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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

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) 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 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.

  • flyforfun says:

    Just logged into my account on my mobile and got the message:

    “Sorry, we can’t show all your bookings. Bookings used to apply for a voucher will no longer appear in your account”.

    When I go on my PC and log in, under e-Vouchers were FTVs used to appear, the voucher doesn’t appear. No email as yet. When I did the FTV they did show as 2 separate ones for me and my spouse.

    I booked a domestic trip to keep an expiring 241 alive. My next one expires in April I was wondering when the best time to convert that over by the old method, but that seems under doubt now!

    • NorthernLass says:

      Why is it in doubt? Just keep a record of what you booked and cancelled, the confirmation emails from BA will do.

      • flyforfun says:

        In doubt is what happens to the 241 that has since expired but kept alive by the FTV. No mention of that as yet.

    • tiriavpo says:

      Don’t think actual FTVs ever showed up in the account. So called FTVs, for cash bookings, have for ages come back as e-vouchers, which do show up. FTVs from avios bookings, or ‘complex’ bookings that have something else in them like 241, or upgrade vouchers, have always been ‘offline’. You should get an email, but at the end of the day, just keep a note of the original booking ref and quote that when you come to re-book — they will be able to see the total on avios and cash held within it.

      • flyforfun says:

        The transaction I made in October, cancelling a flight with a 241 voucher in it, definitely showed up later under my e-vouchers as a Future Travel Voucher.

  • Andrew J says:

    Coincidentally, BA just sent me an email reminding me to use my eVouchers, listing them all in one email, with their numbers and value (which is actually quite hand to have all in one place).

    • Catalan says:

      Same here.
      I do wish they do the same for BA Holidays FTV. Can never get hold of them on the phone and they’re not as flexible for use as an e-voucher

      • NorthernLass says:

        Can’t you email the voucher to BA holidays and ask for it to be refunded against another booking?

        • Catalan says:

          @NorthernLass will try that. I closely followed the email instructions and booked a flight in November. When I called and eventually got through I was advised that for flight only bookings I had to call them first for them to make the booking. If I wanted to use my FTV and then have the amount deducted it could only be against a Holiday booking!
          How ridiculous is that?

          • NorthernLass says:

            They don’t check what your new booking actually is when you email them.

    • rashomon says:

      Received the email as well … though it’s only showing 2 out of the 4 total evouchers I have.

      Was hoping for a consolidated email!

      • ChrisC says:

        Mine shows the two evouchers I know I have with the correct 125-4 numbers and amounts I have in my spreadsheet.

        Could it be that your 2 ‘missing’ ones were only requested very recently and this email was prepared before then or that they are 125-2 vouchers which can’t be used on line?

        Good reminder that these can be used on line so taking pressure off the call centre – if people followed the instructions!

        • ChrisC says:

          BTW the email was in my spam folder.

        • rashomon says:

          Hey Chris

          nope – all 4 vouchers are 125-4 … it’s odd as one as they are all related to the same original booking so not sure.

          Hopefully they haven’t been nixed!

          • Nick says:

            Chris has been giving incorrect information about voucher formats for months. Not all e-vouchers are 4X, and not all tickets are 2X. Not all 4Xs are vouchers either. The peak of issuance just happened to coincide with these ranges being used, but there have been plenty more since. Different sequences were also used for different channels (e.g. travel agents, a select few of which are able to issue e-vouchers).

  • johnny says:

    I hope they eventually get to my FTV from December 2020… no luck trying to use it anytime in the last 2 years.

  • Marlene says:

    Can someone, from experience, please advise if I would get an e-voucher or a normal voucher if I cancel an avios booking? this is ridiculous to get a voucher instead of the avios back. In fact, I want to change the date of my booking but because I am going from off-peak to peak, it cannot be done online. They seriously need to get a f**** grip there!

    • Rob says:

      You can’t have an eVoucher for an Avios booking because ba.com cannot handle vouchers which contain an Avios element.

