Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How to use British Airways Holidays to avoid paying for your flight until 3 weeks before departure

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

If you’re ‘not the sort of person who books package holidays’, you may have given BA Holidays a wide berth.  It would be a mistake.

BA Holidays has three unique benefits.  Positive changes during coronavirus have made these benefits even more valauable:

It allows you to book flights today but not pay the majority of the cost until 3 weeks before travel

It turns non-refundable flights into up to 90% refundable flights (all you lose is your deposit if you cancel)

It gives you extra Avios on top of the Avios you already earn for the flights and the credit card spend

There is also a potential fourth benefit:

Booking via BA Holidays may actually be cheaper than bookings stand-alone flights

Let’s look at how it works …..

Book your next flight by just paying a deposit

British Airways Holidays has a very generous interest free payment plan.  You pay a deposit when you book.  You only need to pay the balance within three weeks of departure.

The deadline used to be five weeks before departure.  During coronavirus, this has been reduced to just three weeks.

It is VERY easy to turn a potential ‘flight only’ booking into a qualifying BA Holidays booking.

All you need to do is book using the ‘flight and hotel’ or ‘flight and car’ options on ba.com.  You need to add some accommodation or car hire to your stay.  Adding a car is the easiest option unless you actually need a hotel too.

BA Holidays can save you money too

An added benefit of doing this is that it can save you money.  You will often pay less for a ‘flight and hotel’ or ‘flight and car’ booking than just for the flight.  This is because British Airways sells you a different – cheaper – sort of flight ticket (don’t worry, you still get Avios and tier points) which is made exclusively available to travel agents.

Even if the price is the same or is marginally more expensive, you may feel that it is a price worth paying to give yourself what could be a substantial period of interest free credit.

It should make your non-refundable flights up to 90% refundable ….

You are also building in an element of flexibility, since you could potentially cancel your booking and forfeit your deposit.

The BA Holidays website says this is possible:

“In most cases, the deposit amount is not refundable in the event that you decide to cancel your booking”

This is substantially better than having to cancel non-refundable flights where you will get nothing back.  Do read the small print carefully during the booking process though.

Of course, at present, the British Airways ‘Book With Confidence’ guarantee negates this benefit, since a flight-only booking can be cancelled in return for a Future Travel Voucher.  Once these vouchers stop being available – and BA is keen to stop them as soon as it feels it can – the BA Holidays route will again become an alternative option.

How it works

There is a special page on the BA Holidays website here which expains how the ‘paying with just a deposit’ scheme works.

Your ‘flight and hotel’ or ‘flight and car hire’ booking is confirmed as soon as you have paid the deposit.  The amount will be:

  • Package value £300-£999 – pay £150 deposit per booking
  • Package value £1000-£2999 – pay from £300 deposit per booking
  • Package value £3000-£3499 – pay from £400 deposit per booking

I’m not sure what the ‘pay from‘ element represents.  I am guessing you need to pay the higher of a percentage or the cash element listed on larger bookings.

Your balance is not due until three weeks before departure.

Alternatively, you can by pay instalments at any point up to three weeks before departure.  This is another benefit – you can split the cost across numerous credit cards if necessary, unlike a straight ‘flight only’ booking.  You can also time your payments to maximise credit card sign-up bonuses or annual spend bonuses.

An Avios bonus

By booking a ‘flight and hotel’ or ‘flight and car’ package with BA Holidays, you get an extra bonus.  You receive 1 Avios per £1 for your booking.  This is in addition to the Avios from the flight and from your credit card spend.

You can learn about collecting Avios on BA Holidays bookings on their website here.

Are there any downsides?

Some, yes:

Flights booked via BA Holidays do NOT qualify for On Business points in the BA small business scheme.

You also do NOT get the 24 hour ‘cooling off period’ for free cancellation that BA offers for flight only booking.

The BA Holidays site is here if you want to find out more.


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 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:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(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.)

Comments (73)

  • Bs says:

    It also gives you package holiday protection should anything (including govt advice re covid) go wrong…

  • Blenz101 says:

    I’ve also read here about how great BA Holidays have been with proactive refunds in the event of cancellation.

    I believe ABTA rules require such refunds to be processed promptly. We have all read how bad BA have been for some readers.

    I guess the other downside is no hotel status points or recognition if booking “flight & hotel”, same for car hire I would imagine?

    • Jonathan says:

      You get Avis points for car hire bookings. Personally I find the status benefits rubbish for all the big car hire firms so haven’t noticed any difference. Note that you do get a free additional driver with Avis on a BAH booking.

      Hotel status is definitely an issue to consider if your status would get you free breakfast or a decent chance of an upgrade. You can always book the minimum number of nights through BAH & the rest direct if you want though.

      Personally I find flight & car the sweet spot.

      • David S says:

        I used to find this except for the fact that the final car hire price always comes to a higher figure than on your booking. I pay for the Tolls transponder at my destination but it is impossible to reconcile your invoice to what you booked. Once the difference got to 15%, I started booking the car direct with Avis and my invoices are always correct.

    • Jonathan says:

      1 slight downside with BAH is you lose the EU262 rights to rescheduling at your convenience if flight is cancelled.

      Under package holiday regulations they can just refund you in full to end their obligations. This may be frustrating if you’ve secured a great sale fare eg. the 747 £999 J returns.

  • Simon says:

    I thought I also read that the book with confidence clause also applied to deposits on ba holidays. Anyone know if this is not the case?

    • Rich says:

      Also like to know this as it’s not super clear

    • Jonathan says:

      It does with caveats.

      You can request a voucher for any sums paid but only up until the balance is due 3 weeks before departure. After that then the normal BAH cancellation policy applies.

