I have HIV and can’t fly through Qatar but BA won’t give me a refund


When Covid lockdowns prevented us taking our BA flight from London to Malaysia, I accepted its eVouchers to rebook at a later stage. Since then, BA has changed the route, so all flights to south-east Asia transit through Qatar. Since I have HIV, which is classed as a disability under UK law, I am not legally allowed to enter Qatar and so I cannot book flights to the region with BA. I therefore need a refund so that I can book with another airline. However, BA customer service took a month to inform me that it operates a no-refunds policy for eVouchers. One operative actually suggested I call the Qatar embassy to check if I’d be deported if I flew into the country.
KC, London

If BA had listened to your predicament and cashed in your voucher, it might have retained a loyal customer for future flights and spared itself a public shaming. Instead, its robotic refusal to look beyond its small print has caused you weeks of distress.

As it happens, the airline performed a U-turn last year and allowed customers who were due to fly between March and November 2020 to trade in their vouchers for a refund. Your flight had been due to depart in January 2021 and is not eligible. BA’s reasoning is that it wasn’t in a position to offer refunds before November 2020, whereas passengers due to fly after that had the choice of a voucher or cash.

That “choice” is debatable. BA, along with other airlines, amended its website to make vouchers the only online option. Customers who wanted their money back were required to queue indefinitely on a congested phone line. The airline only agreed to refund you for a service it could not provide after I took the matter up. It said: “We’re in contact with our customer to apologise and resolve the issue.”

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