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Prior to this year, I have never had to request a British Airways voucher nor had I ever had to apply such a voucher to a future booking. Covid-19 changed all of that. In the past few weeks, I’ve had to cancel multiple Avios bookings for various trips as idiotic quarantine rules and various other things got in my way so I’m now sitting on a pile of vouchers that I’m trying to use.
As I’ve been navigating the various processes involving British Airways vouchers I’ve been finding out quite a bit about how they work but, more importantly, I’ve also been finding out that the process of applying a voucher for future travel isn’t always a smooth one and caution is required.
My British Airways Vouchers
Before I go any further allow me to clarify what vouchers I’ve recently had experience with: These are British Airways vouchers whose value is made up of the Avios and taxes that were used to make the original bookings that I cancelled. As an example, one voucher is worth 10,000 Avios + £17.50 and came from an intra-Europe short-haul Reward Flight Saver booking.
These Avios + surcharges vouchers can be used in whole or in part to pay for a future Avios booking and because that suits me just fine (I make a lot of short-haul Avios bookings within Europe), I was more than happy to accept vouchers when it became obvious that my planned trips were not going to be viable.
Note: Even though my vouchers are for Avios + cash, the issue I’ve encountered may well still apply to vouchers that don’t involve Avios.
Four Things I’ve Learned
The first thing I learned about these British Airways vouchers is that the ticket number associated with the original booking (the one that starts 125-xxxxxxx etc…) becomes the voucher number. This can be particularly useful if you ever lose your voucher confirmation email (or if it never arrives) as you can always get your ticket number from your original booking details. If you don’t have either you’ll have to call up BA and ask for help!
The second thing I learned was that a new booking made with a voucher will have the same booking reference as the original itinerary that was cancelled even if the itineraries are not the same – I now have a reservation for a trip between London and Sofia that has the same booking reference as the original booking of London – Helsinki.
The third thing I learned is that there is no way to apply an Avios + cash voucher to another award booking online. You have to call. I’ve seen the option to apply a cash voucher to a future cash booking on BA.com, but if you try to make an award booking online, the only payment option you’re offered is a credit card payment.
The fourth thing I learned is that you have to be very careful to ensure that your new booking (made with a voucher) has been ticketed properly and I’ve learned to spot the tell-tale signs of an itinerary that has yet to be ticketed.
BA Ticketing Issues
Allow me to start off by stating something that will be known to quite a few readers but that will probably be news to most: Just because you have handed over your credit card details, the transaction has posted to your credit card account and you can see your itinerary (complete with booking reference) on BA.com, doesn’t mean that you have a ticket to travel.
You only have a ticket to travel when you can print off a document (from a BA e-ticket receipt email or from BA.com) that shows you an actual ticket number (usually starting with 125-)
I currently have 5 bookings that have been made with British Airways vouchers (some bookings were made well over a week ago) and not one of the 5 bookings has been ticketed.
If I go into BA.com I can see the reservations in my account, I can see that all the reservations have booking references, and I can see that all the itineraries are correct. If I didn’t know to dig deeper I could easily think that my bookings are all in order and that I am set to fly.
They’re not in order and I’m not set to fly.
Finding Your Ticket Number(s)
There are multiple ways to find your ticket number from the BA website but this is probably the simplest:
From the British Airways website home screen, click on “manage” in the menu bar.
In the box that appears, type your surname (as it appears on your booking) together with your booking reference (e.g UTY8JJ).
Click on “find my booking” to be taken to the main “manage my booking” page:
Scroll to the bottom of this page and look for (then click) the link labeled “Print/email e-ticket receipt“.
If all is in order, you should now be presented with a page that mimics an email British Airways should have sent you and that starts off like this:
Scroll down the page until you get to the section on “payment information” and the very first thing in this section should be the ticket number(s) associated with your reservation.
If you don’t see any ticket numbers, give BA a call right away (in reality, you probably won’t get this far if your itinerary hasn’t been ticketed as BA.com will probably generate an error message before you get to this point).
