I’m sure many of you had flights booked with British Airways prior to the coronavirus outbreak. You may now have to organise refunds for cancelled flights or try to rebook and British Airways is not making this an easy task. With automatic refunds seemingly a thing of the past, the 72-hour rule and phone lines that repeat an annoying message about how busy they are before promptly disconnecting you, British Airways are not flying the flag for customer service. The airline may have been quick to release details of the British Airways coronavirus policy but it is far from easy to take advantage of the terms.
Now before you lambast me for kicking the airline when it is down, I genuinely do understand how difficult this pandemic is for British Airways. The airline is haemorrhaging money as planes lay idle, customers clamour for refunds and travel restrictions mean little new revenue. However, how companies behave during this time might determine where we choose to spend our travel pounds when this is over. Companies that provide the best service and support in our time of need may rebound the quickest.
So here are the details of the British Airways coronavirus policy.
Flight cancelled by British airways
If British Airways cancel your flight you can rebook, claim a voucher online or request a refund via the call centre.
British Airways has a legal responsibility to refund your money but the airline is making this a painful process. Normally, you can request a refund online but this option has been removed.
Online voucher refund
If you accept an online refund, your refund will be in the form of vouchers. The vouchers are only valid for 12 months from the departure date of the first flight in your original booking. You must also complete the replacement trip fully within that 12 month period. This seems overly restrictive as we have no idea how long this crisis will last or when the Foreign Office will relax travel advice ‘from essential travel only’. It simply may not be possible to reschedule your flight within this period.
If you are confident you will be able to reschedule however, this is your easiest option as you can do it in minutes. Within 24 hours you receive an email like this confirming the refund is in process. It should then take less than seven days to receive your voucher by email.
I opted to rebook some of our flights but had to do this via Twitter as I could not get through to the call centre. The system would not allow me to amend the flights online but British Airways were highly effective via Twitter.
“If your flight was cancelled and you do not wish to rebook or claim a voucher, please contact us on 0800 727 800 from within the UK, or +44 (0)203 250 0145 from abroad, to discuss your refund options.”
If you want a cash refund, steel yourself for some frustration. You must ring the call centre whereupon the pre-recorded message will try to persuade you to hang up and accept a voucher.
If you call about a cancelled flight more than 72 hours before departure, staff will politely refuse to deal with your enquiry and ask you to call back within 72 hours of departure.
Last week, I managed to speak to someone after a short wait of around 10 minutes. This week (my flights were due to depart on the 10th April) the pre-recorded message advised ‘we are too busy to take your message. Call back!!’ The line repeatedly disconnected and I had to resort to Twitter.
Contact via Twitter
Twitter was surprisingly efficient. I managed to secure a refund of my Easter Italy flights and rescheduled my May Helsinki fights to a new date in October to coincide with the rescheduled half marathon. I have no idea how long it will take for the monies to reappear on my card and annoyingly British Airways will only refund to the original card which I no longer have. (Note, if you use any of my churn and burn strategies for earning tons of Avios, make sure you keep details of all cancelled cards on a spreadsheet so you can contact the card company to obtain the refunds.)
What if you decide to change your plans?
British Airways and many other airlines recognise that people may be reluctant to travel and have introduced more flexible coronavirus policies. You will however only be eligible for a voucher refund if you choose not to travel or you can rebook free of charge subject to eligibility.
Eligible bookings for a voucher refund or free change
Flights booked within the following dates qualify for a voucher refund. Alternatively, you can rebook for another date free of charge.
- Bookings for travel between 14th March and 31st May 2020 irrespective of when the flights were originally booked.
- Bookings made between 3rd March and 31st May for travel until 31st December
So if you booked before 14th March for travel after 31st May but decide against travelling, the usual terms and conditions will apply
For qualifying bookings, go to Manage My Booking to request the voucher or change your dates.
Change your date and destination
For bookings made from 3 March until 31 May 2020, with a departure date up to 31 December 2020, British Airways will allow you to change both your destination and dates. If you wish to change destination you will need to request a voucher refund and then you can book your new fight as normal.
Date change only
If you just wish to change your date, you should be able to do this via ‘Manage your Booking’. Check that the airline has not applied a change fee before confirming and if this is not the case get in touch with them directly as they waive this. Note you will need to pay any difference in fare.
If the bookings don’t fall into the date ranges above you will need to pay any usual fee changes. I tried to change our Malta booking from a weekend in August to a week and it was going to cost £70 to make the change when I only paid £2 in taxes to book the reward flights in the first place.
For any other flights you wish to cancel the usual terms will apply. We have a trip booked to Morocco in July and don’t fancy trekking up Mount Toubkal in a remote region of the Atlas Mountains so soon after a global health crisis. We can choose to wait until nearer the time to see whether the flight will cancel or we can cancel beforehand. As we booked a reward flight, the AVIOS will be refunded but we will lose taxes and fees which were only £2 (for two business class flights) in this case.
If you have booked a non-refundable ticket and you did not book within the dates above you will not be able to obtain a refund without losing your money.
How to use the voucher
When it comes to redeeming the vouchers the process also appears overly complex. You have to call the call centre and can only use the voucher for flights with a BA flight number. You also cannot use the voucher to fly Comair and Sun-Air franchise airlines. I would be wary of opting for this option unless you have no other choice.
Vouchers can be used as payment, or part payment, for a future booking. A voucher must be redeemed for travel on flights taken within 12 months from the departure date of the first flight in your original booking, and the new trip (departure and return) must be fully completed within that period You will receive your voucher by email within seven days of your application.
Amazing customer service from Intrepid
As an aside, we booked flights to Morocco to join a Mount Toubkal trek with Intrepid. and I just want to share an incredible example of customer service.
Intrepid wrote to us earlier in the week to advise that they had cancelled all trips to the end of May. Not only would they offer a full cash refund, but they would offer 110% of the amount paid. Initially, I thought ‘cripes, how can they afford to do that?’ but I think it could be canny marketing. After all, I instantly thought ‘blimey, this is a company I want to support’.
For trips from June onwards, they offered to rebook at no cost for another date any time before April 2022. Wowsers, how flexible is that? We decided to shuffle our trip on a year and rather than call I decided to use their chat. I waited less than a minute and Faye soon organised the date change. Better yet, our original trip cost £400 each. The price for the new date was £455 but Faye agreed to price match. I was blown away! Hats off to Intrepid. Go check out their trips as this is clearly a company that cares.
What about flights with Virgin?
Join me next week to find out more about Virgin and our experience.
What is your experience?
In the meantime, feel free to let me know how you are getting on with Covid cancellations and travel plans. I’d love to know.