/ Travel & Leisure

Maintaining trust in travel: our 10-point plan

Widespread cancellations of flights and holidays have left many people helpless, and in some cases stranded. We’re launching a 10-point plan to maintain consumer trust.

We’ve heard from hundreds of people who have been refused a refund for a cancelled flight or holiday, and in some cases people are being denied access to hundreds and thousands of pounds at a time when their finances are already under strain.

In fact, our latest research found that 20 of the UK’s biggest travel operators and airlines are openly breaking the law by delaying refunds for cancelled trips or removing customers’ refund rights altogether.

Some airlines and package travel providers are refusing to provide refunds, in a breach of their legal obligations to their customers, while others are providing vouchers or credit notes – which may prove to be worthless if holiday firms run into financial trouble.

Stranded overseas

Worryingly, passengers remain stranded overseas with no choice but to spend hundreds of pounds to return home.

Unfortunately in some instances, even these flights have been cancelled, leaving people even more out of pocket and struggling to get a refund for the additional flight.

To add to the confusion, many people still have no guarantee of when they will next be able to travel or whether they will be covered by their travel insurance policy if they do, making re-booking incredibly difficult.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

That is why we’re calling on the government to take urgent action to support the travel industry and make sure passengers aren’t left out of pocket for cancelled flights or holidays.

While we recognise the immense pressure that industry is under, it is vital now more than ever that people can count on their consumer rights and that trust and confidence in the travel sector is not permanently damaged as a result.

Our 10-point plan

As part of our plan, which you can read in full here, we’re calling for:

The right to a refund to be protected: All consumers who are currently eligible to receive a refund must be offered a cash refund when their flight or holiday is cancelled.

Credit notes to be protected and optional: A credit note/voucher may be offered as an alternative but not sole option when a flight or holiday is cancelled. These vouchers must also be time-limited, with a full refund provided at the end of the term, with terms and conditions clearly and proactively communicated. All credit notes/vouchers must be insolvency protected.

Action when airlines fail to refund customers: Airlines must be supported throughout the outbreak and effectively held to account when failing to offer and issue refunds for cancelled flights.

Flexibility for companies struggling to manage during this crisis: The statutory 14-day refund period for package holidays should be temporarily extended to a maximum of one month.

There is a clear need for the government to urgently set out how it will support travel firms and airlines to ensure they can meet their legal obligations.

While we do not want to see the industry suffer further as a result of this outbreak, it clearly cannot be on consumers to prop up airlines and travel firms, especially when so many will be in difficult financial situations of their own.

Have you had a flight or holiday cancelled? What was your experience like?

Do you think the government should step in to make sure money for cancelled flights and holidays is refunded?

Comments
Gansh says:
30 April 2020

Why oh why oh why do people still choose to fly with Ryanair???????????????????

Possibly because they have destinations and fares that appeal to people, Gansh. In good times it’s a winning combination.

Keith Bruce says:
30 April 2020

The flights that I had booked with Ryanair to and from Spain were cancelled. Since then there has been a series of confusing emails from Ryanair initially offering refunds but then only offering Vouchers for future use. If you still wanted to ask for a refund you were asked to follow a link to their website. When I tried that the results were even more confusing and certainly did not lead to any confirmed refund position. Ryanair are simply bypassing the rules to keep the money by delivering confusion

Danielle C says:
30 April 2020

I have had the same. They cancelled an easter flight, I went through to the process to apply for a refund. They sent follow up emails to say my refund was being processed but there was a backlog, then I get an email giving me a bloody voucher! And I also reached a dead end when trying to re-apply for a refund. I will be calling them this weekend as I want a refund. Quite sneaky of them.

Jas says:
30 April 2020

Exactly the same. No further forward

John Kitchen says:
6 May 2020

I had the same problem with Ryanair for return flights to Spain, cancelled in mid April – until yesterday when I managed to get a ‘live chat’ by clicking the refund link on their latest email. The customer care agent acknowledged my request for a cash refund and promised I would receive an email confirming this within 24 hours – which I did, stating that I am now in the cash refund queue.

david ross says:
30 April 2020

I have an annual travel policy with 6 months left. I asked Staysure for a pro-rata refund. They refused and offered a 15 month policy voucher instead of 12 months if I renew my policy. The Goverment are considering extending lock down until a vaccine is found for over 70’s and I fall into this category. Legally, can I insist on a refund? Does anyone have a legal opinion?

David – I think that is a standard condition across the insurance industry but it does not take account of the current exceptional circumstances. Getting a concession on renewal is not a bad result but could be better I suppose.

Of course, not traveling could have saved your life and will certainly save you money – maybe more than a partial refund.

Insurance is about what could happen, not what will, and the company is not to know that in the next six months you won’t make a journey that gives rise to a claim.

I doubt if you can insist on a refund of part of your premium but that is a personal opinion, not legal advice.

You cannot expect a pro-rata refund. Unlike annual car insurance say, travel insurers have liability for future events (planned trip cancellations) that need to be factored into their premiums.

For all they know, you booked a holiday six months ago that they were on risk for, until you decided to cancel your policy this week.

Even car insurers normally make a deduction for administration of a cancellation. Unless the terms are unfair, I don’t think the law has much to say about how premiums are calculated, apportioned to different risks and refunded part way through the policy term.

David Ross says:
30 April 2020

Thanks John and Em for responding. My situation is complicated by the fact that I have an underlying health condition and if the Government goes ahead with its plan to extend the lockdown until a proven vaccine is found which the experts tell us will not happen until next year the voucher is unlikely to have any real benefit for me. Since I am a frequent customer of Staysure a goodwill gesture might seem appropriate like the 7 out of 11 travel insurers reported yesterday in Martin Lewis’s moneysaving expert blog who are giving either a full or partial refund.

I am sorry if you feel that the concession offered to you is likely to be of little benefit but I happen to think it is quite reasonable. Each insurance company has its own way of managing its risks having regard to its claims history and customer profiles. Their policies on refunds and renewal incentives differ accordingly.

Your insurer is no doubt aware of your underlying health condition and took that into account in making its offer to you. I appreciate that your travel insurance premium might be substantial in view of your condition and that even a partial refund would be useful, but without knowledge of all the terms and conditions, policy benefits, cover for different risks, and premiums across the companies compared it is not possible to say whether or not you chose the best company to insure with – it could be that the ones offering full or partial refunds would not have satisfied you in other ways.

If you have six months on your present Staysure policy and a voucher for a further fifteen months you have until December 2021 in which to travel with guaranteed cover.

I see Staysure are offering 15 months for 12 on their website, so maybe their offer to extend cover is not that generous. But looking at their terms of business, they do not have a standard cancellation policy, other than the statutory requirement to provide a “cooling off” period.

“If notice of cancellation is received outside of the 14 day cooling off period, no premium will be
refunded. However discretion may be exercised in exceptional circumstances and if agreed, a
cancellation fee of £10 will be charged for any policy under £100 or a £20 cancellation fee for any policy
over £100.”

If you are happy with the level of cover and premiums you are paying, you might be better to ride it out and look at whether it is worth renewing with Staysure in the light of developments. It could be harder for people to get travel insurance in future, in view of what has happened recently. I now know from recent bitter experience of trying to get medical assistance abroad, that some insurance companies are worse than useless and price isn’t everything.

I guess another way to sweeten the pill is to think of your financial situation, as if Covid-19 hadn’t happened. We pay insurance premiums all the time in the expectation that we won’t claim and, if things go well, at the end of the term we have precisely nothing to show for it. Nothing has changed with Covid-19, except you don’t have the dubious “benefit” of being insured, if the worst should happen on your now-postponed travels.

In the longer term, I can’t believe the Government would impose any kind of lock-down for specific age bands. People over 70 are more of a danger to themselves due to higher risk of complications, than being worse at spreading Covid-17 throughout the population at large. So if you are ready to take the risk, I hope you will be able to enjoy the full benefit next year.

Clare Olsen says:
30 April 2020

Well a mixed result to obtaining a refund. TUI cancelled a Marella Cruise and refunded overnight but without paying the seat upgrade money – working on this. Delighted with their response. Audley’s have offered a credit note for the 4.5k they owe us from cancellation and a refund in April next year if we can’t use it. We have requested a refund again and need to wait a few months – hopeful. Air Canada very difficult to get a resolution . They cancelled our return flight and our connecting flight for the flight out so useless remainder of the trip. They refused a refund (although offered us a very small gesture) and insisted on a credit note to be used before Feb next year – nigh on useless to us considering the weather then in Canada. The whole purpose of the trip was to go to a wedding that has been totally cancelled so think we’ll end up 1.3k out of pocket as a result. As they are based in Canada think that they may be exempt from UK law despite flying out of Heathrow? Had a further break booked with CLC – they have willingly transfered to later in the year and Easyjet have transfered our flights for a small fee despite the fact that they haven’t cancelled the orginal flight in June. Impressed with them too.

Re your comments on Air Canada. I am having similar problems with Airtransat. They insist that the Canadian government agrees with their decision to not give refunds just a credit to rebook. They will not let me transfer the credit to another family member and I am doubtful if I will be able to fly again due to age and health. Difficult to check legality with it being a Canadian company

Karen Griffiths

Clare – All flights out of a UK or EU airport are covered by the EU directives on refunds or compensation as appropriate.

Michael Kinnane says:
19 May 2020

EU261 Compensation Claim Assessment (Email just received from EasyJet as regards to claim I made regarding a £144 clam for cancel return flight to Crete, they must be in a very bad way if thay have to turn me over for £144.00 .MK.

Claim decision: Declined

Decision summary: We are sorry that your flight was cancelled. Our assessment and legal team has carefully reviewed your claim and the circumstances around your flight and have confirmed that your compensation claim is not eligible for compensation payment under EU Regulation EU261/2004. Please note that this may not match with the information you were given on the day of travel, as our staff in airports, and on-board, may not have had all the information concerning your cancelled flight.

Dear Customer,

We are sorry for the disruption to your flight. Our assessment and legal team have carefully reviewed your claim, including the circumstances around your flight and have confirmed that your compensation claim is not eligible for compensation payment under EU Regulation EC261/2004. Please note that this may not match with the information you were given on the day of travel, as our staff in airports, and on-board, may not have had all the information concerning your cancelled flight.

Our assessment of your claim:

To further explain what happened; health and travel restrictions imposed to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus, severely affected easyJet’s flying programme. The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the aviation industry due to widespread and varied travel restrictions imposed by local governments throughout Europe. This significantly impacted our programme along with other airlines and we had no option but to cancel your flight. We do take reasonable measures to avoid delays and cancellations to our flights by having replacement crews and spare aircraft available in our network. However, in view of these widespread and varied travel restrictions imposed by local Governments, there were no measures we could have taken to operate your flight.

EU261 Regulation

When we have to disrupt a flight due to circumstances outside of our control, the flight is classified under EU regulation 261/2004 as being affected by “extraordinary circumstances”. An example of disruption outside of our control would be that primarily caused by air traffic control restrictions, industrial action, severe weather conditions or a runway closure.

EU261 compensation is only payable when a flight is delayed by 3 or more hours after the scheduled arrival time, or the flight is cancelled, and the reason for the delay or cancellation was within our control. This type of disruption is classified as “non-extraordinary circumstances” in the EU Regulation. Examples of this include most aircraft technical faults or when we haven’t taken reasonable measures to prevent or minimise disruption. A copy of the regulation can be found at http://eur-lex.europa.eu

Expenses

Even if your compensation claim has been declined, you may be eligible for reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred as result of the disruption. If you have not already done so, you may submit an expenses claim on our website at https://www.easyjet.com/en/help/boarding-and-flying/delays-and-cancellations.

Please read this carefully before submitting a claim as this explains how we assess expenses. The only way to make a claim is via our expenses webform, we are unable to process claims submitted by email or over the phone.

We hope this letter clearly explains why your flight was disrupted. Our assessment team have thoroughly investigated all the available information and this is the decision we have arrived at.

Our Customer Services team will not be able to access any more information than we’ve provided here. Please read our “Who is entitled to compensation” section on the following link which will hopefully answer any further questions you may have.

https://www.easyjet.com/en/help/boarding-and-flying/delays-and-cancellations

Once again we are sorry for the disruption to your flight and hope to welcome you on board again soon.

Kind re

easyJet Customer Services

Clare Olsen says:
30 April 2020

Oh, just and extra. Despite having curtailment on our insurance policy they have refused to pay out anything as it ‘is a pandemic’!

As Gansh said, originally:
“Why oh why oh why do people still choose to fly with Ryanair???????????????????”
I used to work in the industry and know what everyone thought of them. What might appear to be a cheap flight doesn’t always work out that way. When all this Covid19 is over, go Jet2 – the best in the UK (and I did NOT work for them!)

“Why oh why oh why do people still choose to fly with Ryanair???????????????????”

Because (as I say of one of my cheapskate clients), they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We stopped when they introduced the low cost wing seats. They wouldn’t even supply complimentary goggles. And as for the outside toilets…

Casper says:
2 May 2020

I was so stupid, i thought change dates to October with jet2 when I changed it online it was five pounds cheaper but it did not confirm. So I left booking number and phone number. On Sunday morning I got a call from jet2 regarding change of booking. Just after I stated the new October departure date she said oh that flight increase £29. That was the extortion starting. When I agreed changes I went online and the price had no risen at all, they conned me out of £29 . I tried to phone back but they were closed. After phone calls and emails it’s fluid pricing. I regret to say jet2 are greedy greedy people. The price of my flight still is £34 pounds cheaper than you have taken from my credit card. The worst thing is that my booking mentioned nothing of the increased charge. That’s why by I can honestly say that you are Robbing customers blind. Barclaycard have been no help whatsoever. My final opinion is that you get shamefull reviews. But in this world the ordinary people suffer at the cost of those with greed.@ that’s Jet2 ant the other holiday companies and airlines. Shame on you all.

Jula Winman says:
3 May 2020

Dilemma! Facing two issues. In January I booked a package holiday with Lastminute.com for 3 passenger’s, my daughter, her friend and of course myself. I was contacted by the family of the friend saying due to unforeseen circumstances they no longer able to take the holiday due to financial situations having lost there job because of the corona virus. I emailed the travel company for advise, three weeks later still no reply. I decided to call and wait for a human being. I was lucky enough to get through. I explained though my holiday was not as yet cancelled I needed to request a change to my booking. I informed the agent that due to the corona virus the third person is no longer willing or able to continue with the holiday. and would they be willing to help in the matter. I requested an amendment to the booking, which I would be happy to pay. ( Have the third person removed from our booking) or Change the name on the booking, meaning to transfer to another Person ) or defer our holiday to 2021. My confusion came when the agent informed of this. The company cannot amend my booking! I can cancel the booking but I would then be liable to pay the full holiday anyway. I don’t change the booking in which case I am still liable to pay the full amount. or I outright cancel now and again I am liable to pay the full amount outstanding..
Allow me to be clear I’m booked to fly with TUI on the 16th July 2020 I have paid a holding fee of £240 and the balance was due on the 6th June however the payment scheduled has been amended to the 16th June 2020. Thu my daughter and I are willing to wait the situation out, I cannot change the situation of the third party. I then asked the agent how long will you continue to defer my payment schedule. I was horrified to hear up to two weeks prior to us flying.. I feel stressed that I am now liable for a cost of a holiday that in fairness has changed due to unforeseen circumstances, completely out of my control to be informed that this company will not amend but force me into paying for another who’s unable to cover this cost due to the virus. Being told you are liable without recourse. Is difficult stomach. Knowing there are 1000 of people affected by job losses. bereavement surely you would think a company would be far more understanding. My holiday to date has not been cancelled and I’m not sure it will be. But in the mean time I am beside myself unable to understand my rights.. Can lasminute.com force me to pay the full amount of this holiday if they are not willing to amend the booking? if I do cancel surely I cannot be changed the full amount? Where do I stand ?
It’s seems to me I am no matter what forced into gambling, I sit this situation out hoping they cancel my holiday or I am liable for the full amount in the event the holiday goes ahead.. Nightmare is what it is!

When the industry was booming and they made huge millions, where did it all go? Now when they run into trouble they expect the consumers to foot the bill? Each individual like me have our own financial problems as well, and it is often said that the law is the law, what’s the point of having the law if some rogues are allowed to ignore it?
I am particularly p****d off by BA when they have the resources to alter their website, to issue and manage vouchers, and restrict their customer services to make it difficult for customers to claim cash refund, yet have no resource to answer phone calls and genuinely help customers.

Chye – Good points. Even the no-frills and low-cost carriers were making substantial returns but are now acting like they are on the floor. Perhaps they are, and maybe some of them should stay there [after settling their debts]. So long as people want to travel, operators will emerge, so we should not lose sleep if a few airlines go under. Of course, fares will no doubt rise and associated expenses [baggage, seating arrangements] will go up, but to some extent silly and unsustainable prices have caused some of the problems.

Made an insurance claim to RBS Travel Insurance following cancellation of our return flights from New Zealand.

After an initial discussion with one of their staff whilst we were still in NZ he confirmed we would be covered under the curtailment section of our policy and emailed a claim reference. This would cover return flights to the UK, accommodation costs and other costs not exceeding £5000 each which were otherwise not recoverable from airlines, travel agents or our credit card company.

A few weeks later (when we finally got return flights) we received a call from the insurers whilst awaiting a flight from Christchurch to Auckland indicating that we had no cover as they could not find our trip extension to the 31 day restriction on the policy. I confirmed we did have trip extension cover and emailed the details to them on arrival at Auckland. However I noticed on our return to the UK that a different claim number appeared on our records online which had been opened and closed within minutes of my discussion with this second member of staff. There was no record of the original claim reference (albeit I have this per the email sent at the time).

I have logged a claim with details of the costs incurred as a result of the cancelled flights and 2 weeks later I am awaiting a response (it did say online it could take up to 4 weeks to get a response).

Emirates, with whom we had the cancelled flights, have apparently advised Trailfinders (our travel agents) that there will be no refund on the partially used tickets. Trailfinders directed us to our travel insurers for a claim. Emirates have yet to reinstate flights from New Zealand to the UK.

Just received an email from TUI offering a credit on holiday which was due on 28th April for 1 week, i do not want a credit just a refund. Tried calling the number they issued but just keeps cutting off, sent an email no reply. Any help would be great.

Pat Pattison says:
13 May 2020

I booked a package holiday with Readers’ Offers Ltd.,12-31 March, including flights to Argentina, hotels and a Hurtigruten Antarctic cruise. ROL rang me 12/03, at the last minute, to say that Argentina was putting all EU passengers into quarantine on arrival, and that Hurtigruten advised us not to fly.
I therefore didn’t take the BA flight, which departed as scheduled. At that time, there was no FO advice against travel to Argentina.
I then filled in both the ROL and Hurtigruten forms for a refund. I was offered the same trip in 2021; which I refused, since, at 81, this was to be my “Last Hurrah”. I’d spent double the amount of any other holiday (£12,000), as a solo traveller.
Since then, all I can get on ROL and Hurtigruten’s contact mail is copies of the same forms, and I’ve received mails requesting patience (I’m writing this 2 months later).
My insurance company, Voyager, requires documents proving the holiday was cancelled but all I have are a ROL phone call and email urging me not to fly (on Hurtigruten’s advice) so I can’t do this.
I presume ROL are ultimately responsible, but at the moment, unable to contact them, I’m at an impasse!