/ 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
M Jeffreys says:
24 April 2020

My husband and I were stranded in New Zealand when Singapore closed their borders on 23 March 2020 and Singapore Airlines planes were grounded. Impossible to get hold of anyone at Singapore Airlines to make alternative arrangements so they did not honour their responsibility to get us home via an alternative airline and theirs weren’t flying. Had to go through travel agent to apply for a refund but have heard nothing yet after waiting 4 weeks. This was a holiday of a lifetime so we travelled business and so we are owed a substantial amount. Eventually returned 11 days later with Air Malaysia in economy but prices were exorbitant, almost at business levels so substantially out of pocket. New guidelines should also prevent airlines from profiteering in such dire situations.

Glad to hear you made it home safe in the end, though sorry to hear it’s been at such a cost (both financially and not the outcome you were hoping for from the holiday of a lifetime). Have you spoken to any additional support, such as your travel insurance or credit card provider? You may be able to claim back some of your costs (including additional costs) from them: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/04/coronavirus-outbreak-advice-for-travellers/#uk

My daughter and I booked a dream holiday to Croatia and Montenegro for this coming October. I paid the deposit when booking. I am supposed to pay the balance on 1st August. Now very worried about doing this as it is a substantial amount that we cannot afford to lose. Have you any advise as to what I should do. Thank you

It may be a case of wait and see with this Enola.

Here’s our advice on Whether you should cancel for an upcoming holiday:

If you cancel your booking now you’ll lose all the money you’ve already paid and/or have to pay a cancellation fee. And you won’t be able to claim for this on your travel insurance as it’s classed as a ‘disinclination to travel’. If you wait for the holiday to be cancelled by the holiday provider, on the other hand, you’ll be entitled to a full refund. …

Only consider cancelling your holiday now if you have decided you definitely don’t want to take the holiday any more and you’re sure you can reclaim any losses from your travel insurer.

(We’re updating this advice continually, so worth checking back from time to time: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/04/coronavirus-should-you-cancel-your-summer-holiday/)

It’s worth having a word with your travel insurer to see what your policy will cover in this situation. Another option would be to see if you can shift your holiday dates until 2021, when hopefully the pandemic and lockdown are safely behind us.

Bianca says:
24 April 2020

Ryanair has been a disgrace. First I was told to wait for a refund, after weeks I was given a voucher.

Carole Ross says:
26 April 2020

They have done the same to me and it is impossible to get through to them

We had a holiday booked in February in Malta through Lastminute.com. The flights by EasyJet were cancelled the night before we were due to depart due to the high winds of Storm Dennis i.e. before Coronavirus was an issue. After unsuccessfully trying to re-schedule flights we accepted that the holiday had to be cancelled and we told Lastminute that. They said it could take 6 to 8 weeks to get our money back because they had to get the refund from EasyJet. I’ve phoned them dozens of times since and sent an email confirming the details but all Lastminute do is just repeat that I have to be patient and wait, they keep fobbing me off. I’ve also logged a request for a refund through the credit card company I used to pay, but it was Lastminute who took my money and are doing nothing as far as I can see. How can I move this forward? Can I take Lastminute.com to the Small Claims Court?

One of the many joys of booking through a site like Lastminute.com is having to establish who the holiday operator is.

A business established in the UK selling a flight-only or a flight-inclusive package must hold an ATOL licence to provide financial protection to customers.

Lastminute.com are both package holiday providers (which must be ATOL) protected, agents for UK travel businesses (which must be ATOL protected in their own right) or agents for foreign companies where any protection is regulated by local laws. Agents do not have ATOL protection.

Do you have an ATOL certificate and who issued it? If not ask for one.

Go to https://www.lastminute.com/terms/useful-information.html#protection and try to establish exactly who you are dealing with.

If you are going to make a legal claim, which should be the last resort after exhausting other avenues, including complaints to the company, followed by the protection scheme / regulator, at least be sure who you need to sue to recover your money.

Hi Em, yes I have an ATOL certificate that states I am protected by BravoNext SA (address Vicolo De’Calvi 2, 6830 Switzerland) who I understand are part of Lastminute.com
Lastminute have now told me that the “claim process is finalised” and that the refund department will email me soon with details of how the refund will be made. I will write to the Customer Care dept to chase a reply on this.
My credit card company has told me that my claim is not covered under Section 75 as my contract is with Lastminute and the flights were cancelled by EasyJet.

@JeremyN. So it looks like you are the best possible position having contracted directly with the package holiday provider i.e. BravoNext SA (aka Lastminute.com).

The fact that they have subcontracted your flight to easyJet to provide you with part of your holiday package is neither here nor there. No more so than the fact that they presumably dealt with some anonymous hotel in Malta to provide the accommodation. I also believe your credit card company are incorrect to say you are not covered by Section 75. That might be the case were Lastminute.com acting as an agent rather than the principle package holiday provider, but that does not appear to be the case here.

