. No new passes will be sold.

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Comments (19)

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    MAN lounge is not reopening (source FlyerTalk). I was there on the last day the lounge was actually open. NCL had already been confirmed to not be reopening so that’s no more regional lounges in England. There’s no plan (yet) to close the Scottish lounges.

    Add to this BA have cancelled lounge contracts in many overseas airports (BLQ for example).

    When based in London I’d often have a flight pass LHR-NCL, the ‘freedom option’ passes earned 20 TP each way (full fare economy) and also a decent number of OnBusiness points which seemed higher than the value of the ticket. I’d normally use these ones when I’d have to travel at short notice.

    I had planned to buy BLQ-LHR passes once covid had became insignificant but that looks like it won’t happen now. When I had decided to work in Italy I expected frequent trips back to the UK.

    I hope it comes back in some form once things get back to normal. Perhaps do it in house, bmi used to have something similar (I never tried it)

    • SwissJim says:

      bmi pass was brilliant – used to use it for weekly UK/Switzerland commute. It takes me back though – a very long time ago.!

      • Polly says:

        I also had a BMI one to Dublin. The best value, ever. Shame they have stopped it. But avios gave us more flexibility bk and forth to Dub, the past few years when needed, as last minute trips.

  • Roger Jones says:

    Commute by plane? Small wonder the Planet is dying.

    • Polly says:

      My friends OH commuted bk and forth from Dub to Lon weekly for years too. 100’s commute by plane weekly. Very useful if relocation required for non work purposes.

    • Andrew says:

      Loads do it. My nieces would have had to board as 5 year olds if they hadn’t been able to hop on the Loganair flight every morning.

      London’s hospitals, GP surgeries and schools would be in trouble if there wasn’t an army of Scots, NI/Eire residents and Europeans commuting in.

      If you really want to make a swift cut of CO2 emissions in the UK, simply introduce prohibition. Around half a kilo of CO2 to make and distribute every pint of beer.

    • ThinkSquare says:

      I used to commute MAN-LHR using bmi pass. I had a split location job. Trains took too long and driving was too stressful. It was brilliant 😉

    • Rob says:

      Only £500 per week for flight and 4 nights hotel. Makes sense if you can earn £250k in London vs £50k in Newcastle, or indeed if you want to pay £1m for a massive house in the North East vs £10m around London.

      • Lady London says:

        I earned much less and it was still worth it. It enabled me not to use a car, connected well with trains and was overall less polluting.

        You have to be very, very organised if your work works this way plus always have a backup plan for accommodation, other transport or being able to stay put in the case of irrops at work, weather or transport failure.

        I used to stroll on and off planes like buses and got a great deal of work done en route (hence lounges are super-important to me). I miss it.

      • ao40 says:

        Almost exactly how it works for me, living in Edinburgh but job in Canary Wharf, though we were already flexibly working so only needed to do 2 or 3 nights in London per week.

    • Mikeact says:

      @Roger Jones. Ridiculous would you suggest my old commute between London and Belfast.. walk.. cycle.. wait for a bus ?

      • Roger Jones says:

        OK it won’t matter once parts of Central London are underwater. Then jobs might move to where you live.

        • Mikeact says:

          Suggest you put forward a constructive comment as apposed to ‘London under water’. What do you people actually want…..ban all flying ? I guess you’ve been outside of the UK or never ?

  • Andrew says:

    Well, I was one of the ones who had a problem with FlightPass during Covid season.

    It’s been a miserable experience.

    The first issue was when an Easter FlightPass purchased flight was cancelled and BA issued a FTV. BA refused to disclose the value of the FTV. Logic suggests it would be 2/18ths of the original purchase, but I know if I buy 3 pairs of socks on promotion and return one pair – you don’t always get 1/3rd of the cost back. CEDR finally ordered BA to disclose the value of the FTV at the end of February. They haven’t hit the deadline yet, this announcement might impact how they deal with FTVs paid for with FPs.

    Other than that issue it’s been a nightmare of OptionTown pointing fingers at BA telling me they set the rules and BA pointing fingers back at OptionTown saying it’s in their T&C’s.

    Not helped by the OptionTown T&C’s explicitly stating they only recognise English Law (not ideal if Scottish Law prevents you from travelling on a domestic carnet).

    Dear old S75? Well the OptionTown T&C’s require you to agree not to make a claim through your credit card company for disputes.

    It would have helped if the CAA and CMA had included a line about carnets in their guidance for airlines…

    • Dave says:

      Can they really put in the t&c’s an enforceable clause that overrides the consumer credit act?

      • Lady London says:

        No they can’t. It is illegal to force someone to sign away their statutory rights except in very few circumstances (like if the other party pays for your legal advice before you sign). That clause in the contract would be invalid.

  • jasev says:

    I had a lot of trouble with optiontown and the flight passes. I had been using them for two years, but the covid situation overwhelmed them and their response was terrible. Chats that didn’t work, communications that were closed without a solution after literally hours waiting in line, refusal to reimburse tickets in spite of those being cancelled by BA, refusal to change direct flights to connecting ones… Ultimately, I had to give up and call BA directly; sometimes they would tell me that it was optiontown responsibility, but most of the times they would act as human beings that actually care about their customers and help.

    Ultimately, optiontown added a “free cancellation” policy a few months ago. Too little, too late. I was planning on using it again when things go back to normal, but until then I’m only booking with BA directly.

  • David says:

    You wonder if they also wanted to free up the term ‘Flight Pass’ for use in a post COVID permit context.

  • Christophe says:

    Any information about how to have my BA flight pass refunded? No news about the process on either and…

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