So I booked a flight with British Airways from the United States (transferring in the UK) to Sweden months ahead of time before COVID-19 was on the radar. Sweden has now closed its borders to visitors. This, of course, means that we can't use the tickets even if the fight is still happening.

It seems like the only option the company is offering is a voucher but we don't want to accept that, we feel like there is a reasonable fear that British Airways might go bankrupt making the voucher useless, we rather just get the money back and rethink this trip for 12 to 24 months at least.

When I booked the ticket they had a 40 dollar cancellation fee but that policy now seems to be gone. I guess it just conveniently disappeared.

Do we have any right or options to get the money back, it feels a little sketchy that they can just take the money and run.

  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/154508/…
    – gerrit
    Apr 28, 2020 at 7:25
  • I would expect that the UK government would bail out British Airways as "too important to fail" and not allow it to go bankrupt (German govt. is already rescuing Lufthansa and Condor). Had you booked with a low-budget airline it might be a different story. How long is the voucher valid for? I've seen some that are valid for three years, by then this pandemic will hopefully be over.
    – gerrit
    Apr 28, 2020 at 8:21
  • @gerrit If push comes to shove, the government could also save the airline but decide that vouchers need not be honored or use other tricks (cf. what happened to Swissair).
    – Relaxed
    Apr 28, 2020 at 14:51
  • @Relaxed I don't know what happened with Swissair vouchers if anything, but you're right, the government can decide anything that's legal.
    – gerrit
    Apr 28, 2020 at 15:08
  • Duplicate? travel.stackexchange.com/q/155054/2509
    – gerrit
    Jun 10, 2020 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


You had a few options, notably booking fully refundable tickets or buying a travel insurance policy. These alternatives oblige someone else to reimburse you if you find yourself unable to travel, such as due to travel restrictions resulting from an unexpected worldwide pandemic. As it is, you've chosen to bear that risk yourself, and the airline is not obligated to offer you a refund if the flight eventually occurs.

BTW, that was likely the right move. Fully refundable fares are used by business travelers who are reasonably likely to cancel; and as with any form of insurance, on average your expected payout from travel insurance is less than the cost of the policy itself. Hedging your bets with insurance is only useful if you can't afford the loss. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the cost of your plane ticket to your Swedish vacation will not make the difference between you starving and not starving. Thus, it's better for you to take the lower out-of-pocket cost and assume the risks yourself.

Accept the airline's generosity and take the voucher.

  • 3
    It's also possible that the travel insurance does not cover a pandemic, or will itself go bankrupt if it does. I asked mine, but by the time they answered after six weeks they had ceased selling any travel insurance.
    – gerrit
    Apr 28, 2020 at 8:20
  • @gerrit That's a good point. It depends on the laws of the country; some countries are very strict about all insurance providers holding robust reinsurance coverage, while others only apply that to more societally crucial forms of insurance.
    – Sneftel
    Apr 28, 2020 at 8:23
  • The answer could address the actual question more directly (as opposed to broader philosophical points on what's right or not). You do not even state clearly that the airline doesn't have to refund the ticket as long as it operates the flight or what it would have to do if the flight would be cancelled.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 28, 2020 at 14:53
  • @Relaxed Fair enough. Updated.
    – Sneftel
    Apr 28, 2020 at 15:27

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