British Airways customers who have their flights cancelled can now take refunds in the form of Avios points, as well as cash or a voucher.
The scheme is open only to those who booked flights directly with BA and not through a third-party.
The airline is offering cash refunds to those who call. However, like the customers of other airlines, many are finding it hard to get through on the phone or are otherwise struggling to get their money back.
Grounded: 921,000 British Airways customers had received cash refunds from the airline for cancelled flights, with another 47,400 still waiting for their money back
Recent figures from BA revealed 47,400 passengers were still waiting for refunds for cancelled bookings earlier this month, with 921,000 handed out.
None of the UK’s 10 biggest airlines were providing refunds for cancelled flights within the seven days they are supposed to do so, according to consumer group Which?.
Many airlines are instead trying to push customers into accepting vouchers equivalent to the cost of their booking, but with the future of the industry so uncertain it is no surprise customers would rather have their money back.
BA is offering vouchers online which are valid until the end of April 2022, but customers who want either a cash refund or the new Avios refund, provided they are a member of British Airways Executive Club, will either need to phone BA or contact it through social media if they can’t get through.
What do you get for the offer?
Questions about the value of Avios points are often akin to ‘how long is a piece of string’.
While BA has not given precise numbers, the number of Avios points you would get if you took the offer is based on the price of your booking.
BA said the actual rate of Avios that you get for the price of your flight is roughly double what you would normally get if you bought Avios using cash.
This is something you can do to top up your air miles but is usually advised against because the value is very low.
Buying 10,000 Avios points would normally cost you £175, a rate of 1.75p per point.
Experts usually advise to try and get as close to 1p per point as possible, but if you can you should aim to get a point for less than that and redeem it for more.
1.75 pence per point is therefore not especially good value. However, if the purchase rate is doubled, then 10,000 points would be had for £87.50, or 88p per point.
To put this in context, frequent flyer website Head for Points said the most generous rate they had ever seen offered by BA in an Avios deal was around 92p.
The pence per point value also increases the more Avios you receive as a refund, with 50,000 Avios offered for 82p per point, down from 1.63p usually.
Of course, because the number of Avios points you would receive under this refund scheme depends on the price of your flight, you might not end up with a round number, but these are just examples.
Should you do it?
Head for Points said that: ‘If you don’t need the money urgently, this is an excellent opportunity to pick up a lot of Avios very cheaply indeed.’
However, there are of course a couple of caveats.
The first of course is that if you are worried about the future of BA, or its parent International Airlines Group, or uncertain about when you might next to be able to fly on holiday abroad, you might feel a lot safer with the cash in the bank.
And then there is the issue of redeeming Avios points for flights. While a cash refund or even a voucher could be quite easily used on any flight by BA or any of its partner airlines, the availability of reward flights bought using Avios is a little more limited.
There is no guarantee that you will be able to get a spot on a flight to the same destination as you were planning on going to.
In the future, there is the question over whether it will be harder to find flights which you can purchase using Avios due to more people with large points balances fighting over fewer available spaces, as a result of what some feel is an inevitable upcoming contraction of the airline industry.
Head for Points editor Rob Burgess said the answer to this question ‘really isn’t clear’, but said he leaned towards the idea that it might actually be easier to find reward flights, with fewer travellers meaning more empty seats.
He said: ‘Planes are very inflexible. If you have 70 business class seats, then you can’t easily swap them for more economy seats.
‘You are stuck with flying a big business class cabin around. If you can only sell 20 of those 70 business class seats per flight, then you are looking at a lot of spare capacity which could be opened up for reward flights.’
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