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

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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 (July 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)

  • Nicole says:

    We’ve been booking BA holidays since 2014 and can honestly say it’s one of the best packages out there. It’s allowed us to upgrade to club world while originally booking world traveller plus seats on a few occasions. The added Atol protection is a comfort too.

  • Harry T says:

    You do get the 24 hour cooling off period if you book over the phone but not if you book online.

    Personally, I’ve found that the BA Holidays team are the best customer service representatives at BA. They’ve been absolutely delightful every time I’ve spoken to them.

    • Anna says:

      How do you specifically get through to them, Harry, is there a separate number?

      • Number9 says:

        Google says

        0344 493 0747
        Reason for call Contact details Opening hours
        Holiday, hotel or car hire refund enquiries 0344 493 0747 option 1 (calls charged at local rate) +44 191 4907901 option 1 then option 1 (outside the UK)

        • Anna says:

          I think that’s just the general number though? So you still have to potentially wait for ages for them to answer!

      • Harry T says:

        I’ve only ever called the number you can find online! I used to call a Newcastle number and ask to be put through but the number doesn’t work these days.

      • PaulW says:

        Regular number but one of the automated options asks if it’s flight only or a package,. If a package it auto routes you to BA holidays.

        • Anna says:

          I must completely zone those options out when I’m waiting for them to answer lol.

  • Steve R says:

    BAH completely useless if you live north of Watford Gap

    • Harry T says:

      Why? You can book connections as part of the holiday. I booked two business class returns to South Africa and two weeks of car hire for around £2200, routing NCL-LHR-CPT-LHR-NCL. Adding the car hire didn’t increase the price of the flights but it did allow me to only pay a £350 deposit on the flights, with the balance due three weeks before.

      • Harry T says:

        I should say that the direct flights from the LHR-CPT return cost £999 each, so it only cost about £100 each to add the return business class connections from NCL to and from LHR.

    • chris1922 says:

      I disagree. Used them many times from Glasgow, to great effect. The routes I want are rarely direct from GLA (and are charter or budget airlines), and those that are direct, are often cheaper connecting with BA. For a family of four, that can be a great difference. Plus all the benefits Rob has outlined in the article.

    • Anna says:

      It depends where you’re going. There are plenty of places you just can’t fly to directly from the north (e.g. Miami, Mauritius, Bahamas) so if you’ve got to get a connecting flight anyway you may as well do it as part of a BA package.

  • Neil Murray says:

    Been booking BA hols (either with hotels or hire cars) for some years and yes, they are very good VFM and the benefits are as you list them.

  • Jonathan says:

    Does anyone know if Virgin (Atlantic) Holidays are going to make their bookings more flexible at all ? With BA holidays, you can book simply one night in a hotel, or one day of car hire and it becomes a holiday, with Virgin holidays a hotel must be booked for the whole duration of the trip, without consideration to the fact that you might want to visit other regions to the country or destination of choice

  • David S says:

    Isn’t another benefit, getting free luggage if you book BAH. Probably the biggest saving for us

  • MYSELF says:

    You 100% DO get the 24 hour Colling Off Period. This applies to both cancellations and re-books/ alterations. I know as I’ve had to do both in the last 12 months.

    I messed my dates up on a booking and had it changed fee free. I’ve changed times / flight nums and had the same and I’ve booked a holiday just for HM Gov to change its mind on where we can fly for the millionth time and had bookings cancelled.

    The “pay from” is indeed a sliding scale. On a £5k trip you should expect to pay £500 deposit although I have had + £5k trips require only £450 before so it’s one of BA’s many mysteries I guess.

    Thus far if cancellations have been due to flight cancellations / changing Gov advice we’ve also had deposits refunded but that is definitely a ‘times we live in thing’.

    Also worth noting that BA don’t provide transfers in with the price unlike most competitors offering an otherwise like-for-like package. It’s an add on and I’m yet to find their up-sell transfers anywhere near competitive. We regularly find private high end salon / people carrier/ SUVs for considerably less than a “cattle coach” that stops at 10 hotels on its way.

    I saw somebody mention the 0344 number above. this IS their number but you will sometimes be charged for using it along with their 0844 number. If you have status just call the Gold/ Silver line and select “with hotel or car hire” bookings option and you’ll get through to the right people quicker and on an always freephone number.

    • Bagoly says:

      But in the last twelve months that flexibility would have come from Book With Confidence?
      Which is only short term.

  • AJA says:

    I like BA Holidays. I’ve booked using them several times and have bagged some bargains, using both hotel and car hire options and once all three. I like the ability to only pay a deposit when booking quite far ahead but you can also grab some last minute bargains too. I renewed Silver status doing this booking in late Jan 2020 a trip to Rome in CE + Hotel which was actually cheaper than just buying the airfare! Booking online is a doddle and then the ability to spread the cost by paying in stages is lovely too.

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