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Why won't BA refund my flights despite travel being illegal at the time?

Government rules banned international travel in April last year, but a reader's flight took off anyway so British Airways wouldn't give him a refund.

Why is British Airways not refunding my flights when overseas travel was illegal at the time due to Covid rules?

  • In April last year, government Covid-19 rules banned international travel
  • Travelers without good cause under the exemptions could be fined £5,000
  • British Airways flight worked as planned but our reader was unable to go overseas

My wife and I booked a holiday to Palma de Mallorca for mid April 2021 flying with British Airways from London City Airport.

However, at the time of travel, government regulations prevented us from going overseas as it was only a public holiday and did not fall within the exemptions allowing travel. So we didn’t go there.

When I contacted British Airways to request a refund they told me the flights I had booked were on schedule – one of the few still flying – I am not entitled to a refund complete, only to a good.

I tried again to get a refund in May this year once I heard other customers were having more success but again was turned down because the theft was working.

The value of the voucher is £594.98 and as my wife and I are both pensioners this sum would be extremely useful to us at this time. J.D.

Government rules banned international travel in April last year, but a reader's flight took off anyway so British Airways wouldn't give him a refund.

Government rules banned international travel in April last year, but a reader’s flight took off anyway so British Airways wouldn’t give him a refund.

Fran Ivens of This is Money responds: I’m sorry to hear about your vacation. There will be many more like you who were disappointed when overseas trips had to be canceled due to government Covid-19 restrictions in place that year.

At the time of your trip government regulations stated that you should not go on holiday abroad and this could result in a fine of £5,000.

There were exceptions to the rule, such as traveling to reunite families, which was part of why British Airways was still operating the flights – to accommodate those who were cleared to travel.

However, I do agree that it seems unfair that you only had issues with a voucher rather than a full refund due to circumstances beyond your control.

I went to British Airways and asked them to explain their policies regarding Covid era refunds and if they could look into your case.

I am delighted to say that the company has confirmed that they will refund you the full amount of the voucher in cash.

He also said that because you paid for the tickets partly in cash and partly with Avios points, those points will also be restored to your account.

But it turns out that using your points and cash may have been the reason you received a voucher.

British Airways is refunding customers who hold vouchers with more complex bookings, such as those where Avios were used as payment.

They are also aimed at customers with British Airways Holidays vouchers which remain unused for two years after issue, and those who cannot use their vouchers online.

It looks like you fell through the system and therefore weren’t contacted by the airline to let you know you were entitled to a full refund of your reservation.

In a statement, the airline confirmed to me that they have been in contact with you to resolve the issue and that a refund is in process.

It’s a helpful reminder for all of us to follow up with companies and make sure we’re not missing out on what’s owed to us.

There’s no doubt the systems were under pressure during Covid and it makes sense that some customers were missed, so it’s always worth following up.

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