Most of us have sailed too close to the wind with flight times, but if we miss our flight can we get reimbursed? We’re entitled to reclaim APD taxes, but the airlines will make us jump through some hoops first…
A few years ago, I was happily at home packing my bags for a flight to the US, singing away to songs on the radio, when I made one final look at my ticket.
My heart stopped, I broke out in a deep sweat and I shouted at my husband, in the shower. The flight was in two, not twelve hours’ time.
I was lucky. Somehow, we survived the fastest taxi journey ever to the airport, breaking every speed limit on the way, were allowed to check in, escorted through security and ran down the aircraft aisle to our seats met by the glares of our fellow passengers, who were clearly nonplussed.
Don’t lose all your money
We were among the fortunate who managed to make the plane. Those who don’t – after over-sleeping, being caught in traffic or passenger transport chaos on the way (or for myriad other reasons) – will find themselves heavily out of pocket.
If it’s not the airlines’ fault that you’re not on the plane, then chances are, you won’t get the ticket price refunded. Your only bet would be a rather good travel insurance policy.
There is hope, however. It’s not all your money that should be lost. We pay taxes and Air Passenger Duty (APD) when we pay for our flight ticket. As the airlines only pay this tax to the government once the flight has taken off, if you’re not on the flight, then you are entitled to claim it back.
APD increases with distance flown, so you’d be able to claim an APD refund of £12 for a short haul economy flight to Europe, but £60 for a US flight and £85 if your final destination had been as far as Australia or New Zealand.
Too expensive to claim APD
Now, the cheeky airlines clearly don’t want to advertise this, because it is a nice little earner for them. Passengers who cancel their flights will not automatically have their money reimbursed – but they must apply to the airline for a refund. Many of the airlines in turn will charge hefty administration fees to deter you.
When Which? Travel looked into this a few years ago, the amount charged was up to twice the value of the tax, making it completely pointless. Seven of the eight major airlines we contacted charged an administration fee which was more than the total APD originally paid. (Credit where it is due, easyJet didn’t, and still doesn’t charge to reclaim APD).
The Air Travel Advisory Bureau has launched a petition to try and get the law changed so the money must be returned by the airlines when flights go unused. We’d like to see the same. In the meantime, we want the airlines to either charge an appropriate fee for reclaiming the APD on unused flights, or even better, charge nothing at all – what do you think?