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The fact that most large hotel chains offer some sort of guarantee that the price a customer will pay when they book directly through them is the lowest price available is pretty well known. What appears to be less well known is that a number of airlines offer a similar policy and earlier, I finally had a chance to see how well (or badly!) BA’s best price guarantee policy can work.
The truth is that the reason there isn’t much discussion about airline fare guarantees is that most of them don’t offer more than what various regulators insist that the airlines offer anyway (e.g. free cancellation within 24 hours of booking). In the case of the British Airways best price guarantee, however, there’s a little more going on and the details could be worth knowing.
The British Airways best price guarantee
Here’s what the British Airways best price guarantee has to say:
“If you book with us, but find a qualifying British Airways flight for less elsewhere and let us know on the same day as you book, we’ll give you a voucher for the difference. Even better: if you’re a member of our Executive Club, we’ll give you double the difference.”
Unsurprisingly, a guarantee of this kind comes with a few terms and conditions. These are the ones that I consider to be key:
- To be eligible for a Best price guarantee refund (BPGR) offer you must have booked and made full payment for a Qualifying Flight(s) at ba.com using a credit or debit card or PayPal (where available).
- Bookings made using any Avios part-payment arrangement are excluded from being eligible for a BPGR.
- To be eligible for a BPGR you must supply sufficient evidence of the Lower Online Fare in the form of a print out or screen shot of the fare quote page containing as a minimum: (a) date and time; (b) full itinerary including flight numbers; (c) full breakdown of the individual fare for each passenger including credit/debit card charges and booking fees; (d) the fare; (d) website name and logo, all to British Airways’ reasonable satisfaction; and (e) the fare rules and conditions, and any associated conditions that are applicable to the booking. You must also provide the fare conditions applicable to the Lower Online Fare. You should retain your print out until you have heard from British Airways that this is no longer required as proof.
- Evidence must (1) show that the Lower Online Fare was found on the same day as the ba.com booking and (2) be the same specification in all regards as your British Airways Qualifying Flight.
- A credit will be given for each ticket within a booking that meets the Terms and Conditions of the Best Price Guarantee and the booking will be considered as one claim.
- If all the conditions set out are satisfied, and the refundable amount per booking is £100 (one hundred pounds sterling) or under, a voucher to the value of the difference between the purchase cost on ba.com and the cost of the Lower Online Fare will be credited to the holder of the credit or debit card or PayPal account that was used to pay for the Qualifying Flight at ba.com, within 48 hours of BA receiving the Claim form.
- If the refundable amount is greater than £100 (one hundred pounds sterling), a voucher to the value of the difference between the purchase cost on ba.com and the cost of the Lower Online Fare will be credited to the to the holder of the credit or debit card or PayPal account that was used to pay for the Qualifying Flight at ba.com, within 28 days of the claim having been verified by British Airways.
- The amount of the voucher may be rounded to the nearest £5, at BA’s discretion.
- No cash or credit alternatives are available for this offer.
- Vouchers will be valid for 1 year from date of issue and can be used in full or part payment of flight bookings on ba.com or through your local British Airways contact centre.
- Members of the British Airways Executive Club (“Members”) will be eligible for twice the refundable amount of non-members provided the British Airways Executive Club Member is the lead name on the booking.
- When claiming under this paragraph, the maximum amount available to Members will be £200 total per claim, including any bonus amount granted. This bonus will not apply to any claims for £200 or more.
- A claim is calculated for the total value of all people within a booking that meet the criteria of the Best Price Guarantee and will not be calculated based on each individual ticket.
- Limited to one claim per booking and paid for in full at ba.com – i.e. bookings covering multiple passengers must be submitted as one claim and not separate claims for each passenger.
A Qualifying Flight means:
a. a one-way or return point-to-point flight only booking departing from the UK and operated by British Airways (including BA Cityflyer and OpenSkies but not a flight which is operated by any of our partner airlines such as American Airlines Iberia, Finnair and any others, full list here), in any class; or
b. a connecting flight where you have transferred from and are transferring to a flight operated by British Airways (including BA Cityflyer) where your departure country is the UK, in any class where the stop-over period does not exceed 24 hours; or
c. a flight which is not operated by any of our partner airlines such as American Airlines, Iberia, Finnair and any others.
d. You will not be eligible for the BPGR if travel has been booked on a fully flexible ticket even if the flight would otherwise be considered a Qualifying Flight.