In my case, I had three warning signs to let me know that things were not in order but, because these were not ordinary bookings, it was only the simplest of things that convinced me that all was not ok.
I always like to save a copy of my e-ticket confirmation to my laptop as soon as I make a reservation so, shortly after I put the phone down to the British Airways agent who was making all my bookings, I logged in to my account, pulled up my reservations and, following steps similar to the ones I outlined above, I tried to access my e-ticket. This is what I saw for each reservation:
In this instance, this was actually quite a deceptive message. Had I seen this on a normal booking I would have known there was an issue straight away but, because I hadn’t paid by conventional means (I had used a voucher), the wording “an e-ticket receipt is not available for the method of payment for this booking” made the error message seem not entirely inappropriate.
Over an hour passed since I finished my booking call to BA and I still hadn’t received an email confirmation for any of my bookings. Unless a booking involves other partner airlines, BA e-ticket receipts normally come through within 2- 10 minutes of a booking being made so the fact that simple, BA-only, short-haul Avios bookings were not appearing my inbox gave me pause for thought.
I wasn’t fully convinced that this meant something wasn’t quite right because having never made a voucher booking before, I had no idea how long they take to process (for all I knew, voucher bookings could involve processes that take a lot longer than a standard booking). At this point, I may still have let things slide if wasn’t for the final warning sign which was the simplest of the three.
BA doesn’t offer the option of seat selection on Reward Flight bookings before you actually pay so I had to open up my reservation to select my seats. My British Airways status allows me to reserve seats at the time of booking but despite my British Airways Executive Club number being associated with my reservations, not one of my 5 reservations allowed me to select seats. Every booking showed the same message: “seats cannot be reserve until check-in”.
I may not be an expert in the use of BA vouchers but I know when I can and cannot select seats so I was in no doubt that something wasn’t right. I decided to wait 24 hours to see if anything had changed and, as it hadn’t, I called up the airline.
I’m Still Waiting!
I’ve had multiple conversations with British Airways over the past week (the last one was earlier today) and a number of things have come to light.
- The second agent I spoke to confirmed that the first agent (the one who booked all my flights) sent my reservations to the wrong department. The reservations were sitting in limbo and may or may not have been processed before my departure date. Apparently it’s easy for a less experienced agent to make this mistake.
- The second agent re-issued the ticketing request (to the correct department) which allowed me to select seats for all my flights. This would seem to suggest that there was more wrong with what the original agent had done than just the sending of the reservations to the wrong department. The second agent also told me that I should receive the confirmations “pretty quickly”
- That was 3 days ago and I still haven’t received any emails from British Airways and I still can’t pull up my e-ticket numbers. A third agent (the one I spoke to earlier) confirmed that the reservations are being processed but they’re in a big batch of reservations that are being processed in date order – it would have been helpful if the second agent had said this.
The first of my bookings is for a flight in under 2 weeks time so I’m not sure I fully believe the line that the bookings are being ticketed in order of departure date: This was a reservation made well over a week ago for travel in under two week’s time and I don’t believe BA is dealing with enough new bookings (for travel in the next two weeks) to hold up my reservation for this long…but I could be wrong.
Right now, none of my new voucher reservations is ticketed so I’m not actually booked to go anywhere. If I turn up at the airport and nothing has changed there’s a very good chance that the agents there will say they can’t help and I won’t be flying….but I have no intention of letting it get that far.
My new plan is to keep calling BA every 24 hours and getting different agents to look at the reservations until I finally get uniform answers from at least two agents in a row (something I haven’t managed to do so far). When two agents in a row give me the same story I’ll be more inclined to believe what I’m being told but, right now, I’m still not entirely sure the very first agent I dealt with didn’t do something that’s still affecting the bookings today.
Moral of the story: BA Voucher bookings aren’t necessarily straightforward. Be very diligent in how you tend to your reservations after you’ve made them. Check carefully to make sure they’re in order. If you don’t have an e-ticket receipt email from BA and you can’t pull up a receipt (complete with ticket numbers) from the British Airways website, something is very probably wrong.