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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.

You can definitely 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 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 leg, or use miles via a different loyalty programme.

Can you cancel one way Avios redemptions

When should you book an Avios flight as a return trip?

It’s not really clear! All of my short haul Avios travel is now booked as separate one way tickets.

This means that changing a flight is easy. If a better timed inbound or outbound flight opens up, I can simply make a new booking for that leg and cancel the original flight online.

As for other possible reasons for not booking your trips as one-way flights:

  • you don’t book a return flight to save on cancellation fees, since BA appears to be keeping cancellation fees – at least on short haul – at 50p per person for now (this only applies to BA redemptions, not partner flights, and note that this could end at any point – the T&C still say that Avios cancellations are £35 per person)
  • you don’t need to do it if you are using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher – it is now possible to book each leg separately although the process is fiddly as I explain below
  • you don’t need to do it because surcharges are higher when booking 2 x one-way tickets, because this no longer the case unless you are booking First Class

Booking two x one-ways flights can even save money

Booking a trip as two x one-ways can, in some cities, also save you a substantial amount of money.

Sao Paulo and Hong Kong are two cities where local rules on surcharges should make two x one-way tickets cheaper than a return. This still applies despite the launch of Reward Flight Saver.

Here is a one way Club World flight from Hong Kong to London for example, with just £36 of taxes and charges:

Low Avios taxes from Hong Kong

How can you use a 2-4-1 voucher whilst still booking each leg separately?

If you want full flexibility to cancel the return leg of a flight booked with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, this is what you do.

You book the outbound leg as a one-way flight, using your 2-4-1 voucher.

You book the return leg separately, paying the full Avios cost. This requires you to have enough Avios in your account to do this.

You call British Airways Executive Club and ask for half of the Avios for the return flight to be returned to you. This will be done without a problem. Note that BA will charge a £35 per person amendment fee for doing this unless you are booking right at the edge of the window, at 355 days before departure.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (July 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

30,000 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 £15,000 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 (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel 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

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

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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.

Comments (111)

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

  • Joshua says:

    So I have booked an outbound flight for me and wife to Tokyo in December which we are both taking I used my amex 241 for this. I booked a flight back as a separate booking from Tokyo to London and I got half my avios back by asking on twitter. My wife wants to change her flight back from Beijing at later date. Will I have trouble doing this?

    • Rob says:

      No more trouble than you would have had in first place – just let the call centre handle it.

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

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