Anyway, it appears your claim is now progressing with Lastminute.com

Thanks again. It’s a good case study for others – find and read your ATOL certificate! Who knew? I’d never bothered before 🙂

Delta Airlines cancelled our return flights to New Zealand without our asking them and now refuse to refund our payment. Vouchers are worthless because we do not know when or if we will be able to go to New Zealand in the future and we cannot know if Delta will have a service which suits us.
I work in retail. If we fail to deliver an item we give the customer a full refund without question. To do otherwise would be theft.
Delta Airlines refusal to return our money is theft, pure and simple.
How can we feel safe being transported across the world by a company which clearly cannot be trusted.

David Evans says:
24 April 2020

My wife and I had planned to fly to Canada to visit our son who was working in Calgary on 26th March. Booked return flights with Air Canada from a Heathrow – Toronto returning Calgary to Heathrow costing £1284. Also booked an internal flight with Flair airlines from Toronto to Calgary costing a further £260.
On 17th March the Canadian government announced their borders were to close to non nationals so we had to cancel our flights the following day.
Logged onto Air Canada website which gave us an option of £300 refund or the total cost of the flights in a voucher to be used within 12 months. We opted to take the voucher. I received an email confirming the flights as cancelled but have not heard a word from them since.
My son then lost his job and was asked to leave his accommodation in Calgary because his employer was shutting down. We had to fly him home, but when I telephoned Air Canada to ask if we can use the voucher to cover the cost of his flight home they said No. Another £500 we had to pay them. The flight with Flair airlines, the exact same thing happened. We had to cancel, they offered a voucher and they emailed confirming the cancellation. Since then we have heard nothing.

On 18/01/20 my friend and I booked to visit my daughter in Denmark with EasyJet in June/July. I couldn’t book on line as we intended to go out on different dates and return together. So, I had to book over the phone. Incidentally, the customer services young lady was in South Africa (name can be supplied) and I was speaking to her for nearly an hour! I was given a booking reference which contained five letters and two numbers. In trying to find out the status of my booking, only bookings with numbers are accepted online. I went into my EasyJet account and found no trace of the booking. My credit card statement shows that £301.90 was taken in payment to EasyJet on 20/01/20, showing the same booking reference. I have had no official notification that my booking has been cancelled, only the chance to change flights to next year at a reduced cost. I tried that, but the reference was not accepted. Ideally I would like a refund but that doesn’t seem likely with a) no cancellation notification, as such, from EasyJet yet, b) a booking reference which isn’t accepted online and c) a non-existent booking in my EasyJet account. So where do I go for help now?

This was going to be a busy year for us. Two trips booked to do missionary work in Belarus and South Africa, of course both now impossible. Lot Airways for the Belarus trip [booked via TravelGenio], were quick out of the blocks to offer a refund back on the 14th March, of course nothing heard from TravelGenio since and as they are a terrible firm to try to contact and never reply to information requests, I don’t expect to hear anything soon. That trip was scheduled to leave the UK back on the 4th April, no sign of any money yet.

The second trip to South Africa scheduled for early May is even more confusing as Qatar airways have taken our booking down from their site, and of course TravelGenio who also arranged this flight are as silent as the air ways above our heads. One wonders if TravelGenio have received our refunds and are sitting on them for their cash-flow issues. Or is that something we shouldn’t ask?

We have an independant flight booked with Easyjet on Saturday 6th June 2020 from Luton to Naples. At the moment Italy is in lockdown. I have received an email from Easyjet saying i can move my booking without paying a booking fee but nothing but the flight being refunded, which i would like, which has cost me £400. At what point are they supposed to inform me that the flight is cancelled or am i supposed to telephone them

Hello, just wondered if you could reply to the above and let me know what my rights are. Thank you

If Easyjet cancel the flight (and it doesn’t look like they have yet) you can get a full refund. They will contact you if this happens.

If the flight operates, you cannot get a refund, according to EasyJet Terms and Conditions, except for government taxes, which are always recoverable, as the airline doesn’t have to pay these for no-show passengers.

What EasyJet are doing at the moment are waiving the re-booking charges, perhaps to encourage you to book onto a flight that is less likely to be cancelled.

If you have paid in full, probably best to sit tight and see what happens next.

Spot on Em!

Here’s where to find the relevant advice on Which.co.uk:

Alex says:
24 April 2020

We booked a trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos and Amazon and paid in full in June 2019. We should have flown this week but the trip was cancelled 33 days before the flights were scheduled. My insurance policy has a clause to cover cancellation within 30 days so I am not covered. I contacted the travel company and told them they are obliged to refund me but now they are offering only a rebooking subject to availability or a credit note. I am torn as to which way to go. The credit note option will have an expiry of Dec 2021 but that is a long time to wait for a refund to trigger. Is the credit note option fully protected? Should I hold out and insist on a cash refund?

