NEWS: Is BA’s new refund policy shooting themselves in the foot? Barbados outbreak & changes & Virgin devaluation for some Delta flights

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Is BA’s new refund policy shooting themselves in the foot?

I wrote in this article how the CAA/CMA are investigating airlines that refuse to give refunds when passengers can’t legally travel such as Tier 4 (note: but not if it is legal but against guidance).

British Airways has traditionally offered vouchers for people whose flight was still operating but they did not or could not travel. The other option was to change your dates with any fee waived but you needed to pay the difference in fare. This was a policy that kept the original money paid within BA as well as at least giving options to the consumer.

Now BA has changed their policy for BA Holidays (flight + hotel or car) from 30 December 2020.

If you live within tier 4 and your holiday is within the next 3 weeks you can either:

  • take a voucher with the usual notice period for taking a voucher on holidays waived
  • get a full cash refund
  • or amend your dates with no fees.

Just to be clear, I am not complaining that they are offering refunds – it is the right thing to do. However, what they are not doing is allowing the same people to change to alternative dates completely free. Lots of us got good fares in the sales that BA has promoted over the last six months to get people to buy. Therefore if they try to change dates they will most likely have to pay hundreds of pounds more for the fare difference. So naturally, nobody wants to have to pay hundreds of pounds more to travel when they can now apparently just get a refund. Let’s look at two of the most popular destinations that were being offered in the £999 sale – Maldives and Dubai. To fly to Dubai now, the cheapest fare in the next year is £694 more than the sale price and for the Maldives, it is £1695 more. That’s with a sale on!! 

I am sure with uncertainty about lockdowns and travel restrictions that most people will take a cash refund if it is being offered. Yet probably most people that got a great fare would just change dates to the future if they could do so without paying extra. So rather than trying to keep customer flying with them and keep cash within the business, BA are actively encouraging people to take a refund. This just seems terrible decision making from a business point of view. Particularly if then there is a good offer from another airline and people take their money to someone like Qatar instead! No wonder BA has just had to agree a £2 billion government-guaranteed loan!

However, against the CMA guidance (not law yet) they are not offering the same for flight only. For flight only, you can only have a voucher or a fee-free change where you have to pay any difference. So not only are they shooting themselves in the foot by charging fare differences, BA are also ensuring that anyone who had one of the cheap fares booked on flight only will not be able to take advantage of it if they were due to travel during the tier 4 period or lockdown. The only way to use that money now will be as a voucher, probably ending up spending a lot more. While I have sympathy for BA’s situation, allowing people to change to other dates completely free is a fair compromise in my eyes. Customer is happy they keep their bargain price and BA get a happy customer and some loyalty instead of someone who is unlikely to buy another sale fare anytime soon!

Virgin seems to be offering date changes but it also implies that you will have to pay the difference in fare. They also do not appear to be offering cash refunds for flights for those within tier 4, so are worse than BA in that respect. 

According to Which, if you couldn’t take a flight because of a lawful order not to undertake non-essential travel and any airline refuses to refund you, you should complain to the CMA.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “We will be carefully analyzing all the evidence to see whether any airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by refusing people cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take. We recognize the continued pressure that businesses are currently facing, but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.”

 

Barbados outbreak and change in protocols

Crane Beach Barbados

Barbados has consistently been one of the best options for no quarantine on return, low COVID rates in their country and guaranteed heat during the pandemic. Up until now, they have had very few cases for months. Sadly as visitor numbers rose towards Christmas there have been a number of people breaking protocols. The latest one some z list celebrity from Love Island involved their partner testing positive and then both of them trying to leave the island immediately against all the regulations and get on a BA flight home! Sadly they have also discovered an outbreak of at least 45 people with COVID (from zero native cases previously) with so far no links to travel. Sadly there is also a lot of anti-British sentiment among some locals due to the breaches which is both sad and so frustrating that a few idiots have spoiled it for everyone!

This has led to a number of restrictions that may affect your decision to travel to Barbados:

  • You now need to test within 3 days before arrival and then quarantine until the 5th day after the initial test before you get your second test. This is likely to be the second day after you arrive. Previously it was 4-5 days
  • Use of a pool at hotels is no longer allowed (private pools in hotels and villas are OK)
  • There is a curfew from Monday of 9pm-5am
  • All public events are cancelled
  • Mass testing is now taking place meaning there will be most likely delays to test results.

Much as I hate to say it, even if I was legally allowed to travel to Barbados right now, I would be looking to postpone my trip until things have calmed down and they have sorted out the outbreak. Luckily Barbados have proved that they are more than capable of stamping out these outbreaks, so I am hopeful in a few weeks things will have calmed down. 

 

Virgin Atlantic devaluation but only for some Delta flights

Virgin have put up the prices of some Delta flights substantially with no notice, but luckily it is unlikely to affect most TLFL readers. I still don’t think that putting prices up with no notice is fair to consumers though. If it was a small difference maybe but some of the changes are huge!

Which flights have changed?

