A tour operator has accused British Airways of “discrimination” against the trade as direct customers are now being refunded for flights cancelled during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.
The airline has begun issuing refunds to passengers with Future Travel Vouchers that were issued in lieu of refunds – but those with vouchers from bookings via travel agents or tour operators are not included.
Jon Ruben, managing director of The Sport and Travel Group – whose tour operators include Golf Escapes and Signature Safaris – said he has about a dozen clients who are affected.
They will need to use their voucher or lose the value of the booking if they don’t spend it by the end of September 2023.
“We wanted the same treatment so we can give our clients their money back,” said Ruben.
“But it’s not for the travel trade. It is disgusting and will put people off booking through the trade.
“We have got a group travelling to Africa who accepted vouchers; now the fares are more expensive. It is a lot of aggro for us.”
He said one booking made in 2018 was for a family safari to celebrate an 80th birthday in May 2020, travelling first class with BA.
It was cancelled and moved to 2021 but again, the holiday could not take place.
The rest of the family are able to travel but the passenger who turned 80 was frailer and unable to fly, so they requested refund of the £8,500 fare.
BA told Ruben that was not possible as she had accepted a voucher which was not transferable.
He chased BA for the refund with “dozens of calls and emails” until the airline agreed to a credit to his company of £8,200, meaning he will be out of pocket by £300 for giving the client a full refund.
BA said in a statement: “Our customers have always been entitled to a refund if we cancel their flight and we always advise customers of their options and process the requests as quickly as possible.
“We’ve been refunding those customers who still hold a voucher for a cancelled flight at the beginning of the pandemic as we recognise that at that time, we couldn’t offer all the usual channels for a customer to request a refund.
“Trade bookings were not affected by this, but any customers still holding a voucher issued by a travel agent can use them for travel at any time up until 30 September 2023.”
Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways