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 (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.

  • Mohammed says:

    I’ve used a future voucher twice and both times I’ve just responded to the email they sent me with the new booking reference, they then refund me the value I’m claiming back to the card I used for the booking.

  • Nick says:

    I’ve been trying to get through to the Silver line for days to cancel a companion voucher flight that’s in 10 days. I can’t get through (like everyone else) so what do I do? What if the travel date comes and goes? Will I lose the voucher, taxes and Avios?

    • Rob says:

      Calling at 8am may work. If not, take a voucher online and then either keep it or, at some point in the future, call up and pay the £35 per person fee to cancel the FTV and get the components back.

      • Cwyfan says:

        8am on Sundays worked twice for me, and this Saturday might be less busy too!

      • Nick says:

        Thanks. Unfortunately I’m in Texas so 8am UK is 2am here and a little unsocial. Also I can see no option to even take a FTV online, it just says that I need to call to cancel.

    • Ian says:

      Call the German call centre. You get through much quicker and invariably they speak English.

  • Cwyfan says:

    Haven’t all existing 241 vouchers that are now wrapped up into an FTV been redated to Sep 2023 expiry already anyway, so if they are just deposited in the account, what is the problem?

    • Rob says:

      They haven’t been redated. When the call centre rebooks you, it simply ignores the fact that the voucher has expired.

      • Cwyfan says:

        But have BA not already confirmed that the effective date that they are treating it as is expiry on September 2023, and so to offer anything less now would be breach of contract?

        • Rob says:

          Given that BA is expiring probably 1,000 to 2,000 241 vouchers per day, and has been since 1st October, I really wouldn’t mess with them re anything wrapped in a FTV. You could easily lose an arbitration case if it went against you given the precedent of mass expiry already happening.

  • JohnTh says:

    I have a longhaul FTV avios 241 reused to book short hall. Been waiting 4 months for cash balance of £1k. Every call they say will expedite but nothing. Probably as still waiting for new flight to be ticketed so another 3 months!! Don’t even know if they would let me use for a new booking.

  • Iain says:

    We’ve a 241 to Washington in early January which would have expired mid Feb. Unclear yet if we will be able to go given Covid so is a case of a long wait for BA to answer the phones and what if anything would we get back? (assume that will lose 241)
    Thanks in advance

    • NorthernLass says:

      You could get a FTV with everything then protected until Sep 23. You don’t need to call if you choose this option, it can be done online.

  • Sandra McIntosh says:

    We booked a 2 for 1 voucher to Washington in February just before our voucher ran out . We cancelled this business class flight and I thought we would get the 2for 1 voucher reinstated and taxes back but instead we both got vouchers which we have to phone BA to use . Have tried endlessly and unable to get through. Feel BA are doing this deliberately. We have no idea if the new vouchers are the equivalent of the business class flight to Washington. We have also just cancelled a trip to Copenhagen and this includes a hotel stay . We had only paid a deposit and apparently will get another voucher . Seriously considering stopping using the Amex card . What’s the point ?

    • tiriavpo says:

      You are potentially better off with a Future Travel Voucher – if you had the 241 voucher returned it would have expired. This way, it is preserved (in credit) until Sep 23.
      As for the value, it is just whatever you have previously paid, in both avios and cash. When you come to re-book, you use that credit towards the new booking

    • NorthernLass says:

      Sandra, do some reading on this website, there’s loads of info about all this. Your voucher contains all the avios and money you paid, plus your 2 for 1 which is now valid until Sep 23 as long as you keep it within the voucher. So yes, the FTV is worth a business class trip to Washington but you can also use it for any other destination as long as there is avios availability.

  • Gareth says:

    This is a slightly different question. Booked a one way from cape town to UK using gold priority reward as a back up if visa extension doesn’t come through. If I get visa extension will need to cancel and come back in April as planned. Can I cancel online even if only a ftv or is it a phone call.

  • Toby says:

    I’ve had an FTV for a flight from Jo’burg just refunded, so it’s not just Reward Flight Savers (albeit the email telling me did say it was an RFS booking). Not a 241 voucher though
    Also got cut off five times last week at the hour mark on BA’s Gold number to then have a lovely chat with Natalie about how the FTV bookings were taking up so much of their time and how often the call centre staff has complained about how it was compromising customer service. Ending of red list, France restrictions and Christmas seem to have sent call volumes soaring and forced BA management to do something to reduce call volumes

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.