How British Airways SHOULD Be Dealing with Cancellations, but ISN’T…

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The coronavirus crisis is unprecedented. Perhaps that word is thrown around too much, but it boggles the mind to consider that terrorists deliberately crashing 4 planes on 9/11 ultimately had a much lower impact on air travel than a virus. British Airways, like every other airline, is fighting to survive. But that certainly doesn’t justify bad behaviour, which has been called out by Head for Points, God Save the Points, the Daily Mail and others…

The issue isn’t even open to interpretation. When any airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a full refund. Simple contract law, not to mention EC261

That isn’t stopping British Airways from being duplicitous. When your flight is cancelled – paid or award – you should be sent an e-mail and invited to Manage Your Booking online, where you will see something like this:

This is clearly deliberate. For as long as I can remember, has allowed you to cancel bookings online. Somebody has turned that functionality off, with the decision probably coming from the executive suite. British Airways knows that its call centres are jammed, and that calling the airline is going to put people off calling for a refund.

If you attempt to cancel your booking online, you will instead be taken to a page that looks like this:

Why is this Wrong?

When I am entitled to a refund, I want my money back. Actual money, that I can spend on any product or service that I choose. This is how capitalism works, to the general benefit of everybody…

But British Airways seems to think that their own survival is important enough to attempt to cheat travellers out of their refunds. But I think it was Gilbert at GSTP who said it best, and I paraphrase – when travel returns, I will support those companies who treated me right, not those who tried to screw me.

What British Airways SHOULD Be Doing, But Isn’t…

With some creative thinking, British Airways could have turned this crisis into an opportunity. Here’s how…

If British Airways offer me the choice between £100 in cash and a £100 voucher that must be used within a year, I will take the cash. It doesn’t take more than a second to decide. If I want to spend £100+ with British Airways in the future, I will… but give me my £100 back.

But what if BA offered a voucher worth £110 or £120 for each £100 of cash owed to customers? All of a sudden I am faced with a dilemma. Money today or something worth much more tomorrow. Perhaps the infrequent traveller will still take the cash, but your frequent flyers will probably take the voucher. And 10% would end up looking cheap compared to the ultimate cost of the government taking a big chunk of equity in exchange for a bailout.

Vouchers too attractive? Then make it about Avios. What if BA offered 12,000-15,000 Avios for each £100 of cash owed to customers? Again, you would be inviting frequent flyers to leave their cash in BA’s coffers, in exchange for something that they value.

By simply offering passengers the choice between cash and something a bit more valuable (but still managed by BA), British Airways would be creating substantial goodwill, as well as receiving a relatively cheap form of financing. Instead, BA are doing their best to alienate some of their better customers.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section…



  1. Nigel Owen says

    In a normal situation, I would agree, but this is not a normal situation. If all customers demanded refunds for all cancelled flights, when we come out of this, there will be very few airlines still in existence. As well as very few travel agents, virtually no ground handling agents and a limited number of airports.
    Normally when businesses refund customers, they have ongoing cash flows. Right now, airlines not only are facing calls for refunds, but they also don’t have any new bookings coming in to keep cash flowing. But they still have costs to pay – leases on aircrafts and staff being two of the major ones.
    And there ultimately is where you need to show some empathy. If you decide to pull your money out, BA will have to stop paying its staff a lot sooner, so there will be a human effect, not just the industry economic effects above.
    Some people will need the money they paid for their flights refunded to play more pressing issues, and if so, of course you should be able to. But if you are able to keep living your life without that refund right now, and can keep industries in tact and, more importantly, other people in paid employment, then it this time that should come first.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I don’t have any problems with what you’re saying – I took the voucher option in the end as well – but I am merely pointing out how BA could have made their customers feel good about letting them keep their money for awhile longer, instead of simply giving their customers reasons to be annoyed.

      • Maureen says

        I found BA staff very helpful. I had booked an economy flight to Johannesburg for 19/3 with Avois as there was an offer for half the Avios points. I accepted the voucher online but did not get any acknowledgment and the flight was still showing in my App, so I phone them and managed to get through. After some time explaining my situation , she discussed. with her senior and I was offered an open ticket that had to be used within one year, but advise may have to pay extra taxes if I travel at peak time. This was a good option for me as the half price Avios ticket will still be valid and I just pay the taxes for peak time. Will try and book for Christmas depending on the Convid 19 situation.

