A Tale Of Two Airline Refunds: British Airways + Virgin Atlantic

Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.

As flight routes slowly start to open up again, many people find themselves in the position of still waiting for refunds from the major airlines. I had three mileage redemption flights cancelled on me:

  • London to SFO flying Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic
  • BA Club World LAX to LHR
  • My wife and children had a LHR – LAX return in Club World booked using the 2-4-1 Avios Voucher.

Virgin Atlantic Refund

All flights were eventually cancelled by the airlines, although due to timings I had to cancel my Virgin flight before they had cancelled the route.

I had booked an Upper Class one way Flying Club mileage redemption, LHR to SFO, with Virgin Atlantic, which gave me a pretty flexible ticket. I could cancel or change it anytime up to 24 hours before the flight for £30 (it’d have been $50 if it was originating in the US).

I was using this flight to return back to the US from the UK after a layoff week from my tour, but of course as COVID took hold, the tour got cancelled – meaning I no longer needed this flight. This was back in mid-March and the flight wasn’t cancelled when I went to cancel my ticket, although the travel ban was in place meaning I wasn’t allowed in the country.

At that point Virgin were asking people not to call them, so I used their text message service. I’ve used this in the past and think it’s truly excellent. As someone who always prefers to text or email rather than call, I find it to be fantastic. It allows me to get on with my life when dealing with them and I’ve used it to book cash and mileage redemption tickets, upgrades and change my flight. I wish more airlines adopted this service. Anyway, normally I would get a response fairly quickly using this method, but of course it was super busy and it took around 12 hours for me to get a message back. When I did, everything was straight forward: I asked to cancel the flight and they said they’d refund the miles instantly and the taxes would be put back on my credit card ‘sometime soon.’

Initially they wanted to charge me the £30 cancellation fee, but when I questioned it, saying that the travel ban meant I’m legally not allowed to fly, they decided to waive the fee. I don’t know if this was general policy or because I have status with them (only Silver, but had recently been Gold), but either way they seemed happy to help.

True to their word, the miles were instantly put back into my account. The taxes, which were a little under £500, took much longer. In fact, I cancelled the flight around March 18th and the refund only appeared on my card in mid June. To their credit, after 6 weeks or so of waiting, Virgin sent an email saying that they were working on it, giving a sense of how long it’d be until the refunds happened. With the amount of refunds and admin they were doing, I understood why it might take so long and appreciated being told that it would happen and they hadn’t forgotten about me.

British Airways Refund

With BA it was a slightly different story. The only way I could get a refund was to call them, which took around 90 minutes of waiting on hold till I could get through. I was also told I could only call within 72 hours of the flight being due to depart. I’m a Silver member with BA, so used the silver exec club line to call.

I had to to get a refund for my wife and kids’ CW LHR to LAX return flights which had been cancelled, and my flight with them from LAX to LHR. I was owed around £800 in taxes and around 100,000 Avios for my family’s cancelled flight, plus a 2-4-1 Avios voucher from the BA Black Amex Card. For my flight it was around 60,000 Avios and £400 in taxes.

BA were attempting to give people vouchers rather than cash refunds, however this wasn’t going to be any good for us. The vouchers for my wife’s flight would only be able to be used if she was flying and since I’m the one who flies the most it seemed foolish to take the vouchers.

After eventually getting through to the call centre I was helped by a very friendly agent, who no doubt had spent all day doing refunds. Because the tickets were across two exec club accounts it took some time for her to go through it all, but after 35 mins everything was done. The Avios were instantly put back in both our accounts.

The 2-4-1 voucher however didn’t appear back in my wife’s account. After two days the refund for the taxes on my flight had appeared on my credit card, but after two months there was still no sign of my wife’s refund. I’m going to assume that they were prioritising refunds for higher status customers, I am Silver (only a few Tier Points away from Gold) and my wife is Bronze.

After two months, I called BA to find out what was going on, again after a long time on hold, they managed to help. The operator manually put the 2-4-1 voucher back in our account, complete with a 6 month extension on it and said that a refund to the credit card would happen but it would take some time. This was, like with Virgin, to be expected. Eventually, the refund came through last week.

Bottom line

So with Virgin Atlantic, it took 2 and a half months for me to get the refund back on my card. BA, however, managed to do it in a few days for me, but took 3 and a half months to properly refund my wife.

It is incredibly annoying to have to wait so long for refunds – I know many people are still waiting.

It’s understandable that the amount of refunds, coupled with potential cash flow issues, mean that refunds will take longer than normal, but the time they’re taking really doesn’t bring huge amounts of goodwill towards airlines who will be relying on our return to help them recover…


  1. Andrew says

    I wanted to say that a few weeks ago I called BA to ask for a refund on a Tuesday and the refund was in my account Thursday in 2 days!!! So to me they have been fantastic!

