Cancel a British Airways reward flight without Avios penalty
October 17, 2015 - Travel
All hail British Airways and their reward miles cancellation policy!
Having had to deal with U.S. carriers for the majority of my air travel transactions, my expectations regarding cancellations/ticket changes were low. Like, the opposite of flying high-in-the-air low. Imagine my surprise when I went to cancel a plane ticket through British Airways to discover a comparatively flexible policy.
Cancel More Than 24 Hours and Get All Your MileS Back
On September 24th, I purchased a non-stop one-way ticket to Dallas Fort-Worth from New York’s La Guardia airport using 10,000 Avios miles. For the one way ticket, I was charged an additional $5.60 for taxes/fees.
On October 16th, more than three weeks after purchasing the ticket and more importantly, just five days before the flight, I needed to cancel my plans — the trip no longer made sense due to an injury as I was going to Dallas for a basketball tournament.
With $250 change fees and cancellations within a certain period of time and no refund policies dancing in my head, I called British Airways’ Avios customer service. I was ready to plead my case but also resigned that I was SOL.
After explaining that I needed to cancel my flight, the BA agent told me, in a very heavy English accent, that British Airways would be refunding all my Avios miles, but charging me an $80 USD penalty. However, since i only paid $5.60, that’s all I would be losing out on.
The English airlines’ cancellation policy is like the wild west. One can cancel a reward flights up to 24 hours without a mileage penalty! Not a week, not 21 days, but up to the full day before the flight you can change your mind on an flight you booked through Avios.
Yes, there’s an $80 penalty, but only applies to what you paid for the taxes/fees for the rewards flight. So if you paid $11.20 for a roundtrip, your penalty is $11.60. I don’t know what my English brothers think of the penalty policy, but speaking for Americans, we’ll take it!
And your Avios points will be refunded to your account within 24 hours.
In most cases, it’s much faster than that; my Avios didn’t take nearly as long to be redeposited. Less than 30 minutes after cancelling on the phone, my Avios were already back in my account.
For context, this same scenario under other cancellation policies would have resulted in significant fees and/or lost mileage.
For United, making any change up to one year from the original date of issue I would have been charged somewhere between $100-$200.
For Delta, there’s a redeposit fee of $150 USD for non–Diamond and Platinum Medallion members. If your flight is three days out or less, you’re out of luck.
I’m afraid to look at Frontier Airlines‘ cancellation policy is. Whatever it is, I’m certain customers don’t come out feeling good about themselves — probably missing a limb, too.
American Airlines charges $150 for cancelling your award ticket (and $25 for each additional award reinstated at the same time for the same account).
Each airline allows penalty-free changes and cancellations without penalty only if you’re a member of their highest-tier membership. Most of us aren’t, but it’s worth mentioning especially if you’re reading this post. With British Airways, you don’t have to be premier platinum elite, you just have to call them up more than 24 hours before your flight departs. How about that?
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