    • Aldas Žarnauskas says

      You have a good point, even I won’t argue about that because after all, we getting vouchers instead of a refund support the company itself. BUT this does not change the fact that they deceived their clients. I got cancelled my flights with Ryanair too, and I took vouchers instead of a refund with no problem. I fly with Ryanair often so I have no issue to spend the vouchers I was given. A different case is with BA, I don’t fly with this airlines so often, so, in the future, after I received a voucher instead of a refund, I am forced to book another flights just to use up those vouchers but not from necessity.

  2. David Blake says

    I have taken the voucher option for a flight that is now cancelled as it was scheduled for next Wednesday. I have tried telephoning on numerous occasions to get a cash refund but the lines are always busy. Now the telephone system does not even put you in a queue; a voice advises that no more calls are being taken and call back later.

    I just hope that BA will honour the voucher, assuming they still exist, if the crisis lasts for longer than 12 months.

  3. chris riches says

    I had four Club World bookings LHR/SJC on 6th April, using Avios and 2 x BA/AMEX 2 for 1 vouchers. Total taxes and fees was around £2,600. If I ask for a refund, I’ll get the money back together with around 300,000 Avios, but one of the 2 for 1 will expire in August. If I take the voucher, the 2 for 1 will be valid for 12 months after I cancel it. My dilemma, is that if I take the money and run, I’ve lost a 2 for 1. If I take the voucher, the four of us can still take advantage of the voucher. I’m erring on taking the voucher and hope that I can get a similar value booking within the next 12 months,

  4. SUE says

    I was tricked into accepting a Future Travel Voucher. I believe I can use a little bit of it at a time. I believe that if the flight I rebook is less than the voucher, another voucher is automatically issued for the difference and I can book as many short hauls as I like for the value of the one longhaul if I choose?! Am I right in this? I hope you don’t only get one chance to use the voucher and just lose whatever is underspent. Also if a rebooked voucher flight is also cancelled, will it be reissued full value?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Hi Sue,

      Yes… I understand that BA will issue another voucher for the difference. So you are safe there…

      Hopefully any re-booked flights aren’t subsequently cancelled, but you would likely receive yet another voucher for the full value of that particular flight.

  5. SUE says

    Thanks very much. There is talk saying that if at some point voucher flights are not valid through bankrupcy or routes being discontinued, we have never relinquished our right to a money refund simply be accepting a voucher. Hypothetically at least!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Hypothetically you could chase your credit card provider, although I think many of us believe that if BA goes out of business, leaving no airlines left in the UK, then we have far bigger things to worry about…

  6. Jon says

    I also feel I was tricked into accepting a voucher – I had a short break to IST booked for mid May the FCO advice showed increasing limitations but had not advised against travel.
    I requested a voucher but missed the small print advising that hotel costs were non refundable unless FCO advisory was in force.
    I have just received voucher for flight only – have queried this but confident.

  7. Maddie Kruger says

    I was able to claim for a refund online for my flight although BA hadn’t cancelled it due to the flight being rescheduled. I hadn’t heard from them for 3 wks and bypassed the refund route (you just eat cut off) by holding on for vouchers etc. I was told my claim had been stopped half way through due to the fact that BA hadn’t cancelled the flights. I said an email from you would of been welcomed to let me know. So I had to go down the vouchers route. My complaint here is that my holiday was from March 20th to April 20th and the vouchers would only cover both departure and return journeys up until March 20th 2021. This means my son will be unable to come due to school holidays. That’s if everything is back to normal by then. I have written via customer services (you cannot speak to anyone only email)
    Requesting them to extend the vouchers or offer me a refund. I am awaiting a reply. BA should make all vouchers valid for 24 months.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I think that BA will realise later in 2020 that a one-year expiry policy on vouchers will only mean that people will rush to use them before they expire… meaning that BA won’t be receiving the cash revenue that it needs to pay for all of the fuel, staff costs, etc.

      Although it will be tempting for them to have people’s vouchers simply expire – keeping your money – I think common sense would suggest that they extend the life of the vouchers. Let people forget about them, or use them at their leisure far in the future, rather than really alienate a large number of people.

  8. John Aung says

    I too was tricked into taking the voucher. I asked for a refund, click on the refund link. I filled out the details it asked me for, then realised they were actually giving me a voucher when i didnt want/ask for. At this moment in time i need the money not the voucher….
    They are now saying as they have issued the voucher they cant actually give me a refund (even though i asked for a refund and deceived me into getting vouchers). So I am now trying to get the money back via my credit card company.

