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The fact that most large hotel chains offer some sort of price guarantee is pretty well known. What appears to be less well known is that a number of airlines offer a similar policy and as I’ve recently had quite a bit of luck with the British Airways best price guarantee, I though that mention it here to make sure that readers aren’t missing out on easy (albeit small) savings.
The reason why 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, 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 are 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’m using BA’s best price guarantee more and more
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 recently, I had never bothered to submit a claim for the fare difference. It’s never been worth my while.
A few months ago, however, I decided to see just how easy it was to get a claim honored and while the sum involved was highly insignificant, I went through the process just to see what would happen.
To my surprise, things went very smoothly and within a few hours I had been issued with a voucher for £10. Hardly a princely sum, but free cash is free cash so I was happy.
Since then I’ve made two further claims through British Airways and on both occasions I’ve been successful – one claim resulted in a £20 voucher while the other led to a £30 voucher.
Clearly, these are still small sums of money, but as a percentage of the cost of my ticket, they were significant (the £30 voucher represented a 21% rebate), and where a claim is being made for a family, the total voucher value could represent a nice saving on a future trip.
Note: Something that is probably worth pointing out is that so far, all my successful claims have been for short-haul bookings, and in each case it was on a Basic Economy/Hand baggage only fare that an OTA had undercut British Airways. I have yet to find an OTA undercutting BA on a regular short-haul Economy Class fare.
Use Google Flights to find the cheapest fares
I use a variety of online comparison sites when I’m shopping for good fares (Skyscanner, Kayak, etc…) but when it comes to finding OTAs who undercut BA’s short-haul fares, I find that Google Flights usually does the best job.
Here, for example, is Google Flights finding a short-haul Basic Economy fare that’s £13 (~10%) lower than the fare being quoted by BA.com.
Someone with a British Airways Executive Club account who books this itinerary through BA.com and then makes an immediate claim, stands to get a voucher for future travel worth at least £25.
Significant? No. Worth having in exchange for a few minutes’ work? Probably.
British Airways operates 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 ones discussed above. Collectively, a number of claims worth £10-£30 can soon add up!