Booking travel tickets for visa without paying?

I am in the process of filling the forms for my wife and daughter (Chinese) to travel with me (British) to the UK for a short holiday. On the government advice located at http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/out-of-country/visitors.pdf it says:

Accommodation and travel details

You may wish to submit the following documents to help show us your
accommodation and travel arrangements in the UK and on which date you
intend to leave the UK. We advise that you do not make any payments
for accommodation, travel and so on until you have received your
visa.

  • Details of accommodation and return
  • travel bookings

This could be:

  • hotel booking confirmation (usually email) travel booking
  • confirmation (can be email or copy of tickets) travel agent
  • confirmation of both accommodation details with a supporting letter from the occupant confirming that you are able to stay there

But how do you have tickets for a flight if you haven’t made payments. All airlines I’ve seen require you to pay in full before they issue any tickets.

What is the best way to satisfy this requirement?

Answer

The obvious answer is to pay for your tickets! Presuming you have solid travel plans (which is what they are trying to ask you to prove by showing tickets!) then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Of course, the one catch with this is that if your visa application is rejected, you’ve now got tickets that you are unable to use. Some airlines will allow you to get a refund under circumstances like this (even for a non-refundable ticket), as will some travel insurance policies – however many will not.

There’s a few other alternatives, each with their own advantages and disadvantages :

  • Ask your travel agent to provide an itinerary, including flight details (and confirmation numbers if they have them – these are generated before the ticket is paid for) and use that as proof of your flights.
  • Buy a full-fare, refundable ticket and use that for the visa application process. Once the visa is approved, cancel the ticket (getting a full refund), and then book a discount ticket. The biggest catch is that you’ll be out of pocket for a reasonable amount of money for a while, and in the interim the ticket prices for the cheap flights might have gone up.
  • Bite the bullet and just buy the tickets – on the presumption that the visa will be approved.

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