Are UK airlines waiving cancellation or change fees for award bookings?

Apr 3, 2020

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There’s a lot of uncertainty about travel right now. If you have any upcoming trips booked, even if those trips are months away, you have to navigate restrictions on travelling abroad, entering certain countries and even transiting popular airports — and these policies continue to change regularly.

Most airlines have implemented generous travel waiver policies, allowing you to change the date of your flight to a later date at no cost or retain the value of your flight as a credit to use later. This gives you the flexibility to delay your travel and also gives the airlines the ability to retain cash as their revenues collapse.

But what about flights booked with miles and points rather than cash? Normally you can change and cancel these bookings for a small change fee. When the booking is cancelled, you get a refund of sorts — the points and miles are deposited back into your account and the fees and taxes go back onto the card you paid for them with, but you’ll pay the small cancellation fee.

We’ve received plenty of questions from our readers about the policy and process about changing or cancelling bookings made with points and miles, so we reached out to the two biggest airline loyalty programmes in the U.K.

(Photo by Tom Dalt)
(Photo by Tom Dalt/The Points Guy)

British Airways Executive Club

If British Airways or a partner airline cancels a flight you have booked as an Avios redemption, you are entitled a full refund of all Avios, fees and taxes, and you will not be charged the typical £35 cancellation fee. Depending on the date of the cancelled flight, you may be offered a flight on an alternate date instead. It’s your choice whether to accept a different flight, or a full refund.

Related: Rebooking, voucher or refund? What’s your best option for upcoming British Airways flights?

You will be notified by email if your flight is cancelled and then should be able to accept either a refund or choose an alternate flight online. If the flight could not be booked online to start with, you may need to call British Airways in order to change it to a different date, though you should expect long wait times.

If you wish to change the date of a reward booked with Avios and the flight has not been cancelled by the airline operating it, you can change the date of the flight for no change fee if you booked the flight between 3 March and 31 May 2020, with a departure date up to 31 December 2020.

If you wish to cancel your Avios redemption, rather than just change the date and the airline has not cancelled your flight, British Airways has advised TPG U.K. that you have two options:

  1. You can receive a refund of your Avios back into your Executive Club account and a refund of the fees, taxes and charges where you pay a £35 per person, per ticket cancellation fee. This fee is waived for Gold Guest List members in line with normal Executive Club status benefits; or
  2. You can receive a refund of your Avios, and a credit voucher/travel bank for all fees, taxes and charges (with no cancellation fee payable) as part of its Book With Confidence policy.

This also applies where you used Avios + Money, or using more money to reduce the amount of Avios required for your redemption. Where you used Avios Part-Payment, or using Avios to reduce the amount of cash required for a cash ticket, the general British Airways travel waiver policy applies.

Related: The difference between British Airways’ Avios + Money and Avios Part-Payment

(Photo courtesy of British Airways)

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

If Virgin Atlantic or a partner airline cancels a flight you have booked as a Flying Club redemption, you are entitled a full refund of all Flying Club miles, fees and taxes with no cancellation fees.  Depending on the date, you may be offered a flight on an alternate date instead — it is your choice whether to accept a different flight or a full refund.

If you wish to change the date of a Flying Club redemption booking, you can do so once without incurring any change fees.

If you wish to cancel your Flying Club redemption booking, Virgin Atlantic has advised us that there will be a £30/$50 cancellation fee payable as per its normal Flying Club rules. You will receive all Flying Club miles back into your account and a refund of all fees, taxes and surcharges paid (minus the cancellation fee).

This fee will not be waived unless the airline cancels the flight itself.

Some redemptions can be changed or cancelled online, but many can’t. The airline does have a WhatsApp feature (0344 874 7747), which I used to cancel a partner airline redemption on Delta last week. I found this experience to be easy, quick and convenient. If you don’t want to sit on hold on the phone for hours, I would recommend trying this feature.

Bottom line

Both airlines have similar policies on changing or cancelling redemption bookings. If the airline cancels your flight, you can receive a full refund. If they do not and you just wish to change the date, you can do so without being charged. If you otherwise want a full refund, you’ll need to pay a small change fee.

Featured image by Grzegorz Bajor/Getty Images

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