I had 3 BA flights booked using reward flights (Avios) cancelled for "operational reasons" well before 14 days and was told I would not be booked on next available flight but had to look for reward flights (only available months ahead). Is this correct as regulation 261/2004 specifically covers reward flights as well as paid for flights
Currently, the UK still applies EC261 exactly like the EU.
Reimbursement, re-routing or rebooking in the event of cancellation
The airline must offer you, on a one off basis, a choice between:
- the reimbursement of your ticket and, if you have a connecting flight, a return flight to the airport of departure at the earliest opportunity
- re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or,
- re-routing at a later date at your convenience under comparable transport conditions, subject to the availability of seats.
It is up to you to choose, not them. You can choose to travel at a later date, but that is your choice. It can also be your choice to choose to be rerouted at the earliest available opportunity.
Note that "at the earliest available opportunity" means as long as there is a seat available on the flight, even if:
- that seat would not normally be available for rewards
- or that seat is in a higher service class
In some cases, it may even mean "even if they have to pay for a ticket on a different airline" (though exactly when this applies is still unclear).
The EU Air Passenger Rights website goes on:
- If the airline does not comply with its obligation to offer re-routing or return under comparable transport conditions at the earliest opportunity, it has to reimburse your flight costs.
- If the airline does not offer you the choice between reimbursement and re-routing but decides unilaterally to reimburse your original ticket, you are entitled to an additional reimbursement of the price difference with the new ticket (under comparable transport conditions).
The Directive is very explicit on the fact that award flights are to be treated exactly like regular flights:
- This Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public. However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer programme or other commercial programme by an air carrier or tour operator.
Note that if you are notified of a cancellation less than 14 days before departure, you are owed compensation. This 14 day limit only applies to compensation. It does not change your rights to reimbursement, re-routing or rebooking.
It doesn't matter about reward flights, but:
(c) have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier in accordance with Article 7, unless:
(i) they are informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
(ii) they are informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or
So, you are on case (i), so you do not have compensation (of point (c)). I included point (ii) to make clear that reroute are considered only on last 2 weeks before the flight.
Note: I'm also not sure if your flights are considered in such EU agreement. I think UK choose own rules after Brexit, but EU rules apply when traveling to EU.