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

Mar 26, 2020

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Following government advice, The Points Guy U.K. advises travellers to stay home. But if you have any existing British Airways reservations, you might be wondering whether to rebook the flight, proactively cancel the booking or wait for the airline to cancel the flight.

Generally speaking, most airlines globally have waived changes fees, as they’re trying to encourage travellers to change their bookings — new and existing — to future dates rather than cancelling and asking for a cash refund. Some, like Aer Lingus, are even going so far as offering an additional 10% in value for doing so.

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It’s also worth noting at the outset that any Avios bookings are always flexible. In other words, in any circumstance, you are able to cancel reward flights at any point up to 24 hours before departure for a change fee of £35. This fee is waived for British Airways Executive Club Gold Guest List members.

Knowing your options is key to navigating these challenging times for travel. Let’s go through your available options and which is best for you: rebooking, choosing a voucher or getting a refund for cancelled flight.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California on March 28, 2019. - After two fatal crashes in five months, Boeing is trying hard -- very hard -- to present itself as unfazed by the crisis that surrounds the company. The company
(Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Rebooking

Generally speaking, if you’re still intending to visit a particular destination, rebooking to a future date can make sense. I recently did that with a trip to Albania that I had planned for last weekend. Albania is still somewhere I’d like to visit and the price I paid for the flights a few months ago was very good. It was due to be a weekend away with some friends, so we decided to move the trip to September.

If things haven’t improved by the rescheduled date, the existing waivers will still allow you to then take a refund, voucher or move the date again.

It’s worth noting though that if your flight hasn’t been cancelled, BA is only waiving the change fee, and you will have to pay a fare difference if the new fare is higher. If your flight does end up being cancelled, however, rebooking makes sense if you still want to visit the particular destination and the price for the flights is higher at your ideal dates, as you are not due any fare difference. Of course, this is dependent upon BA cancelling the flight.

Voucher

British Airways is offering customers with any upcoming bookings the ability to cancel such booking and receive a voucher for the value of the ticket. This can be used for future travel within 12 months from the original departure date. If the new flight costs less, the remaining value of the voucher remains in place and can be used on other trips. Similarly, if the new flight costs more, you can use the voucher and pay the remaining amount in cash.

image courtesy of ba.com
(Image courtesy of BA)

Does it make sense though to opt for the voucher rather than potentially waiting for the flight to be cancelled? Part of the answer depends on whether you have a relatively firm idea of what you’d spend it on and whether you’d prefer the certainty of cancelling a trip now.

If you do, then a voucher could be a good idea. It helps British Airways from a cash-flow point of view and allows you to pay for the next trip or next few trips, as it’s valid for the 12 months from the original departure date. As said, this is a neat approach as well if you don’t want to travel anymore — for example, if you have a booking for May but even if the world has returned to some normality by then and British Airways operates the flight, you’d rather get out of the trip.

Whilst I personally wouldn’t want to sit on too many vouchers, I do have a booking for May that I don’t think I’ll be taking anymore, so I might just get a voucher and use it on something else.

You are, of course, taking the slight credit risk that British Airways (or any other airline offering vouchers) will survive this crisis.

Refund

In order to get a full cash refund, a flight needs to be cancelled by the airline. If you have a multi-flight itinerary, a single sector cancellation should trigger your right to ask for a full cash refund.

If your flight is cancelled, there’s almost no downside to asking for a cash refund as you will be able to use the money however you wish. Cash is cash, after all. You’re not locked into having to spend the money with BA like you would be in the case of a voucher. If you want to get the cash back, your best bet is to opt for a refund.

Bottom line

Which option works best for you depends on a number of factors. If you want to get out of an existing booking even before British Airways has cancelled the flight (or potentially for flights that might still be operating) and you have an idea what to use the voucher on, proactively cancelling the itinerary in return for a voucher now rather than enduring a few more weeks of potential uncertainty could make sense.

If your flight is cancelled or it’s likely to be cancelled (most flights in the short-term will get cancelled), a cash refund gives you the flexibility to spend the money in any way you want. The only reason not to opt for a refund and to rebook instead is if you are still keen to take a particular trip and the price is higher than what you had paid — in which case rebooking may be the better option.

Featured image ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

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