/ Travel & Leisure

Is your airline or holiday company claiming ‘force majeure’?

We’re inundated with reports of refused refunds. Has your airline or holiday company claimed it doesn’t have to pay you because of a force majeure clause?

Among the huge numbers of people reporting that they’re unable to get a cash refund from their airline or holiday company, we’ve also seen a growing number being told that force majeure applies to their situation.

Why consumers should not have to prop up the travel industry

Force Majeure is a common contractual clause which can free parties of liability in the event of specified circumstances beyond the control of the parties.

Can force majeure apply to the COVID-19 crisis?

As we’ve previously discussed, flights out of the UK or EU and flights on UK and EU airlines are governed by the Denied Boarding EU Regulation (Regulation 261/2004 EC), which states that airlines must offer the option of a full refund when they cancel your flights.

This is why it’s not right that so many are only offering vouchers.

If an airline’s flights are subject to these rules, they can’t avoid their legal responsibilities by trying to contract out of the regulations, so we’d be surprised to see any trying to use force majeure as an excuse to claim that they can.

With regards to package holidays sold or offered in the UK, again, these should be covered by the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018.

Any booking covered by this regulation is entitled to a refund if the trip is cancelled due to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. This means that force majeure clauses cannot get a holiday organiser off the hook for refunds for packaged holidays either.

Send us your evidence

However, in order to investigate whether companies are doing this, we need your help.

In order to investigate whether companies are breaching travel regulations by claiming force majeure, we will need to see evidence.

If your airline or holiday company is trying to rely on a force majeure clause and you’d be happy to share your details, please email us written evidence that shows the provider stating ‘force majeure’ as reason for non-payment. Your booking details would also prove helpful.

You can reach us on: conversation.comments@which.co.uk

Are you being denied a cash refund by your airline or holiday company? Have other excuses been given?

Let us know in the comments and help us put pressure on companies to comply with their legal obligations.

Melissa says:
13 June 2020

The problem isn’t with US or EU airlines…it’s with companies like South African Airlines and Airlink where the flights are within Africa. They are refusing refunds. They didn’t bother letting us know our flights were cancelled!

Ruth Perry says:
19 June 2020

Booking.com is claiming it cannot refund deposits for apartment bookings in August 2020 having to be cancelled as Ryanair has cancelled flights.

Karen davies says:
26 June 2020

I have a holiday booked for 27th July at a holiday park in uk.i have asked for a refund and they are only offering me to rebook which I don’t want too.a lot of what is on offer there is closed due to the pandemic so it’s not worth going as this was meant to be a holiday fir my grandaughter aged 5 that would have given her plenty to enjoy doing without having to leave the park and to give my daughter a break.i am also shielded so I cannot travel and too be honest I’m too scared to go anywhere as I have chronic asthma and lung disease.i again messaged them 2 weeks ago about this but this time they have not replied.i am due to pay the outstanding balance on 29th June but I refuse to as this holiday would have cost me £1900.i am 62 years of age so I’m not made of money.they have put that in the event of force majeure that no compensation will be paid.im not looking for compensation I just want my £700 I paid upfront to them. I booked this holiday in August 2019 so recently they have added online under the cancellation plan that as WHO has announced that covid19 is a global pandemic this cancellation plan will not cover any claims relating to this virus. Can anyone help please

graham hewitt says:
23 July 2020

I booked a cruise through Iglu in June this year for a cruise with MSC in September 2020 ,Iglu have told me the cruise has been cancelled because of coronovirus; but this virus was already known about when they took my £690. I filled the form in for return of cash,but do i have to go to the back of the queue?

Loveholidays have refused to refund the flight portion of a package booked to Gran Canaria in September. They have refunded the hotel costs, the Hotel is not reopening until November but they are using Force Majeure as an excuse to not refund my flights.

C Pickles says:
12 August 2020

Air Malta cancelled our 26th March flights on 19th March because the Malta lock-down started on 21st March. They made offer of full refund which I accepted. They replied it would take up to 4 weeks, but it didn’t arrive and all I got was more offers of voucher, so I contacted Amex to dispute the charges. They gave me credit but then on 23rd July said Air Malta had challenged the refund, saying THEY would now refund me by 31st October, and reinstated 1 ticket charge. Amex Dispute Department seem to be accepting Air Malta interpretation of T&C’s re. Force Majeure (claiming they only need offer vouchers) and they won’t refund me unless Air Malta agree. Amex not interested in the illegality of using Force Majeure to override EU refund law – “We’re not lawyers”. Have even suggested they might undo the refund on the other ticket!

I have just been advised by my credit card company, John Lewis Partnership that they cannot refund me my holiday money due to the Force Majeure clause on the holiday, SilverSki LImited’s website, which is where I found their T&C’s. I am aware other people have claims for a charge back or S75 through Partnership Card and have been successful. Can you advise if there is anything else I can do?