Whine Wednesdays: British Airways Is Rolling Back Their Cancellation Waivers For Hong Kong & China

British Airways has negatively amended their refund policy for passengers with ticketed reservations to Hong Kong and China, no longer allowing free cancellations beyond April 19th, 2020.

Yesterday British Airways has published an adjusted schedule for their flights to both HKG and mainland China (Beijing & Shanghai) which apparently had a negative impact on their rebooking and refund policy.

Until now BA allowed passengers concerned about the Coronavirus situation in Asia to cancel their flights and receive a full refund provided their flights were scheduled to operate before June 1, 2020.

This policy has now been rescinded effective immediately subject to the schedule as per the new policy :

We have cancelled all Shanghai and Beijing flights up to and including 17 April 2020.
Shanghai flights will be consolidated to 3 flights per week (Monday, Thursday, Saturday) between 18 April and 31 May.

Beijing services will be reduced to 4 flights per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) between 19 April and 31 May.

We have merged our 2 daily services to and from Hong Kong, with a reduction from 2 flights a day to 1 flight a day until 1 June 2020.

The BA031 service has been cancelled and our A380 service, BA027 will continue to operate as normal.

These schedule changes are now creating a few problems including some passengers being moved to flights that are currently remaining (which of course they can refuse and still get a refund) while others who were originally booked on these exact flights will have no longer any standing against British Airways to ask for a refund.

Up until today the policy was that if you were booked on a BA flight to Hong Kong before June 1, 2020 then British Airways would either refund your flight or re-book you to a later flight, up to August, 2020. This has now been scrapped.

Detailed new policies regarding China flights can be found here.

Rebooking: Possible onto a British Airways operated service, same routing up to and including 01 August 2020.

Refunds allowed: Yes – as per standard procedures for cancelled flights.

This means that if a passenger is booked on one of the consolidated flights that are still operating it’s not possible anymore to receive a full refund, the customers who were booked on the now cancelled flights are still entitled to get their money back if so desired.

Hong Kong flights policy (essentially the same as mainland China rules) is detailed here.

Rebooking: Possible onto a British Airways operated service, same routing up to and including 01 August 2020.

Refunds allowed: Yes – as per standard procedures for cancelled flights.

So the airline has now undertaken steps to at least theoretically restart their Mainland China services with a reduced schedule as per April 18, 2020. While this is still a month and a half away I’d say it is very much up in the air (pardon the pun) if this will actually happen.

I can very well foresee cabin and flight crew not being very happy to operate such flights and likely call in sick en masse when rostered for such duty. Depending how the situation progresses until then the relevant unions might even call for strikes to handle the matter, resulting in no flights operating.

What BA’s new rules mean for travelers is that some are left with flexibility while others are being told to suck it up.

At the same time no exceptions are made for passengers scheduled to fly on BA’s service to Seoul Incheon as the numbers of infected people skyrocketed since the past weekend (1130 as of this morning). There is no travel waiver for these Korea-bound flights at this moment.

BA isn’t the only airline in this regard. Lufthansa for example follows a similar path and since the beginning never even had a travel waiver for Hong Kong.

Conclusion

Nobody really knows where this is going and how long the travel industry among others will be affected by the impact of COVID19. Some travel is essential but both leisure travelers and companies are seen to reduce or suspend most non-essential travel until a clearer picture is available.

It’s hard to pass judgment on his this decision of British Airways to rescind previously available waivers are fair or not. Every airline is a business and they have to make business decisions, especially as long as the foreign office doesn’t issue a general travel warning for the entire country. The lack of such clarity (travel warning) also prevents customers from making claims with their travel insurance for flights not taken.

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