The best time for flexible travel plans: How I used BA’s rebooking policy to save more than £150

Oct 28, 2020

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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

Ten months into 2020 and I needed a holiday. I needed a holiday bad. While a staycation was on the cards and a very appealing option — I’d spent a week in Devon in July — I wanted to get away somewhere. Somewhere hotter, reachable by plane with warmer seawater close by and delicious food.

So I booked a trip.

My partner and I decided to fly from London Heathrow (LHR) to Bari, Italy (BRI) for a one-week holiday. We booked one-way tickets for each of us using Avios to book Reward Flight Saver tickets for the outbound leg, while paying cash for the BA return leg. We paid 264 euro (about £239) for two tickets on the one-way flight home, including one piece of checked luggage for each of us.

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We had big plans to explore Puglia, with the Vinilia Wine Resort outside of Manduria as our home base. Just days before we were set to leave the U.K., Italy was removed from England’s travel corridor list, meaning we would have to quarantine for 14 days on return from our holiday. However, we both have jobs that allow us to work from home, so we decided to go forward with the trip and prepare for two weeks of isolation when we were to return to England one week later.

Vinilia Wine Resort. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

From the moment we arrived in Puglia, we fell in love with the region. The food, the stunning landscape, the weather, the friendly people — it really has everything. Plus, our stay at the Vinilia Wine Resort outside of Manduria and its in-house Michelin-starred restaurant was memorable in itself.

Related: 19 of the most beautiful villages in Italy

Viinilia Wine Resort. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Needless to say, we weren’t ready to go back to cold and rainy London quite yet. And we definitely weren’t ready to quarantine for two weeks. So, we decided to extend our trip the day before we were set to fly home.

Related: Northern vs. southern Italy: How to pick your ideal Italian holiday destination

The process started first with a call to British Airways to see what our options were. Because the carrier has extended its Book with Confidence policy several times, we were able to take advantage of rebooking our return journey for one week later. As it stands now, you can cancel your booking and you’ll get a Future Travel Voucher for travel to be completed by 31 August 2021, or you can change the date or destination of your booking without incurring a change fee, though you’ll need to pay the difference in price.

One small issue, however, was that our original return leg from Bari to London was the last frequency on BA’s schedule for the season. A friendly BA call centre agent informed us that we wouldn’t be able to fly on the same routing, however, BA would still fly from Naples (NAP) to London and we could book on that flight.

Not only that, but the flights from Naples were cheaper than we had originally booked. As in, much cheaper. The call centre agent informed us that the best way to go about the booking was to cancel our original flight, issue us a Future Travel Voucher worth the full 264 euro we originally paid. Then, we could log on immediately after to rebook the new flight from Naples to Heathrow.

That flight cost us a total of 94 euro (about £85), including one piece of checked luggage each. With the new flights purchased, we still have a Future Travel Voucher with 170 euro (about £154) on it.

Polignano a Mare. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Had the new flight been more expensive, we would have had to pay the fare difference. However, because the new itinerary was significantly cheaper, we saved and now have funds to use towards a future trip.

For those looking to travel now, I would argue that it’s the best time to do so if you want to be flexible with your plans. Airlines around the world have implemented — and, in many cases, extended several times over — the ability to book and rebook travel with no additional fees except the change in fare. In pre-pandemic times, rebooking a flight on a different date or to a different airport could run you hundreds of pounds in added fees.

Keep in mind, however, that not all airlines’ policies are the same. Before purchasing a ticket, ensure that the terms of the rebooking policy allow you to change plans with short notice. Low-cost carrier EasyJet, for example, won’t refund you the fare difference if the new flight is less expensive than the original, but you’ll have to pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive. Meanwhile, Finnair requires that you make changes between three and seven days before departure, depending on when you booked the ticket. As in many cases with travel, you’ll be most rewarded if you do your research.

Related: Coronavirus: Is my airline waiving change fees?

In many ways, this is what I’ve always dreamed of when it comes to travel. How many times have I been on a trip and felt it would be great to change a hotel, add on a stop to the trip or even head home earlier but been at the mercy of exorbitant change fees? Too many to count — mostly because it’s never really been an option that I’ve been able to consider.

Things happen during our travels, and plans often change. It’s nice to know now that flexible change policies mean that travellers can change their travel plans on a whim — and potentially even save some money in doing so.

So long as you feel safe travelling — and that is really the key here — it’s one of the best, most rewarding times to do so. During our trip, we were some of the only tourists around. Being able to see Lecce’s beautiful baroque architecture on empty streets when they would otherwise be teeming with tourists is a travel experience I’ll never forget. And now I get to enjoy that setting in Puglia for one more week — and still have about £154 to use on my next trip.

Featured photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy.

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