At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, British Airways – along with most other airlines – did everything in its power to stop passengers receiving cash refunds for cancelled flights. One of our most read articles in 2020, with over 75,000 views, was a hack to get around the removal of the cancellation options on ba.com.
More positively, BA was (and still is) also allowing passengers to voluntarily cancel flights for a voucher, even when the flight was still operating.
Whilst this was a good result for BA’s cash flow, the consequences are now coming home to roost.
The reason why it is virtually impossible to get through to a British Airways call centre, unless you are Gold or flying in First, is because rebooking using a Future Travel Voucher requires a telephone call.
I was speaking to a BA call centre agent recently who told me that it takes around 20 minutes to book a flight using a Future Travel Voucher. This means that one call centre agent can handle 25 voucher bookings per day. No wonder the lines are permanently blocked. What is frustrating is that most of these flights bookings could have been done online if it wasn’t for the voucher.
How is British Airways solving this problem?
British Airways has taken two steps to get around this problem.
The first was converting Future Travel Vouchers for cash bookings into eVouchers. eVouchers CAN be used on ba.com so the passenger can rebook without picking up the telephone.
The second phase is now underway.
British Airways is voluntarily breaking up Future Travel Vouchers which contain Avios. This means that:
- the Avios will be deposited back in your account, and
- the taxes and charges you paid will be refunded to your credit card
Here is an example of the emails which are going out (click to enlarge):
This isn’t necessarily good news for everyone
This may sound like great news, but it will worry a lot of HfP readers.
From 1st October, British Airways has been expiring unused American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers which have reached their expiry date. No more extensions are being offered.
However, you’re a mug if you let your voucher expire. As this article explains, you can save your 2-4-1 by booking a random Avios redemption and then cancelling it for a Future Travel Voucher. This ‘freezes’ your 2-4-1 voucher until September 2023. You can change your destination and travel class when you eventually rebook.
If BA is going to break up Future Travel Vouchers without asking you first, however, this strategy won’t work.
So far, so good
It seems, so far, that British Airways is approaching this in a scientific way.
The only examples I have seen – albeit it is a small sample – of cancelled Future Travel Vouchers were for very small amounts, eg return Avios flights to Amsterdam. The email above specifically refers to ‘Reward Flight Saver’ bookings, which are predominantly short haul.
I haven’t seen examples of 2-4-1 bookings being automatically refunded, even when booked on short haul routes, or bookings with a substantial taxes and charges element. I also can’t find any reports online of it happening.
Logically, if 80% of customer cash is locked up in just 20% of bookings, British Airways may decide to refund the other 80% of bookings which account for only 20% of the sequested cash. Pressure on the call centre will drop – especially if Reward Flight Saver bookings are especially fiddly to rebook, as the email implies – whilst requiring only a modest hit to cash reserves.
That doesn’t help you, of course, if you booked a return trip to Manchester with a 2-4-1 voucher and £70 of taxes and then deliberately cancelled it to ‘protect’ your 2-4-1.
We can only hope that BA takes a sensible approach to this and does not cancel Future Travel Vouchers which contain a 2-4-1 companion voucher – especially if that 2-4-1 is already past its expiry date.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.