      • Marlene says:

        Thanks Rob, do you know if they would ever revert to the old system where they were simply refunding avios in an instant just by clicking online? Because saying that cancellation and refund can be done 24h before the flight it is not completely true anymore. I understand the issues with cash booking, but it doesn’t make much sense for avios booking. Other airlines refund the miles straight away, I cancelled a miles booking with TAP a couple of weeks ago and it was smoothly done.

        • Rob says:

          I agree, it makes no sense and you would hope they would return to that, but the lure of banking £1,000 of taxes and charges as an interest free loan is probably too strong.

  • Graeme says:

    Can I use a FTV to upgrade a current cash booking from PE to CW? TIA

  • Littlefish says:

    Thanks again HfP for a clear and informative article. Not only on the avios FTV development but also drawing out useful comments on cash bookings/e-vouchers and the whole (potential) unblocking of the phone lines.
    Quite honestly I am likely to let my oldest 2f1 burn. If much of their clientele is like me the ability to afford the time-off and the travel prices in 2022 and 2023 are likely to lessen my long-haul travel anyways.
    I’ll keep an eye on this development as if it extends to long-haul then brings BA bookings back into the frame. Currently (still a) no-will-do for me as can’t cancel online as far as I’m aware …. and for which we know the functionality exists as they turned it off!

  • Clearwater says:

    I booked an avios booking to HKG outbound using a 2-4-1 at +355 days and later on booked the return leg online also at +355 days. Rang up the next day to get half of the avios back for the return leg where they were redeposited to my account. I therefore now have two booking reference numbers and two PNR’s for the use of one 2-4-1.
    Both flights have now been cancelled by BA.

    To preserve the 2-4-1 to September 2023 (otherwise it will expire early 2022), I know I need to apply for a refund and get a FTV. But I would like to ask:-

    1 – Do I have to get both legs converted onto the same FTV to preserve the 2-4-1 or can I apply for a refund on the return leg as this was added to the 2-4-1 and just get the outbound leg applied as a voucher.

    2 – If only the outbound leg is needed for the FTV, which leg should be cancelled first or doesn’t it matter.

    3 – If both legs have to be converted onto one FTV, how does one do it online as I do not see an option.

    4 – After obtaining an FTV with the 2-4-1 now extended to September 2023, am I able to cancel it later on and obtain a refund for the taxes and get the avios back should I not be able to use it. I know I will lose the 2-4-1 and expect a £35 charge pp. Unfortunately, I am not expecting HKG to open up too soon, if at all next year.

    5 – What happens to the tickets if I do nothing and let them go past the travel dates (BA have cancelled the flights). When is the last date I can apply for a refund after the cancelled flights? If I leave the ticket open, am I able to change the dates that I wish to travel later on and are the dates available to me only up to the original expiry of the 2-4-1, any time thereafter up to 365 days from the outbound leg or not at all and BA automatically gives me a refund.

    • Rob says:

      Answer to 4 is Yes. I doubt anyone has a clue about the rest of it unfortunately. I would guess the 241 is wrapped in the first booking and you could cleanly refund the 2nd one, but don’t trust me.

    • Gary says:

      Interesting questions. Will attempt to answer Question 5 although other more experienced HfPers may further elaborate. BA would love you to ask for a refund at any time (including having passed your travel dates) as that would let BA off the hook in terms of EU261 obligations on reroute at a later date at the passenger’s convenience. BA would not agree to reroute beyond one year ticket validity and since you booked +355 there is not much leeway unless you MCOL (and expiry 2-4-1 would be a moot point here). The salient question for you is if you are likely to travel to Japan within the next year or so from your original departure date. From my understanding 1 year from original departure date would be deemed reasonable as it’s justified by seasonality of the destination, school holidays… etc. Expiry of 2-4-1 would be irrelevant at MCOL.
      (Ps typing here makes one miss the chat thread)

  • NorthernLass says:

    Just had an email saying the FTV I got *without* a 241 is being refunded, which is great news if it stays at that! Goodness only knows which card I used to pay the taxes though, I’ll probably have to wait for a statement with a credit amount to turn up from Amex 🤣

    • Eppleby Green says:

      Doesn’t the original booking email show the last 4 or 5 numbers of the card that you used?

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

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