  • US domestic flights on Delta
  • Delta flights from the US to the EU

So if you were thinking of using Delta for a cheap flight back to Europe (I had actually considered this for a way to try out their A350 Delta One Suite to Amsterdam) then you will have to pay substantially more miles. Fortunately, flights to and from the UK are unaffected.

The new chart for other flights is based on mileage – another thing that I hate as then you have to work out what the mileage between airports is! (although you can do a dummy booking and find out). It is also per sector so if you take a connecting flight that will be an extra charge which is even worse! The only good thing is that taxes and charges are still very low. Previously flights between the US and Europe cost 50,000 miles one way. 

Here is the new chart for reference:

 

The current miles for flights to and from the UK are:

You can find all the Virgin points rates for Delta flights on this page.

 

 

 

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11 Comments on "NEWS: Is BA’s new refund policy shooting themselves in the foot? Barbados outbreak & changes & Virgin devaluation for some Delta flights"

  1. Laraine Barnes | 3 January 2021 at 7:11 am | Reply

    Unfortunately there have been a huge amount of British tourists flouting the law in Barbados. Going to restaurants with long sleeves and a lot of jewellery to hide their red wrist bands which are initial quarantine requirements, until tested negative.

    Sandals hotel have lost their quarantine hotel status by allowing visitors to wander.

    Such a shame when Mia was keeping things under control.

    • That’s very sad to hear. When I visited a few months ago there did not seem to be an issue with this. I do wonder if the testing situation meant that people started breaking the rules when it was taking days to get the results back – no excuse whatsoever but it’s interesting the sudden rise in people flouting quarantine.

  2. Stephen Danson | 3 January 2021 at 9:57 am | Reply

    No surprise really bearing in mind we are a nation that seem to know better than everyone else and that why should rules apply to us. Let’s just hope the perpertrators are deported and their passports tagged to prevent them ever visiting the island again.

    • I actually think that they should give a prison sentence in the cases where someone breaks quarantine when they are positive. In effect it’s reckless endangerment and should be treated as such. They need a couple of high profile sentences as a lesson to people that they can’t flout the rules. Such a shame after Barbados has done such a great job for so long.

      • Stephen Danson | 3 January 2021 at 11:08 am | Reply

        I agree. But if some of those guilty also own property there and subsequently are not allowed to visit would send out a big message.

    • Yes disappointing news… They have put a lot of infrastructure in place and the rules were not hard to follow.

  3. I had a BA holiday (flights, car hire and hotel) booked to Vancouver in April. BA first cancelled my outbound flight but offered a flight on the day before which I accepted. Then a few weeks later cancelled my inbound flight (from Calgary), told me they’d be in touch with options, and then simply refunded the booking. I would happily have looked at alternative options but didn’t get the opportunity. Seems strange from a business perspective, particularly as the booking is still 3 months away.

    • Yes, i have heard of them doing this to simplify things but again seems a very short-sighted policy. What they need is a simple email with two options on it – suggested rebooking options or please refund me.

  4. mr clayton powers | 4 January 2021 at 6:34 am | Reply

    BA has, imho, ALWAYS shot themselves in the foot with their refusal to allow pax cancelling a trip not to just shift funds to another already booked trip. It has created untold, unnecessary, work for them poor over worked staff and meant that their bank balance has had to take untold hits at ‘restriction peaks’.

    Our approach from the get go was to always desire BA simply took the funds from Trip A and placed them into Trip B but it was never an option. I would understand if we were looking at using funds from a flight only booking to be pushed into a BA Hols booking( or vice versa) as whilst it all ends up in the same place there are intermediate step differences however it always struck us as short sighted and stupid not to allow us to shift already paid up funds from a trip that can no longer go ahead into another existing booking especially when it comes to BAH. It’s not like they are missing out on money somehow and by having had that as an option it would’ve made things much easier for both staff and customers.

    2020 saw us cancel at total of 19 trips( we wouldn’t have taken all of those as some replaced others but we still had a total of 10 planned for the year as of early March). If we could’ve just shifted funds across the amount of time saved for all concerned AND the ability for BAH to keep literally 10s of thousands in their bank accounts was an obvious win-win all round but BA in it’s wisdom couldn’t see that far forward.

    On the Barbados issue i’ll simply say that ‘imported cases’ took onge to become an issue than i imagined. The only thing ‘ll add is that maybe some are being overly harsh blaming the British. Whilst i’ll make no attempt to say many weren’t pobaby guilty i’ll add that it’s highly unlikely others from other nation’s didn’t contribute to the issues there along with the Barbadians historically ‘laisse-faire’ approach to things in general ( Before any accusations are thrown i will clarify i’m referring to the general life approach of the people NOT implying the Gov there has/ is being lax in anyway)

  5. Please note that the local restrictions are set to expire next week hopefully on the 14th. The aim I think was just to give contact tracers a chance to keep up.

    • Thanks. I hope they sort out the situation as quickly as they can. It’s so sad to see how one persons actions could have potentially led to all these cases.

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