  9. Stuart Greer says

    How will we ever be able to use these vouchers? How many hundreds of thousands of people will be jamming the phone lines to try to redeem them when travel restrictions are lifted? Surely they should be useable on-line, unless of course it is another ploy to keep our money. Out of flights cancelled by BA, American, Southwest, Alaska, Ryanair and Aeroflot, the only airline to refund me actual cash was Aeroflot. Who’d have ever thought that?

  10. Dale Taylor says

    I was pushed onto a voucher in a similar way. Return flights premium economy for myself and one other, from Europe to Australia. My mother is getting infirm and it´s been 2 years since I´ve seen her. It´s a lot of money for me and their stupid online site had no refund button. Their call centre won´t take my calls so I´m pushed onto the reality it´s easier to try the voucher..but then, there are no flights on dates that suit me. This has been an issue for weeks now. I woke very early and finally got on the phone to them but they refused to budge, and I was directed to file a complaint on their web form. I did so but after several emails they simply refuse to help. They won´t refer me up to a manager, either. I explained that I´ve found other airlines who can fly me and that it´s unfair my money is locked up in a voucher that no longer suits me at all. So now I hate BA and honestly I don´t care about their business needs. My flight was cancelled by them. I don´t care if Covid19 was the reason. They had a contract to provide me with a flight on a certain date, they didn´t do it, then their inept and sneaky systems pushed me onto a voucher that I still can´t use. I am disgusted by them. If they can´t find cashflow for their business, that´s not my problem, it´s their own managerial stupidity. I shouldn´t have to pay for it.

  11. Mike says

    My BA flight was cancelled with just three weeks to go before travel. No reason given.
    I opted for voucher and rapidly in just one day was emailed a voucher with a link inviting me to search alternate travel on the BA site. I immediately applied the voucher on the BA website for a flight with Iberia, no problem, system accepted voucher even issuing me another voucher for the small difference in price between flights.
    therefore I had to book another connecting flight to get me from my original airport to Madrid and on to my final destination.
    that was the plan, seemed a good one to me. Not evidently to BA.
    Email from BA please contact us. Nothing more.
    Got through to call center early one morning to be told the voucher could not be used on that flight. Eh ? its booked through your link???
    call center…computer error. Eh?? Wait….No not having that one chestnut ……now I mention my expertise in computer science …explaining how many computations and communications via multiple computers and servers would be required to accept the voucher and issue me with a booking number. No error there!
    Call center agreed but insisted I needed to pay for my new flight again!! Eh??? No. Oh yes! and they said to boot they would not hold the ticket for me. Pay now or lose your alternative! that was the clear message.
    Finally after 80 minutes on the phone they agreed to get me on the Iberian flight! no further payment….by application of the voucher that could not be applied earlier???
    Question……why the lies and the pressure to have me pay again…..? not covid related purely economic pressure.
    Come on BA or we will change your slogan and it wont be anything like Britans Favorite.

  12. Dale says

    Competitors to BA (eg some middle eastern ones) have continued to offer many flights. The covid fear has obviously shot BA to pieces and made them very hungry to steal from customers. Even before Covid though, there were some issues with BA that I tried to ignore whilst still using them by choice:
    *Very bland, bare-bones interiors of their planes
    *Poor quality meals compared to other airlines I´ve flown
    *Longer delays, consistently, compared to other airlines
    *Shifty communication skills from their flight attendants
    *One time I got sick on the plane, they chose not to warn me that by advising them officially I felt sick/overheated, I could face ejection or quarantine at the border control when we landed (it would have been nice to know beforehand so I had a legal and health choice about the matter)
    *Paying for premium seats on the plane is simply much more expensive than their competitors
    *Their website is very slow and it forgets the accounts settings when you log in next time, eg choice of language/currency
    *The call center staff seem to just read from scripts to answer questions, which leaves them coming across as inept at using the English language and shows they can´t adapt to situations.
    *Their strange need for a “customer service manager” aboard planes–other airlines might have a chief flight attendant, but BA seems to not trust their own staff to do a good job, hence they plug in an over-priced kind of “political” figure reminiscent of what the soviet union would do on board their military seacraft–and yet still, their level of service on board is low.
    *BA costs more than other airlines for the same class of seat on the same route. It´s been a problem for years and has no explanation at all, especially when we consider they aren´t offering carbon offsets in the manner of other airlines.
    *Let´s also not forget, they have betrayed Britishness because despite their insistence on that branded name, they are now an international brand and not even majority owned by Great Britain.

    BA, if you want to survive, reduce your prices, increase your customer service levels, made your cabins sparkle more, put more staff in your call centers and let them have individual personalities and for heaven´s sake lastly, give people automatic refunds instead of the insulting cr*p you call vouchers for future travel.

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