  2. Terry says

    Just looking at the article that was published about the refund from virgin you must excuse me why I vomit over it because nevertheless I had the holiday cancelled by the tour operator only to discover that you won’t get a refund for 45 days and now they’re claiming a further 45 days I’ve been waiting since March and they cancelled on me where is the refund for this guys silver or gold status don’t think it makes a blind bit of difference
    Just refer back to the article I think the guy works for virgin because that’s not what is happening in the real World he must’ve been paid by an airline to write this story
    PS he plants the seed for texting and emailing and not phone calls I put that down to him being very tight and not wanting to pay for a phone call

    • Chris Cox says

      Hey Terry

      I do not and have not ever worked for Virgin, I am the first to say when they’re terrible and also the first to praise. All I’ve done here is given a true account of my experience. I waited ages for a refund, it sucked, but I got it eventually and I got my refund from Virgin before my BA one. I’m sorry that you’re having to wait still, I was also waiting from March but it did get sorted, and it will for you. Good luck getting your refund. Maybe write about your experience after?

  3. Dick Evans says

    Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic have been holding our flight monies to Antiqua since last September. There are 4 of in the party still waiting for full refunds, which is a disgrace. Lots of promises, but no refunds. He must be holding onto millions of pounds from 1000s of valued customers all over the world…….no good will gestures. Will never travel with Virgin again. Branson has his fingers in all sorts of other projects and has cash flow problems. Step up to the mark Branson and give your customers their money back.
    Dick Evans. Dartmouth UK

    • Sue says

      I am waiting for a refund of monies paid for seats in the bubble. Our flight was rearranged from Gatwick to Heathrow and the bubble was no longer available. You would assume that a refund would be generated automatically as we could no longer have what we had paid for through no fault of our own. No such thing. I have enquired several times and been given various stories the latest only today aimed at “managing my expectations” that my refund will take 120 days. Its shameful when it took less than 120 seconds to process my payment. My only consolation is that i am not waiting for a large amount of refund like some people who i have the greatest of sympathy for . Even in these difficult circumstances which we all acknowlege will add to the time to process ,120 days is way beyond reasonable and utterley shameful.

  4. Aaron says

    I sent British Airways a message on twitter about a flight I had booked. The whole thing was sorted in about a day with tax refund, avios and voucher all returned.

    For a flight they cancelled the cash was returned the same day. Surprisingly efficient.

  5. MYSELF says

    Respectfully I’d ask why you didn’t call BA back up the next day about your wife’s booking as the fact the voucher didn’t reappear immediately tells me something has gone wrong.

    As someone who flies enough to write about it is this something you genuinely weren’t aware of? We’ve had 4 trips booked with BA where they have been canceled and two of those were using amex 2-4-1 vouchers. Miles and vouchers both appeared whilst I was still on the phone to the agent and money was a maximum of 3 days.

    I also expressly remember on both occasions where an Amex 2-4-1 was in play the agents telling me “the voucher should appear back in your account in the next few minutes”

    If your own booking was dealt with near immediately and nothing seemed to happen at all with your wife’s something clearly went wrong and was worth chasing up. I imagine if you’d called back sooner then it wouldn’t have taken the time period you’ve stated.

    Yes of course we can only speak of our own experiences however from my own, and others I’ve spoken to about BA and refunds I honestly feel the timeline of 2 months was more caused by yourselves not chasing things up than a genuine refund timing.

    • Chris Cox says

      I didn’t call right away because truthfully I didn’t check the account for a few weeks, then I gave them a bit longer assuming that it would eventually happen. I, like I say in the piece, called them after a bit longer to find out what was happening. I didn’t do it sooner as it was the early days of lockdown, I had other things to think about and I knew I was in no rush to use that voucher. When I did speak to someone they manually put the voucher back on and it showed in the account during the call. I still had to wait for the cash refund a further month.

  6. P robinson says

    Just go on Facebook and look for no refund virgin support group, think 7300 virgin customers will tell you how appalling virgin are

  7. Gordon D says

    Like many people I booked BA to SA through a travel agency in the UK called TRAVEL UP. That was in Feb.Turns out that Travel up were just about the worst agent to handle the aviation closure according to MSE. Anyone want to get an insight into how not to manage a travel agency should look at the Travel Up ‘complaints’ group on Facebook. I finally got a refund last week some time after BA refunded TU. Tu decided to change their t and cs retrospectively and began charging huge lumps to process refunds. Should add that when the closure started TU pulled all the phone lines closed their physical offices and were incommunicado. Thousands of folk were stranded all over the globe and TU had vanished for 6 weeks leaving their customers to whatever. Absolutely hate them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *