Passengers are owed billions from airlines and holiday companies for trips cancelled due to coronavirus. Companies must obey the law and refund you.
03/11/2020: More than £1 billion still outstanding
Months into the pandemic, our latest analysis reveals that more than £1bn in refunds for cancelled holidays, between March and October, remains outstanding.
That means one in five (21%) holidays where a cash refund was requested still haven’t been refunded.
We surveyed more than 7,500 people who have had a package holiday cancelled as a result of the outbreak. Overall, more than £8bn worth of holidays have been cancelled since March, leaving millions of people fighting to get back the money that they are owed.
While we previously highlighted that the average amount outstanding for flight-only bookings is just over £400, this survey suggests that the average cancelled holiday cost is a huge £1,784.
We’ve previously highlighted the impact that withheld or delayed refunds can have on passengers, especially during such a stressful time. This research further adds to those concerns.
Perhaps most worryingly, nearly four in ten (37%) people who have had a package holiday cancelled by their provider since the beginning of the outbreak said the experience has had a negative impact on their confidence in the travel industry.
We want to see action taken to both support the industry through this period and ensure that people can have the confidence that they need to book travel in the future.
The government must urgently set out its plan to save the travel sector, including introducing a temporary travel guarantee fund to support travel companies that are struggling to meet their refund obligations.
16/09/2020: 17 years since the last CAA fine
Airlines operating in the UK haven’t faced a single fine for breaking consumer law on refunds, delays, or cancellations since 2003.
At the same time, the CAA has only used its powers to apply to the courts for an enforcement order once.
Without the ability to issue fines or take swift action against airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority has struggled to effectively stand up for the passengers it is there to protect.
Several airlines already know this, and there’s a real risk some have felt empowered to break the law as a result – and without the threat of penalties, they may continue to do so.
Trust in the travel industry has been battered in recent months, so passengers need a strong regulator they can count on.
It’s clear that serious reforms need to be made to the sector – as a first step, the government must take urgent steps to ensure the CAA has the tools it needs to effectively hold airlines to account.
12/08/2020: Airlines failing on their commitments
Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, and Tui are failing to refund passengers in the timeframes they agreed to, despite promising the CAA they would commit to speeding up the refund process.
What’s more, despite our sharing of more than 12,000 complaints of passengers struggling to get refunds, the CAA has opted not to take enforcement action against these airlines, instead saying it would monitor and continue to push for improvements.
If airlines are continually allowed to openly break the law on refunds, it will set a dangerous precedent that sees airline continue to treat passengers unfairly without consequence.
The CAA needs to have the power to take swift and meaningful action against airlines that have repeatedly disregarded the law.
22/07/2020: Coordinated BEUC action
After thousands of people shared their refunds nightmares with us last week, Which? is now taking part in coordinated action led by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) to call for an EU-wide solution to resolve the refund scandal.
BEUC reports major airlines for breaching passenger rights.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, our member organisations have received thousands of complaints. Airlines do not reimburse passengers or provide clear/complete information about rights. https://t.co/IPAhMRMps6 pic.twitter.com/InaHZda8w2
— The Consumer Voice (@beuc) July 22, 2020
Consumer groups from across Europe have identified airlines operating across the continent that are consistently breaking the law on refunds and treating passengers unfairly – including Aegean, Air France, EasyJet, KLM, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP Portugal, and Transavia.
As part of this joint action, BEUC has lodged a complaint with the European Commission calling for urgent action to hold airlines to account and secure refunds for those passengers struggling to get one.
18/07/2020: DfT protects refund credit notes
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will protect refund credit notes for cancelled package holidays.
This is something we’ve been calling on since the start of this crisis, and the news will come as a huge relief to the countless customers who’ve accepted one in place of a cash refund.
It means people can now be confident their money is protected if they decide to support their tour operator by accepting a refund credit note, but it later goes bust.
But package travel companies should not use this as an excuse to continue forcing credit notes onto their customers and must make clear when they have the right to a cash refund.
16/07/2020: Join our campaign
Four months into the coronavirus pandemic, we’re still hearing from hundreds of consumers who have yet to get money back for cancelled flights and holidays.
Many people are simply being told that they have to wait until their refund can be processed, in some instances up to 6 months after they were meant to travel.
Others are only being offered vouchers for future travel, and are struggling to even claim a cash refund as an option.
This is an unacceptable situation – lots of people are facing financial hardships of their own while companies are being allowed to openly break the law.
Yet, the Government continues to be silent on the issue while the regulator has failed to hold law-breaking companies to account.
Our “Refund Us. Reform Travel.” campaign is demanding that travel companies refund passengers immediately and, as international travel begins to re-open, the government takes urgent action to make sure passengers are never in this position again.
Inundated with complaints
We asked people to share their refund experiences with us and received more than 12,000 complaints in six weeks from passengers who are struggling to get refunds for cancelled flights worth £5.6 million in total.
Passengers are owed an average of £446.40, and have collectively spent a total of 52,000 hours – almost six years – trying to chase their airline for the money they are due.
We analysed all of these complaints and have reported airlines directly to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Our data shows that Ryanair was the worst offender, owing £1.15m total equating to 1 in every 5 pounds that was reported to us.
This is despite the budget airline’s relatively cheap fares. Respondents to our tool were owed an average of £206 by the Irish airline, compared to an average of £1,032 for Virgin Atlantic.
The second most complained about airline, EasyJet, accounted for 14% of responses – less than a third of Ryanair’s with a total of £663,000 owed in refunds. In addition, three in 10 said they were yet to receive a response from the airline.
Virgin Atlantic was the third most reported airline, accounting for 7% of all complaints. More than £915,000 is collectively owed to Virgin Atlantic customers.
Join our campaign
In May, we published a ten-point plan setting out our calls on the government, industry and regulators to maintain passenger trust in travel.
This included calls for the government to step in and support companies to fulfil their legal obligations.
Trust in the travel industry has plunged to an all-time low following this disruption. As flights and destinations start to open up again, companies must protect passengers’ rights – issuing refunds where required – to restore our trust.
Have you had a holiday or flight cancelled? Did you struggle to get the refund you are owed?
Do you agree that the government needs to reform travel so passengers aren’t left in this position again?
Sign our petition and join our campaign.