      Theoretically the voucher only covers the flight component & not the cost of non-refundable hotels. In practice if you’ve only paid a £300 deposit I’m not sure how they apportion that between eg. 2 J flights & a week’s accommodation. In my experience the BAH team are generally more flexible than the T&C’s would suggest so I’d anticipate the full amount back. I’d probably be minded not to pay the balance on a booking till the last minute though.

      If you can’t travel due to government guidance you can have a full refund at any point.

      • Patrick Miller says:

        And presumably BA will not actually be sending any money to the hotel until you have arrived, so the hotel would only become non-refundable at or near to departure. Maybe someone in the travel industry can clarify how this works ?

  • Safety Card says:

    Can you book with Avios and the 2-4-1 voucher with BA Hols?

    • Jonathan says:

      No.

    • sayling says:

      Technically, no.

      But, after you have booked your flight with a companion voucher, adding an hire car within 24 hours turns the booking into a package holiday that should then get you an ATOL certificate and the ‘package’ falls under the BA Holidays team.

      There may be some chasing of the certificate required, though (he says, having done this twice and currently having ‘issues’ with the second booking).

      You have to pay for the lot up front, however

  • Nick G says:

    Matts travel on YouTube did the subject of BA holidays as a video this week. Matt said you can’t upgrade using Avios on a BA holidays package……although I haven’t done it and changed my mind, I rung up to ask and it wasn’t an issue. Not sure what the current situation is in terms of UuA?

    • Jonathan says:

      You can definitely UUA but have to call.

    • Ben says:

      I did a UuA on one just last week so whoever “Matt” is, he’s misinformed.

      • Number9 says:

        Yes I’ve also upgraded flights on a BA holiday package. “ Matt” is wrong.

        • LewisB says:

          I have also upgraded. One of my favourite things to do is to book a BAH for PE and a hotel then using avios to upgrade to J. Just need to call.

          • Michael C says:

            Just need to call…but with Avios availability in J, right?!

          • LewisB says:

            Yes, need availability as usual.

          • Optimus Prime says:

            They told me if you want to upgrade your flight using Avios you have to pay the full balance first. Is this true?

    • Matt's Planet says:

      I was wrong! Based on the online functionality you can’t, but you can by calling. Similarly you can’t originate a holiday outside of the UK when booking online, but you can by calling. Apoigies. At least all of this is raising awareness for the benefits of BA Holidays!

      • Mikeact says:

        Apology accepted!!

      • Matt's Planet says:

        And I have amended the video to remove that incorrect statement. Thanks all!

      • ChrisC says:

        You are also wrong on not being able to book a holiday starting outiside of the UK because you certainly can do it on line!

        They are bookable with a a deposit and the standard BWC provisions as well.

        • Bagoly says:

          I can confirm that – I have one going to the UK from the EU in August, definitely done online.
          Perhaps there are limitations on doing from one foreign country to another.

          And much credit to you Matt for listening (or rather reading!), making correction, and being gracious.

  • tony says:

    It’s not just the flight element where you get hidden rates here. I had a booking for Japan this summer and the effective prices being charged for the hotel rooms were significantly lower than I could find anywhere else.

    It also seems that different routes have different requirements for how many nights accommodation you need, but one work around can be to just book the night before departure at LHR. Again that’s sufficient to qualify as a package and it leaves you unencumbered once you get to your destination.

    Just a shame the site can be so clunky

    • Jonathan says:

      How were you breaking down the cost of hotel & flight as it’s not normally specified.

      The vast majority of any BAH saving comes from the flight. It’s essentially a way of BA dumping excess capacity at a very low price without them advertising how low they’ll go.

      For the hotel & car hire components it’s money flowing out the IAG doors so no subsidy & generally they’ll pay the same price as is available to holiday autos, Expedia & other aggregators.

      • John says:

        Not necessarily. Subtract the cost of booking flight on its own from the package cost, and the result is often cheaper than booking the same hotel separately – even if you use the cheapest OTA prices that you wouldn’t actually book with

        • Jonathan says:

          Yes, but the discount is actually on the flight component not the hotel.

          BA may well decide they’ll take £800 for a business return to NYC as they’ve got loads of empty seats but they don’t want to advertise that fact as it sets a benchmark.

          BAH offer you flight plus 4 nights in a 4* hotel for £1100 pp when the standalone flights are £1099. You’re getting the hotel for £1pp but in reality they are paying the hotel the full amount (£300pp) & taking the £299 hit on the flight component.

          That’s why car hire or the minimum hotel stay is the sweet spot. You can then book rest of accommodation through hotels.com for 10% rebate or direct for status benefits.

          • tony says:

            Opaque pricing exists in hotels just like it does on flights. Easiest way to illustrate this is to use the custom holiday builder to book a flight and two separate hotel stays. Then by tweaking one of the stay durations you can see the impact on the overall price.

            I had flights and rooms booked in the Osaka Hilton and when I added the IC in Tokyo, the needle barely moved.

          • Rob says:

            Correct.

  • Chas says:

    I think you DO have the 24 hour cooling off period if you book your BA Holiday over to the phone rather than via the internet. I booked this way c18 months ago as had some specific queries I wanted to talk to someone about, and when I said that I’d think about it overnight and book online the next day the agent suggested that she book it there and then to lock in the very competitive price (Dubai over NYE, 4 people £5k for a week), as I could cancel within 24 hours if I wanted. I didn’t try to cancel, so can’t verify if the information I was told was accurate, but I have no reason to disbelieve that it can’t be done.

  • Anna says:

    2 other benefits I can think of off the top of my head – you can book a BA holiday for one person, and you can also book hotel + car or different hotels (or actually different cars). These don’t necessarily get you a reduction in price but you get the longer time to pay.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.