I booked flights to Tampa, Florida along with car hire on the British Airways website in March 2022. The total cost was £4,300 and I put down a £250 deposit.
Soon after I thought I would check if prices had moved and less than a month later, I found I could book the exact same package for £500 less.
It seems that the drop in price is down to a big reduction in the cost of car hire for my dates.
Flight fright: This reader booked a trip to Florida, but found a few weeks later that the cost of the package, which also included car hire, had dropped by £500
However, I cannot get hold of BA by phone, email or website to try and get the cheaper price, cancel the car hire part of the booking, or even cancel the trip altogether (losing my £250 deposit) and rebook, which would still save me £250.
It is absolutely hopeless they are just hiding behind the excuse, ‘because of the situation we are really busy and can only deal with people abroad or travelling in the next 24 hours’.
What about people like me who are going to be fleeced? D.H, via email
Helen Crane replies: It’s common for the price of flights and car hire to go up and down in line with demand.
We have all kicked ourselves when we’ve put off booking a holiday only to see the price of flights or accommodation has rocketed by the time we get around to it.
But what if things go the other way and the price falls after you have booked? Should we all be checking the latest prices for our holidays to see if we could cancel and get a better deal?
This is Money reporter Emilia Shovelin did the same with some flights for a recent holiday, and ended up with an extra £250 in her pocket to spend on her holiday to Dubai.
After I contacted BA on your behalf, you told me that you were offered the option to rebook at the cheaper price for a £100 fee, saving you £400 on the cost of the trip.
British Airways said that prices can fluctuate depending on demand. Customers may be able to cancel and rebook, but depending on the ticket type they could face various fees
A spokesperson for BA said: ‘Like other holiday companies, our available prices can fluctuate based on high levels of demand and are also dependent on a number of third-party suppliers, such as hotels and car hire companies.
‘We’ve been in contact with the customer directly to help find a solution for them.’
You’ve made a saving in this case, but cancelling for a cheaper price can be a high-risk strategy.
In your case, BA only offered you the opportunity to rebook for £100 after I intervened and told them that you’d become increasingly frustrated with their inability to pick up the phone.
Sadly, there’s no guarantee that other holidaymakers would be offered the same deal, especially as it is so difficult to call our flagship airline.
CRANE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.
Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:
Depending on the type of ticket booked, airlines might charge cancellation fees, or have flights that aren’t refundable at all, so it is vital that anyone looking to save some cash checks the rules before cancelling their booking – provided they can actually contact the airline, that is.
There is also the chance that they could be very unlucky and see prices rocket in the minutes between cancelling and paying for the new flights.
According to BA’s website, changing or cancelling a booking through the call centre will incur a ‘service fee’ of £30 per ticket – unless you have paid for a ticket which allows changes free of charge.
But it points out that you may incur other charges as well as the service fee, such as a ‘change fee’ or ‘cancellation fee’.
It also says the service fees on its website should be ‘used as a guide only’ and that ‘any extra fare penalties would be advised at the time of making your change or refund.’
If that wasn’t enough, it concludes by saying that ‘changes to your ticket may incur an additional payment dependent on the terms and conditions at the time of booking.’
With the rules as clear as mud, it’s not right that BA customers such as yourself are unable to get in touch on the phone to make sense of it all – but hopefully that £400 will come in handy for some fun in the Sunshine State.
Little help: Reader William wanted to buy a phone with Tesco Mobile, but the order kept being cancelled and he was given conflicting explanations as to why
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.
Miss: Reader William told me about his less-than-super experience buying a new phone with the supermarket-owned network, Tesco Mobile.
He wanted to snap up a shiny new iPhone, and had some Tesco Clubcard vouchers which he hoped would enable him to do so at a decent price.
He found the phone online and signed up for a contract, paying £120 upfront as well as the first month’s installment of his phone repayment and airtime which cost £42.
He used £200 in Clubcard vouchers to make the purchase, and, as a member of the cashback rewards site, Topcashback, he was also set to receive £210 in cashback if he ordered the phone with its Tesco link.
But the next day, he received an email from Tesco Mobile informing him he had not completed the order, as he had not signed the credit agreement – even though he had.
When he tried to sign it online, a message told him the order ‘had already been completed’ and his order of the phone and contract was promptly cancelled.
When he called Tesco Mobile, he was told it was a system error and to place the order again.
He did this a few days later, again using the Clubcard voucher and cashback offer, but the same technical issue occurred and the order was cancelled.
Increasingly infuriated, William called Tesco again. This time it told him the issue was with the bank account he had set up the ongoing direct debit for his contract with.
When he asked his bank about this, it said there was no problem and that Tesco had not attempted to take any payment from his account.
He placed the order one more time, this time using a different bank account – but it was cancelled a third time.
When he spoke to Tesco, he says its customer service team told him there was no way to fix the issue, and that he couldn’t complete the order over the phone. It said his file had been closed and there would be no further correspondence.
He was now missing his £200 in Clubcard vouchers, not to mention the phone he wanted – and as the deal had expired, he’d also missed out on the £210 cashback.
When I got in touch with Tesco, it did not want to provide a comment to print in this article.
Phone problem: The reader’s iPhone order could not go through and he was left without £200 in Clubcard vouchers that he used to pay for it
When pressed on why this had happened, it simply told me what it told William – that there was an issue with the payment card.
Disappointingly, it did not explain which of the two payment cards he used had the supposed ‘issue’ or what that issue was.
It also did not explain why, at first, he was told that it was not a payment issue, but a technical error.
It did return the £200 in Clubcard vouchers, but William is still very unhappy with the service and has contacted the Ombudsman to make a complaint.
On a final, and slightly bizarre, note, he has since told me that he received a final email from Tesco Mobile.
While he hoped it might have contained an apology, it was in fact sent in error, addressed to a lady called Michelle and detailed her entirely separate complaint about her own mobile phone.
While I’m glad he has his vouchers back, it’s fair to say Tesco Mobile has received a terrible reception from this customer – and especially after it was named by Ofcom this week as one of three mobile firms with the lowest level of escalated complaints.
Big smile: The self-storage firm Big Yellow made my house move a breeze
Hit: This week’s hit is one of my own, as I wanted to explain how the storage firm Big Yellow brightened my day.
I recently moved house and had a gap of about two weeks between leaving my old place and getting the keys for the new one, meaning I needed to put all of our stuff into storage while we kipped on the sofas of our long-suffering friends and family.
I booked a unit at the local Big Yellow online, but – not really knowing what I was doing – I’d selected a room that was far too big for the contents of our two-bed flat.
When I arrived, stuff in tow, the salesperson saw the size of the van and immediately told me there was no way I needed that much space and that I should downsize – even though doing so would mean I paid Big Yellow about £100 less.
She didn’t need to do this, and I’m sure switching out the room I’d pre-booked for another one was a hassle – but I was delighted to be saving some money rather than spending it, given how much cash I’d already thrown at my house move.
When I returned to pick it all back up again two weeks later, I was refunded my security deposit and money for unused days on the spot by the friendly and efficient staff. I’ll definitely use the firm again for any future moves.
It’s been a stressful few weeks, so I was glad my Big Yellow experience left me feeling mellow.