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BA is cancelling and refunding some Future Travel Vouchers – is your 2-4-1 voucher still protected?

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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.

British Airways Airbus A350 Aircraft

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 points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 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. You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

American Express Amex Gold

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

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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 10,000 Avios.

Capital on Tap Visa card

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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 (146)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Farid says:

    I think the damage for BA not to extend the hard earned 2 for 1 vouchers will be long felt by BA in loyalty. Everyone who successfully secured the voucher values it highly ( in excess of £1,500) so its likely to upset people if they loose it by no fault of their own as the Pandemic is still ongoing…who can say they can travel safely nowdays when the number of cases is soaring everywhere..

    • Lou says:

      Hardly, i suspect a small percentage of 2-4-1 vouchers are being used in this way

      • patrick C says:

        I am not so sure about that.
        If you do earn this voucher you are also quite likely to follow specialist websites as the scheme is not super straightforward. This the number may be quite significant.

  • Kate Shaw says:

    This post is quite timely and hopefully someone can help. We are booked to go to Europe with avios and a 2-4-1 voucher next week, we need to cancel this due to covid restrictions at the destination. When I go in to ‘Manage My Booking’ and click on ‘cancel’ it takes me to a page about getting a voucher. I didn’t think I could get a voucher for a points flight but this post shows that I can. As I can’t get through on the phone I assume I proceed through the website to cancel my booking and get a voucher? Thanks! (First time poster but HFP subscriber for 8 years)

    • Rob says:

      You will get a Future Travel Voucher. It is impossible to issue an eVoucher for an Avios flight as ba.com cannot process them.

    • NickS says:

      Yes very simple to get a future travel voucher for an Avios and or 241 booking. I did it yesterday for. January flight to LAX and received the voucher by almost return email. The challenge is the issue of rebooking and actually getting through to the call centre which is well nigh impossible at the moment,

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    Only wrapped my Dec ‘21 Expiring voucher last week! So hopefully I don’t get this refunded! By the way it was 4750 Avios and £35. It was never necessary to book a return in the first place, as is the case anyhow when booking a 241 Outbound only 365 days out, and adding the return at a later date.

  • BJ says:

    I wish they would also convert small BAH FTV to evouchers to simplify those. Despite readers reporting some success in getting BAH FTV credited/refunded against bookings with avios, I have now failed to do so three times in succession. It seems I have been ultra unlucky or CSA have now been briefed to take a hard line on this.

    I now find myself in the situation where BA have cancelled flights using avios plus 2-4-1 that were tied up in a FTV. I have not got round to it yet but I do intend pushing for my rights to reroute and rebook on another airline. However, if I do this what happens to the flexibility of the new ticket on alternative airline? Is it dependent on fare rules of the new ticket or can I still change or cancel the hew booking for fees/refunds of cash, avios and 2-4-1 associated with the original BA award flight booking? If new fare rules apply to the rerouted flight BA books, will they male these clear for me before confirming the booking? Wondering if it might be better just to refund cancelled booking and make my own alternative arrangements.

    • meta says:

      Once you change to another airline it is a new ticket, so yes it’s governed by new rules. So for example, if you re-route on Qatar you are relinquishing your EU/UK261 rights on the inbound.

      • pauldb says:

        Yes but the new flights will still be on a BA avios booking. I don’t think there’s any risk they can’t still be cancelled for a £35 fee.

        • meta says:

          But on inbound you still then have no re-route rights on later on, no delay compensation, etc. Yes you can cancel before you travel, but imagine a scenario where you fly out and Qatar cancels your return.

          • pauldb says:

            There would be no delay compensation but BA couldn’t wash their hands of there first-cancelation obligation to re-route you.

          • meta says:

            @pauldb They would. Happened to some posters here last year (Iberia) and to me as well on American Airlines a few years ago. No obligation to re-route whatsoever.

          • BJ says:

            Belated thanks @meta and @pauldb for feedback.

