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I’ve been getting quite a few questions from readers asking me what they should do after they’ve received notice that an airline has cancelled their trip but, because the best course of action will almost always depend on a variety of individual circumstances, it’s hard to give any truly definitive advice without being able to talk things through.
Yesterday, I got an email from British Airways to let me know that my Finnair flight from Helsinki to Los Angeles (booked for a few months’ time) has been cancelled, so I thought I’d write a post setting out how I plan to tackle this minor set back in the hope that it may give less experienced travelers an idea of how to approach any similar situations they may encounter.
Earlier this year I found a great roundtrip Business Class fare for travel between Paris and Los Angeles which I booked through British Airways. I could have routed myself through London on both the outbound and the inbound journeys but because I haven’t flown in the Finnair A350 since it was first introduced to the world, I decided to route my outbound trip through Helsinki and cross the Atlantic in one of my favorite aircraft.
This is what the booking looks like:
- Paris – Helsinki – Los Angeles – London – Paris
As things stand, the only flight that has been cancelled from this booking is the flight between Helsinki and Los Angeles….but that’s not my only booking.
I was planning to be in London ahead of this trip so I have an Air France positioning flight booked between London and Paris to allow me to connect to my long-haul booking, and a further British Airways flight booked to fly me back to London from Paris after my stint in LA is over.
- London – Paris (Air France)
- Paris – London (BA)
Neither of these flights has been cancelled and it’s unlikely that they will be.
As this was a booking made through British Airways, it’s British Airways that I have to deal with to rectify the issue and it’s the British Airways rules that will apply as far as my options go (the fact that the operating carrier for my cancelled flight is Finnair is irrelevant)…so here’s what I can do:
- Request a full refund (because it was an airline that cancelled my flight and not me)
- Change the dates of my trip
- Request an alternative routing for my existing dates
- Apply for a voucher for future travel (valid for travel through 20 April 2022)
That’s not a bad set of options to have 🙂
At this point in time, I’m not going to make any decision on what to do because, and this is important, I don’t have to. There is no hurry to decide what option to take if an airline cancels your flight because, in most cases, you have until the time the first flight in your itinerary is due to depart before you have to choose what suits you best. The worst-case scenario that some airlines are imposing is that a decision has to be made 24 hours before scheduled departure.
This is how I see my options:
I’m reluctant to take a refund because the price I paid was very good and if it turns out that travel between Europe and LA is safe/advisable later this year, I’ll want to fly and it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to book the same trip for the same price. Also, I don’t desperately need my money back right now.
I could change the dates of my trip (EU law allows for this and BA would not be allowed to charge me a fare difference – thank you for the info @delpiero223 ) and this is an option I’m considering.
I don’t see any point in accepting a voucher for future travel when I have the option of a full refund so, unless British Airways follows the likes of Aer Lingus and starts offering a bonus on top of the vouchers it’s issuing, I’d prefer to have my money back rather than a promissory note with an expiration date.
Requesting an alternative routing is looking like it’s going to be my preferred option because:
- This option would mean that I still get to go home to LA on the dates I wanted to travel (in comfort and at a good price).
- I’ll be earning a good number of Avios and Tier points at an economical rate.
- My booking with Air France and my other booking with BA (both of which are meant to dovetail with this trip) wouldn’t have to be written off.
But even this last option isn’t definitely the option I’ll end up taking.
Right now there are three key unknowns that make it hard to make any solid plans:
- I have no idea what the world will look like later this year. Will it be advisable to travel? Will I have to self-isolate in LA and/or anywhere else if I travel?
- I can’t be sure that any flight changes that I make now will not be affected later down the line and I don’t want to be dealing with more disruptions than I absolutely have to.
- I don’t know what the flight schedules will look like later this year so any changes I make now (and which will probably be irreversible) may make my positioning flights useless if flight timings are changed.
With all of that in mind, this is what I plan to do:
I’m going to wait and see if Finnair resurrects its non-stop flight between Helsinki and Los Angeles and I’m going to wait and see if it’s safe/advisable to travel back to LA later this year.
- If traveling isn’t a problem and the Finnair flight is resurrected, I’ll ask British Airways to rebook me on my original routing and on my original dates (I’d still love to fly in the Finnair A350 again).
- If traveling isn’t a problem and it looks like the Finnair flight will remain grounded, I’ll ask British Airways to reroute me (probably through Heathrow) on my outbound journey and on my original dates.
- If traveling doesn’t look like it’s going to be a good idea I’ll almost certainly request a full refund unless British Airways starts to offer a bonus on top of any vouchers it’s issuing. BA isn’t going to go out of business and I do enough flying with the airline to be sure that I’ll easily use up the value of the voucher before 2022, so a voucher that is worth more than the value of my fare would be interesting.
Right now, there is no need for me to rush to make a decision so I may as well take my time and see how things pan out.
As it was an airline that cancelled my flight and not me I’m in a very strong position, and acting in haste or without due care and attention is not in my best interest. I’ve made sure that I’m aware of my options (I even called up British Airways to check there are no hidden issues I’ve overlooked) and I’ve thought through how I’ll approach these options as my departure date approaches. For the next few months I’m going to wait and see how circumstances change and only act when there’s a lot more certainty around the issues that I see as key. Doing otherwise would risk making a poor decision.