Quick thoughts on the policy
There’s good news and bad news in the terms & conditions.
The good news is that BA goes beyond just allowing a customer to cancel their fare if they find a better deal on the day they book and that Executive Club members have their claim doubled up to a total value of £200 (~$236).
The bad news is that BA (rather sneakily) limits its exposure to claims by insisting that only bookings that have travel originating in the UK are covered and that bookings which include flights operated by a partner airline are not covered.
Clearly, no one is going to get rich off whatever claims they make with BA, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a policy worth keeping in mind.
Using the policy to your advantage
Generally speaking, it’s better to book directly with an airline rather than through an agency because when things go wrong with a trip, an airline will only deal with customers who booked directly with it. Passengers having issues with a trip that was booked through an agent (e.g. Expedia, Booking.com, etc…) will be directed to deal with the agent who, in turn, will then have to deal with the airline. That often leads to an ungodly mess.
The fact is, however, that there will be times when booking through an agent will be cheaper than booking directly with the airline and this is where, in BA’s case, the best price guarantee can help out.
If you’re planning to book a flight that will qualify for BA’s best price guarantee and you find that one (or more) of the OTA sites is pricing up your preferred flights cheaper than BA, you can book through BA (to ensure that should anything go wrong, you can deal directly with the airline) and then submit a claim for the difference (or more) to ensure that you’re not overpaying.
Because British Airways allows passengers to cancel bookings, without penalty, up to 24 hours after a booking was made, anyone concerned that a claim won’t be honored can still safely go ahead and make their booking (through BA), submit their claim and, if they haven’t heard back within 23 hours, they can cancel their reservation and book the cheaper fare through the OTA (if that’s what they would prefer to do).
The only risk is that the fare available through the OTA disappears in that 23 hour period.
I used BA’s best price guarantee today
When there is a small difference in price between what British Airways is charging and what I’m seeing on various OTA sites, I will still always book directly with the airline (I believe that the extra few $$$ are worth paying for the increased peace of mind that comes from booking directly with BA) and up until today, I have never bothered to submit a claim for the fare difference. It’s never been worth my while.
Frankly, the claim I submitted today really wasn’t worth my while either because it was for an insignificant sum of money, but I submitted it just to see what would happen and to see how easy it is to submit a claim.
In short, earlier today I needed to book flights for travel between London and Paris and I noticed that while BA.com was pricing up the flights at a little over £110, an OTA that I’ve never heard of was offering the exact same itinerary for a little over £105. Like I said, it was an insignificant fare difference.
Nevertheless, I took a screenshot of the flights as displayed by the OTA…
… and made sure that it included the date (as shown on my computer), all the relevant flight details, and the type of fare that I was booking (Basic Economy/hand baggage only).
I then proceeded to book the exact same flights through British Airways.
Moments later, I filled out the straightforward claim form on the BA website (found here) and after noting that I didn’t need to attach the screenshot of the competing fare at this point in the process, I clicked on the ‘submit’ button.
Within a minute of submitting the form I had an email from BA confirming receipt of my claim together with a ‘case ID’ and then, to my surprise, a second email followed just under an hour later which confirmed that my claim had been approved.
More specifically, this is what the email said:
An update from British Airways
Thank you for submitting your claim for the British Airways Best Price Guarantee.
We have reviewed your claim and are pleased to inform you that it meets the criteria to qualify for an eVoucher of £10.00. I’ve included your eVoucher details below with a link to some helpful information about how you can use it:
eVoucher number: 125-xxxxxxxxxxx [redacted]
If you have any questions about how to use this eVoucher, or for the Terms and Conditions, please go to:
The fare difference had been £5 but because I’m a member of the British Airways Executive Club (which is free to join), that was doubled to leave me with a £10 voucher for future travel. Not exactly a King’s ransom, but enough for a couple of overpriced coffees 🙂
I suspect that if there was a more meaningful amount of money at stake, BA would have wanted to see more evidence of the fare difference (my screenshot) and would have taken longer to process my claim, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a very easy claim to make. The process *does* work…at least some of the time.
British Airways operate a best price guarantee that while limited in scope, is more meaningful that a lot of the other best price guarantees that airlines claim to offer.
For some, the little bit of effort needed to submit a claim will be too much of an inconvenience (that’s what BA relies upon), but for someone like me who books a lot of fares every year, it may be worth looking out for opportunities like the one outlined above. Collectively, a number of claims worth £10-£20 can soon add up!