Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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

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 (June 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.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

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

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 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

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 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.

  • George says:

    I called them last week. Turns out I had tow vouchers, one with avios the other with avois + companion voucher.
    The agent offered to refund me the first one, had the avios and cash back in a day or two. He said he wouldn’t refund the second one so that I don’t lose the voucher. So they seem reasonable unless they have new instructions now.

  • Martin C-C says:

    Recently the BAEC website was closed for several days, supposedly to offer all members a better service. I can’t be the only one to notice that before a ticket can be cancelled you will be directed to an Accept Future Travel Voucher – there is no way to cancel the booking unless the voucher is accepted. As if this is not bad enough that there is no choice, after accepting the only choice of the FTV voucher. The instruction for use states just give us a call to use the FTV. It is virtually impossible to get through to BA by telephone. This has created a Catch 22 situation for all but Gold Card holders, and even then if one calls at 0800 and waits a minimum of 40 minutes your call may be answered. On the silver and bronze/blue numbers your call will be cut off after one hour of patiently holding. This cannot be acceptable. We all sympathise with how tough things have been for the airlines’ cashflow, but protecting it by stealth has to be unacceptable. Also I’m taking advice, but not to refund taxes and charges on an Avios cancelled booking, is probably not legal.

    • ChrisC says:

      On your last point they are wrapped up in the voucher so they have in effect been refunded just not in the way you might want.

    • NorthernLass says:

      It’s been like this since the start of the pandemic. BA will say you did have a way of cancelling – by calling them. The CAA has already looked at how BA has been handling these issues and done absolutely nothing!

      • memesweeper says:

        I’ve long been of the view that it should be a legal requirement for firms to accept cancellation in the same way they accept the original order/contract. Sky and many other firms make cancelling much harder than getting into the contract in the first place.

        • Bagoly says:

          Yes, that would be fair.

        • Lady London says:

          Yes, you are right memesweeper. French companies are artists at putting this kind of barrier to customers who want to terminate contracts or get refunds. Seriously, British Airways could learn from them.

          I really wonder why responsibility for consumer rights in aviation is not removed from the CAA they seem incompetent, particularly in dealing with the bandit whining current renter of the Heathrow moneyoprinting consumer-gouging franchise.

  • Joan says:

    I couldn’t get through the to BA at all in the last week despite hanging on 3 times for over an hour and then just getting cut off . I was trying to cancel a one way club flight from Zurich I’d booked with my avios for my daughter. As the flight was for today , I had to just do it on line in the end yesteday and accept a FTV, whereas I just wanted my avios back ( the money part of the flight was only 50p). I really hope they now just refund my avios .
    I’ve also got 2 return avios flights for this Thursday to cancel . I’m hoping that I might be able to simply do that on line now rather than have the FTV and wait for an email – although maybe BA haven’t got that far yet. I’ve given up trying to call

  • Marlene says:

    I am trying to simply move a flight date from an off peak to a peak date as I need to leave earlier than planned but cannot do it online. The most ridiculous thing I ever seen and nobody will pick up the phone. Now I’m running the risk of being stuck here with a lockdown looming! As I don’t have time or the money to rebook another flight. I’m super livid!

  • Stagger Lee says:

    I have 3 241 bobbins in FTVs. Surely the best thing to do for these types of bookings is refund cash and avios and just add a new 241 to your account that expires in Sep 23?. That way you can book online.

  • Geoff 1977 says:

    Cash (ie nectar points to spend at Sainsbury’s where I shop anyway) is a lot more flexible than Avios. I’m not restricted to certain dates (ie when there’s reward flight availability) or items etc.

    2-4-1s aren’t worth the effort anymore

    • babyg says:

      they (2-4-1) still have their uses… especially given they can be used ex-EU and they unlock more seats (with the new ones)…

    • Richard G says:

      I have to agree, I’ve let a couple expire recently.

      Once you’ve factored in all the taxes etc it’s often not much more expensive to just pay for the tickets… and at least you get tier points that way.

    • Andrew J says:

      Agree too. I’ve had the BAPP for 10 years and never used my 2for1.

      • Geoff 1977 says:

        I think they’re useful if you’re actually able to use them for somewhere you want to go anyway on dates when you want to go.

        Pretty difficult to do that at the moment (for me anyway, it might still be the case for others)

    • Andy S says:

      Been thinking the same recently. It’s BA that aren’t worth the effort. They have had so long now to sort this out and have still failed on every level. We took 2 holidays late 21 and both times tried to book something with BA. Failure at the payment stage on one and inability to speak to someone on second meant we booked with jet2 both times. How many thousands of other people are giving up on BA and taking their business elsewhere especially within Europe and not before time.

  • ms says:

    I’m a mug. Let mine expired last week 😿

  • Nick says:

    BA actually wanted to refund all FTVs containing Avios earlier this year for precisely this reason… and was (effectively) vetoed by AGL who refused to extend the validity of vouchers. Would have been low risk for BA because most customers would have re-spent the money on a new Avios booking at some point but of course AGL has more authority. I know senior people at BA got very annoyed with their AGL equivalents and am pleasantly surprised they’ve been able to split the issue in half and do some anyway.

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

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.