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British Airways quietly scraps fee-free flight change policy

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Customers booking flights with British Airways from today will no longer be covered by its ‘book with confidence’ policy brought in at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline last night – and without notice – withdrew its ‘book with confidence’ policy which gave customers greater flexibility amid the uncertain pandemic times.

As part of the policy, which had been amended and extended over the past two years, flights could be cancelled up to an hour before departure and customers could get an eVoucher for payment or part-payment to use for travel completed by 30 September 2023.

Further, BA waived its usual change fees, though if a new flight cost more, customers would still need to pay the difference.

As of today, any new bookings will now be subject to its usual cancellation and refund policy so bookings are subject to administration fees. Customers will need to log in to the ‘manage my booking’ section to see their options, as well as associated fees.

Avios bookings can be cancelled up to 24 hours before departure, though a £35 per person fee applies.

For any bookings made before 8 June 2022 for travel due to be completed by 30 September 2022, BA confirmed they can still be amended – that is the date, destination or even cancel the booking with no change booking fee, though a fare difference may still apply.

Even if you booked before 8 June, if the trip is beyond 30 September 2022, it won’t be covered under the previous ‘book with confidence’ policy.

Any customer with an existing eVoucher can still use it for travel up until the end of September 2023, BA confirmed.

‘Strange and surprising move’

Rob Burgess of frequent flyer website Headforpoints, said: “Book with confidence has been around in various forms since early 2020. While arguably it couldn’t last forever, it is a little surprising that it wasn’t extended at least a little further. It seems strange to leave the busy October half term period exposed, especially as people tend to travel to countries outside Europe in October where Covid policy can be harder to predict.

“I’m also surprised that BA made this move when pre-departure testing is still required for flights to the US. Even at the current low levels of infection, the statistics imply a handful of people per flight will still have to cancel at short notice after failing a test and it’s a risk that many potential bookers may not wish to take.

“While this move may stop business travellers from booking cheaper inflexible tickets, knowing they could always be refunded, business travel remains at a low level and is heading into the even quieter summer period. This policy change may end up driving away leisure travellers without any matching increase in spend from business travellers trading up to flexible tickets.”

Burgess added: “Other airlines have adapted their policies instead of going back to how things were. Lufthansa, for example, has added slightly more expensive business class tickets which can be cancelled with a £250 each way fee. I am guessing that the extra £100 each way that people pay for these tickets means that the airline wins overall. Some US airlines have made permanent improvements to their cancellation policies. British Airways seems to think that it can move back to its pre-Covid position on flexibility, but arguably the world has changed.”

‘Book with confidence policy was a temporary measure’

A British Airways spokesperson, said: “We offer a wide range of fares to give greater choice to our customers, and the vast majority of our tickets already provide flexibility. If a customer’s flight is cancelled, we’ll always offer them a range of options including a full refund.

“Our book with confidence policy was introduced as a temporary measure at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we ramp up our operations, we’ll continue to offer customers a range of options while returning to standard rules for any new bookings made on or after 8 June 2022.

“If new stringent rules are introduced by a country that restricts or prevents travel due to Covid-19, we will always review the requirements and will consider flexible options in addition to the rules of their ticket.”

Just yesterday British Airways cancelled 124 flights from Heathrow, though it said affected passengers were given notice.

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