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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  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)

  • Graham Law says:

    BA did a flash sale to Cape Town – £2025 in F. I put a note on here and Rob told me it was even better with BAH. When I added 10 days car hire price went down to £1823 each. £400 saved and car now included which I needed anyway.

    I used BAH sporadically before now they are always my first resort. I did a couple more bookings to South Africa saving 100s each time but both were cancelled unfortunately. I did try to make an ex-EU to Asia into a holiday once but after an hour on the phone to the best agent ever we decided that was a step too far.

    • Harry T says:

      £2025 per person?

      Yes, sometimes BAH can access a cheaper fare class/bucket.

  • Lady London says:

    My only beef is that BA Holidays seem to require a minimum of 2 people to be travelling to get these price improvements.

  • opiethecanuck says:

    A few years ago I booked a relatively last minute BAH to Jersey for a weekend. It was November and the infamous Jersey fog descended on the day I was to depart. We did actually fly to Jersey, but only circled around a little bit before giving up and going back to Gatwick. They rebooked me for the next day but it seemed a bit of a waste to go for one night. One call to BAH on the train home and they promptly refunded the whole holiday price, flight and hotel. Had I booked that hotel separately I most certainly would have been out of pocket. They were my first choice when I tried again a few months later, successfully this time.

  • ChrisC says:

    Don’t know if it was an error but when I booked a BA hol over the phone in January for approx £1,250 and was only charged £150 deposit when it would have been £300 online.

    I thought it was odd but didn’t question it and nor did I get an ‘oh dear we got it wrong’ email asking for more.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    I’m Presuming I can book a flight using my Amex for my Daughter + kids
    Say for 15 days plus add a Hotel for 10 nights and it would class as a BA Holiday
    Then book a 5 night stay at another hotel using Hilton Points separate to BA

    • ChrisC says:


      even just one night in a hotel makes it a holiday. The hotel can even be for say LHR the night before you fly out or on the day you arrive back

      You need to use the ‘custom trip’ option though.

  • Optimus Prime says:

    BA Holidays need to add the option to book an appointment with an estate agent to see a villa on your destination.

  • Isobel Brown says:

    We had BAH in Spain, flight & car hire. Our 11pm flight back from Barcelona was impacted by an issue in the UK.
    They contacted us just as we got to the airport with a booking on a flight 24 hours afterwards. The airport was heaving with people trying to rebook their cancelled flights or trying to get accommodation vouchers.
    We just booked a hotel on the Hilton app and breezed off in a cab. BA paid for cab fares, hotel & meals – the only quibble was wine with meal.

  • TJ says:

    Clearly if you have top tier hotel status then the lack of recognition & points from booking via BAH is potentially a significant downside to consider.

    • ChrisC says:

      Which is why you book only one night hotel with BA Hols (Usually for the airport the night before departure) then book points earning / status recognising hotel separatly.

      Remember the majority pf people don’t care about collecting points and earning status and price is king.

      • Rob says:

        At one stage BA Hols insisted you book a minimum number of nights to stop this behaviour – not sure if it is still happening.

        • ChrisC says:

          It’s let me book with just one night on the trips I’ve booked with them with no problem at all.

        • OHR says:

          I have done a few nights (one and only palm) then added car hire for the remaining nights until the flight home (as wanted to spend the second half of the trip in Oman at Six Senses and BA did not have rooms). The agent actually suggested adding the car hire instead of the extra nights hotel cost. Never picked up the car. No issue

        • tony says:

          I think this is likely route specific. Years back when I used to use Trailfinders a lot, different IT fares even on the same carrier had different minimum ground arrangement requirements. So some required them to book you a hotel for every night, others just a few nights etc, others were on a monetary basis (need to spend £500 on car hire, tours, hotels, it didn’t matter)

          A work around I’ve found for BA Holidays is to book a room at an airport hotel the night before departure. Haven’t tested it that thoroughly but it always seems to trigger the deposit option if it’s not there on the original booking.

    • Harry T says:

      Just book a one day car hire to make it a holiday!

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