The coronavirus pandemic has caused huge problems for airlines around the world, with most now suspending almost all international travel. It has also resulted in millions of passengers wanting refunds or clarity on their rights if they have tickets booked.
So what are your options if you are due to fly?
The easiest option - claiming a voucher
The first thing to bear in mind is that all airlines are overwhelmed by the current situation. Customer service agents are dealing with an unprecedented number of calls, and airlines are prioritising the processing of people stuck abroad who are trying to get home.
With airlines taking such a huge financial hit right now, most are encouraging passengers to use online forms to claim a voucher for future travel.
British Airways is currently offering vouchers (though no bonus) if your flight departs before May 31. Note you will have to pay any additional fare costs and the new trip, to any destination, must be within 12 months of your original departure date.
If the cost is less than your original booking, you will receive a voucher for the difference, which you can put towards another booking.
If the return flight departs after May 31, you are still eligible for a voucher as long as the departure is beforehand.
As BA outlines on its website, to cancel your flight and get the voucher, you should fill in this online form.
After this the booking will be cancelled at no charge, and the voucher will be emailed to you within seven days (note you will not receive a confirmation email).
Also note that you should not amend your booking in ‘My Booking’ – BA will do this for you.
Can I get a refund?
Understandably given the current uncertainty in the travel industry, many passengers would rather just claim a refund for their flight.
Whether you are able to do so depends on a few factors.
If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund, as per existing British Airways policies.
You will need to call the airline to action a refund. Its phone lines are extremely busy right now, so you will likely have trouble getting through.
But note that you can claim the refund for 12 months after the cancellation, so consider waiting if possible.
You would normally also be entitled to compensation under EU legislation (EU 261) if your flight was cancelled with less than 14 days’ notice or delayed by more than three hours.
However airlines are claiming the coronavirus pandemic as an exception under “extraordinary circumstances”, so this is unlikely to be forthcoming.
My flight is not cancelled but I no longer want to travel
Some British Airways flights are likely to still operate over the next two months, despite the UK Foreign Office advising against all overseas travel (though check regularly, as the schedule will continue to be revised).
However, you are not entitled to a refund if your flight is not cancelled – only a voucher for the cost of your original trip, as detailed above.
If your flight is in June or beyond, there is currently no change to your right to a refund or rebooking beyond the terms of the ticket you originally purchased.
However, the situation for both airlines and the world at large is changing rapidly.
BA recommends that you make sure your contact details are correct in Manage My Booking and check ba.com for any updates to your flight.
What if I booked with Avios?
If you booked your flight with Avios, you are entitled to cancel your flight up to 24 hours before departure, and receive your Avios back, plus your taxes and charges in cash, for a £35 fee.
As travel website Head for Points outlines here, BA has made it more difficult to claim this online, and is instead directing people to the voucher refund page.
As noted by Head for Points, your rights have not changed, but you may need to call BA’s customer service agents to claim them. Again, the best course of action is probably to wait a few weeks until demand has calmed down, if possible.
Finally, note that we are not associated with British Airways. Please share your experiences with us in comments, but do not include sensitive information such as your booking details.
If you have further questions, let us know and we will put them to the airline.