  • Mark says:

    By the looks of it, BA has come to its senses. Devil is in the detail but there’s no doubt the call centres have taken a hammering over FTVs, wearing everyone’s patience, including the staff getting their ear bent. Such a shame it has taken ‘management’ this long to realise the true damage this has caused to their brand.

    BA will no doubt be wondering how much the FTV fiasco contributed to the lack of return custom.

    I gave up on even trying to use my FTVs after a number of futile attempts with the call centre. The somewhat supercilious tone I was met with also left a sour taste.

    With all airlines suffering terribly, it is likely BA’s brand has suffered additionally due to the cack-handed FTV scheme.

    I’ll be looking out for the email, thank you for the heads up.

    • NorthernLass says:

      Totally agree. I am so hacked off with the way BA has behaved during the pandemic I am going to use up my 3 x 241s and then I’ll be taking my business to QR and other airlines which serve my local airport much better than BA. I’ve said it before but even EasyJet and Ryanair have offered immeasurably better customer service.

      • mecrash says:

        Try dealing with Lufthansa and getting your money back if the flight was still running..
        Suddenly BAs policy seems fantastic..
        I’ve lost money with Lufthansa, lost nothing with BA..
        Although admit, the calls were annoying and call hang ups with BA

  • Alan says:

    I certainly hope they see sense, I’ve got an FTV from a 241 that expired in Nov 2020! If they want to refund Avios plus cash plus a new voucher then that’s fine, but I certainly don’t want to just suddenly lose the voucher!

    • AJA says:

      I think if BA starts unwinding FTVs containing 2-4-1 vouchers it would be fair (and easy and relatively cheap for BA) to simply refund double the Avios ie treat the FTV as if it contained the required Avios for two passengers. That way the 2-4-1 voucher could lapse and passengers would be no worse off.

      • elguiri says:

        I don’t think any of the people who bought Manchester return tickets would agree with you that it would be fair to refund double the small avios price paid…

        • NorthernLass says:

          Definitely not!

        • Cheshire Pete says:

          Indeed especially as did a single, so I’d get 2 x 4750! Lol!

        • Hbommie says:

          “….but Mr/Mrs Elguiri you chose to the original destination”

          What are the calculation would you use? 100k to JFK or 200k to Sydney?

          It would be a tricky negotiation to get to a satisfactory figure.

  • Mark says:

    Surely the easy fix is to refund all these bookings but with the voucher expiry set to Sept 2023, this extends the voucher and takes pressure off the call centre.

    • ChrisC says:

      That just delays the calls it does not eliminate them.

      As Rob wrote it takes 20 minutes for a call centre agent to process one of these vouchers compared to seconds to use avios sitting in your BAEC account.

      Not all RFS bookings contain 2-4-1 vouchers. The email I got – and created a thread about in the BA forum last week – per the screen shot doesn’t mention 2-4-1 at all.

      My booking was a simple avios LON- AMS for about 15k avios and 50p.

      • Points Hound says:

        The comment is about vouchers that contain a 2-4-1. If they reinstate the voucher with a Sept 23 expiry date as suggested, there isn’t a call required so I’m unsure what your point is to be honest. I don’t think you actually understand that you can use a 2-4-1 voucher without a need to call.

    • Cwyfan says:

      Surely just refund the cash and Avios and issue a new 241 voucher with 2 years expiry. Job done!

      • Rob says:

        Bit unfair on all those people whose 241s were expired since 1st October because they didn’t play games with FTVs though ….

        Although I agree this is the obvious solution and they may be forced into it.

        • Nick says:

          As I detailed on a later page, this is exactly what BA wanted to do. They pushed very hard for it. But vouchers are NOT in BA’s control. They’re owned by AGL, who set the T&C, and refused point blank to do it. I know it’s hard to believe but there is no one in BA any more with any authority over the Exec Club at all.

  • NorthernLass says:

    It was BA who offered the FTV and guaranteed that it would be valid until Sep 2023. It would be grossly unfair to unilaterally expire companion vouchers which are tied up in these, especially as it would mean that some people have had the opportunity to use them and some haven’t (possibly because they haven’t been able to get through to BA on the phone to redeem them!)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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