a plane on the runway

If there’s any silver lining for airline customers in the pandemic, it’s been the hope that airlines would once again become human, and start treating passengers as more than a number on a spreadsheet. There’s already evidence that’s happening, with airlines dropping change fees and other unfriendly policies. But not yet at British Airways.

In the airline’s own inimitable way, British Airways actually making things harder for customers, by changing the number of hours your flight schedule needs to change, to become eligible for a refund.

LONDON, UK - August 10th, 2018: view of Heathrow airport with stormy skies and British Airways airplanes at their stands

British Airways Changes Refund Policy

Typically, airlines are very reasonable when a schedule change occurs to your flights. A schedule change is defined as when the airline changes the timing of your flights, after you’ve booked, and it’s totally out of your control.

When this happens, a variety of possibilities open up, from better routings or times, to date changes and more. In a time when many are losing work, and trips may simply no longer be possible due to restrictions, the refund option is also an important one.

Prior to this week, British Airways allowed refunds on any flight schedule changes over 2 hours. That’s no longer the case.

In these instances, customers could accept new flights, re-routes or vouchers, but the refund was a distinctly defined and important possibility. For travelers with a meeting schedule, an event to attend or tight connection to another onward journey, two hours could make all the difference, so it all seemed fair.

Now, British Airways has amended its internal schedule change refund policy, and the airline is allowed to tinker with your itinerary by up to 4 hours, before agents would be allowed to issue you a refund. Your 10PM London departure could become a 1:59AM departure and there’s no refund for you.

Option 3 – Full or Part Refund (available when schedule change is more than 240 minutes from the original departure time)

British Airways New Rebooking Policy

You can view the full suite of changes here, at British Airways. Airline schedule changes become a legal matter of refund right at 6 hours, but airlines have historically offered more generous policies in hopes of keeping customers happy, and earning repeat business, hence the previous 2 hour mark.

Interestingly, this applies to all British Airways flights, but also Transatlantic Joint Venture flights with American, Finnair and Iberia, and Qatar Airways Joint Venture flights. Unfortunately, the policy includes European short haul, which could diminish quite a few vacations or business trips.

A short two day city break, for which British Airways typically offers tremendous value, would be quite a different proposition if your 12 noon flights arriving at 3PM moved to 355PM flights arriving at 6:55PM, thus losing half a day. British Airways can do that now, and there’s no recourse for refund.

a close up of a seat
Picture by: Nick Morrish/British Airways

Why Now?

While global airlines drop change fees and reintroduce lucrative loyalty offerings, British Airways is tinkering with small minded, customer unfriendly policies which will further impede future bookings. This begs the question: why now?

British Airways has slashed its autumn and winter flying schedules to a bare minimum, as the UK Government continues to drag its feet over testing in place of quarantine. All airlines are making huge amendments to flight schedules, but locking people’s cash in while these changes are made will only reduce consumer confidence to book again.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Great article. Shot themselves in the foot. Has anyone noticed any oddities on avios points being moved to zero (0) for flights that would normally accrue avios? I’ve got two transatlantic club tickets book it for next year and computer showing miles but no points.

  2. No refund; but, you’d still be entitles to compensation under EC261 if it was a last minute change right? (is this still 2hr for short haul or did they change it to 3hr?)

  3. I don’t understand how BA are still getting away with avoiding refunds. It’s been around 10 months since they removed the online option to process a refund. You try to call them and get nothing but automated options then an apology that they are busy and a dead line. If a member of the public breaks the law they are quickly prosecuted. Doesn’t seem to be the case for big business. They have actively being avoiding refunds as much as possible for 10 months now and still getting away with it. Flown hundreds of thousands of miles with them but never again. In my opinion it’s no different from stealing.

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