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Can you cancel the return leg of an Avios redemption after flying outbound?

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I thought it was worth digging out an interesting story which we first ran a couple of years ago and which highlights a quirk when it comes to cancelling Avios reward flights.

A reader had flown to Australia with his girlfriend for an extended trip.  They decided to stay for an even longer period and no longer needed their return flight.

The couple had paid 250,000 Avios for a Club World redemption to Sydney, using a British Airways American Express 241 voucher.

Can you cancel the return leg of an Avios redemption flight after flying outbound?

Don’t ask how he managed to snag the seats, given how tough Sydney is to get.  He didn’t say!

The outbound had been flown.  They wanted to cancel the return flight and get 125,000 Avios back.  The BA agent said ‘No’.

Was this correct?

My first thought was that the call centre agent was wrong.

Return Avios tickets used to be notoriously inflexible once the outbound was flown, which was silly as there were rarely savings to be made booking 2 x one-way versus a return.

About ten years ago, however, BA changed its policy.  You can now CHANGE the date or time of your return Avios flight after the outbound has been flown.  I have done this myself.  It is a handy feature if a better-timed flight opens up at the last minute, or your trip is going very well or very badly.

It seemed logical to me that full cancellation would also be possible.  I was wrong.

You cannot CANCEL the return leg of an Avios ticket, after the outbound has been flown, for a refund.

One reason you may need to cancel – apart from if you decide not to return at all! – is if you want to change dates but there is no BA Avios availability. In such a scenario you may decide to pay cash for a return ticket on a different date and refund your existing Avios return.

Can you cancel one way Avios redemptions

When should you book an Avios flight as a return?

So, you may well ask, what is the point of booking Avios flights as returns, given that I have less flexibility?  Here are a few reasons:

  • Because you’re using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher
  • Because you are flying to a country where British Airways charges higher surcharges than the UK – the USA is a prime example.  Booking 2 x one-way flights means that you pay a mix of the UK and US fuel surcharges and, overall, you pay more than booking a return starting in the UK.

In other cases, consider booking 2 x one-ways – you may even save money

Booking a trip as 2 x one-ways gives you added flexibility to cancel or change the return leg.

It can, in some cities, also save you a substantial amount of money. Sao Paulo and Hong Kong are cities where local rules on surcharges should make 2 x one-way tickets cheaper.

You cannot do this with an American Express voucher, however, which means that there would have been no way for our readers in the example above to get around their problem.

But don’t forget ….

Booking a redemption as 2 x one-way flights has one snag.

If you need to cancel, you will be hit with double the cancellation fees.  It would cost £70 per person to cancel rather than £35, as each person is taking two separate flights on separate bookings.

You need to take a gamble on whether the saving in surcharges – or the ability to cancel your return flight without having to fix a return date – is worth the risk of doubling your cancellation fee.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

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

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

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

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. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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

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.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) 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.

Comments (66)

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

  • Nasir says:

    Incorrect information, you will only receive the avios back on the second booking if it was unavailable to book at the time of booking the outbound. Secondly to link the booking when using a CV the agent will add a link so the bookings are treated as one, meaning one set of fees for cancellation or change but also same terms and conditions as if it were one booking (prime one being no refund of avios if part flown)

    • Rob says:

      Thanks Nasir. Will update.

    • BJ says:

      This has not been my experience; where booking were lunked I have still been charged two sets of fees for both cancellations and changes.

      • meta says:

        Mine too and many others have reported the same. Nasir might have been lucky with agents.

        • Rob says:

          Nasir IS an agent.

          • BJ says:

            I suspected so 🙂 Still, as both you and Nasir know the result we get, for whatever reason, depends on the agent we get. Still, it is good to know what the actual rules are so thanks to Nasir for that! If either you or Nasir still see this can you define if “unavailable to book” simply means that the return was more than 355 days in advance of the date of outward booking or if it also refers to a booking made just a few weeks or months in advance where a return was not added because avios reward seats were unavailable? Thanks!

  • Nihal says:

    Orders for A380s from all carriers, bar Emirates, dwindled so quickly that Airbus ended production of the jet last year. So, what’s this on the horizon? You wait two years for one superjumbo and then half a dozen turn up at once.
    Qatar, Korean Air, ANA and Thai Airways have abandoned plans to scrap their big birds. Singapore’s refurbished A380s have returned with double beds in Suites Class. Qantas’s redesigned A380s, which now have a bar in the nose cone, are back plying the kangaroo route. British Airways’ 12 A380s are shuttling between Dubai, US cities, South Africa and Heathrow. Emirates is investing more than $1 billion to upgrade its 120-strong A380 fleet, more than half of which are back in the skies. Lufthansa’s leviathans will be back next year. Overall, some 106 A380s from all carriers are returning to service, according to the data firm Cirium.
    The reason? Airlines got their passenger predictions wrong. Demand for air travel post pandemic has recovered so fast that carriers cannot get their hands on enough jets to satisfy it. Global supply chain snarl-ups and shortages of everything from microchips to labour that have delayed production of new long-haul jets have made matters worse.

    Could this be the beginning of a second life for the superjumbo? “Yes,” says Sir Tim Clark, the Emirates president, as he looks out of the window of his office at conga lines of the £350 million, 500-tonne planes ready to take off from Dubai to almost every major city in the world from Addis Ababa to Zurich. “The A380 is already one of the most sought-after travel experiences. Travellers say, ‘If the A380 is on the route, we’re going on it.’ There’s life yet.”
    Clark concedes that the older engines on the superjumbo are less efficient than those on the A350 or the 787 but he “challenges the assumptions” of the critics who say it is less economical and less “green” to operate. “You have to think of the whole environmental footprint. A full A380 represents around two 787-9s or two A350s. If you fill it, the fuel burn per seat mile compared with the two 787-9s is only 5 per cent more.” He adds: “Don’t forget the on-the-ground impact. You have to service two of the smaller jets for every one A380 and staff two gates. That’s two sets of tugs, lifts, staff, you name it.”

  • Wanderlust says:

    A particular quirk was with the old Lloyds upgrade vouchers was that there could be no amendments/ cancellations once the outbound was flown.

    Is this replicated in the Barclays vouchers which I know are very similar to the old Lloyds Vouchers?

  • Jan says:

    Hi Using my companion ticket I booked business class to Bridgetown from Belfast one way as flights not yet released When the new flight became available I used avios to get the return to London only as flights not yet available for Belfast. Rang next day to link the companion ticket and book the connecting flight to Belfast. Avios corrected but charged me approx an extra £90 to add Belfast. When I added up the taxes it was £200 more than if I had been able to booked the return at the time of my original booking. Why is this?

  • Carls says:

    I’m currently in Thailand and on Weds arrive back in AMS where I have a 12 hour layover before my BA reward flight back to UK. To confirm, I can change this flight on the day to an earlier flight that still has reward seats available, for a £35 charge? Can this be done via the app or only by calling up?

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

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