Alex – Your concern about credit notes is justified. Which? has made the following comment –
ABTA claims the ‘refund credit notes’ it has advised members to issue are financially protected by ATOL. That’s the government scheme which guarantees package holiday customers get their money back if the firm goes bust between the holiday being booked and taking place. However, the CAA, which operates the ATOL scheme, wouldn’t confirm to Which? that these ‘refund credit notes’ were financially protected. That could mean that customers who accept one from their holiday provider may not get their money back if the provider subsequently goes bust.

If you want the refund to which you are entitled under UK/EU Regulations you should demand one: send a formal letter if you get no response to phone calls or e-mail messages.

Alex says:
27 April 2020

Thanks John, this reinforces my gut instinct. I will keep trying.

EasyJet cancelled my flights to and from Spain for 6 April, they have refused refund and said if I use Manage Booking’ I’ll get a voucher.. I don’t want a voucher as I was to visit my daughter who is no longer there. I can’t get an answer on their phone lines, cleverly the only way you can get a refund, they say. Further to that 5 nights in two hotels refuse refunds. How can I get my refunds?

easyJet Key Terms state:

“If we [easyJet] cancel your flight you can transfer to another available easyJet flight to the same (or a nearby) destination for free, or if you prefer you can get a full refund.”

As to the hotels, you need to look at their terms when you booked them. If they say they are non-refundable, they are non-refundable, unless you want to challenge the legality of their booking conditions.

In the normal course of events, you might have been able to claim compensation from easyJet for some of your expenses resulting from the flight cancellation, but Covid-19 is probably within the scope of the exclusion “[The] cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken …”

It’s one of the benefits of a package holiday; if one component is unavailable, everything is refunded.

Joanna Phillips says:
25 April 2020

Booked 2 return flights from Heathrow to Toronto with Air Canada leaving late April and returning early May. The flight out to Toronto was cancelled and we were offered a credit voucher only, good for 24 months. The return flight from Toronto to Heathrow is still going ahead at this moment and they keep asking us if we want to change our booking or cancel. Kindly (not!!!) they have offered us a credit voucher but for only 12 months until the end of APRIL 2021, as they haven’t cancelled the flight. This is ludicrous, how can we return from Toronto when they cancelled our flight into Toronto? Also the only place Air Canada flies to is Canada from the UK and we were going to Canada for a specific event which hasd been cancelled. Will never travel with Air Canada again!!!To be honest I know we have no hope of a refund and they are using our money to help prop up their company, maybe we should be due shares in the company.

Susan Toner says:
25 April 2020

I must have telephoned BA in excess of 20 times trying to get a refund of the Avios points I used to pay for two cancelled return flights from London to Milan scheduled to depart late April and return early May. It doesn’t matter what time I call them all I get is a recorded message saying they are unable to deal with my request and to call back later. I don’t want any money off them only my hard earned points back. I can’t believe that over a period of 2 weeks I have been unlucky enough to contact them every time they are so busy that they cannot deal with enquiries. I don’t want a voucher as I will not be flying anywhere until a vaccine is available and I have been vaccinated as I am in the 70 + age group. Singularly unimpressed by BA. I also have flights booked for October to Bologna that I need to cancel. No confidence this will prove any easier to accomplish

If you are talking about a Reward Flight (“… I don’t want any money off them …”) you should be able to cancel your booking online through the BA website. Or BA should credit you in due course. Or email them.

Given “you will not be flying anywhere” soon, the Avios points have no monetary value and they represent maybe 1% of what you have paid to book flights, what is the great urgency?

You will get your Avios points back in plenty of time for you to spend them on another flight. Please leave phone lines available for people who need to urgently amend imminent flight bookings.

Had two cruises cancelled one booked direct through P&O the other booked through Cruise 118. Cruise 118 told us to register our refund on Celebrity website, which we did. After 28 days had no contact whatsoever so telephoned and emailed Cruise 118 and after a very long wait was told that we should have told Cruise 118 that we wanted a refund. They then told me that they would register it now and it would take 90 days for refund from todays date, as per ABTA’s instructions to protect the business and they said they weren’t willing to discuss the matter any further. P&O have been very similar and have been very hard to contact (which I can understand) but again registered for a refund on there website and have received an amended invoice with charges on it. Booking has disappeared from P&O site so cannot do anything to track my claim, again say its going to take 60 days to refund. What happens after the 60 and 90 days and haven’t received refund.
Have another cruise booked with Viking end of August full payment due on 7th. June. Do I pay balance and risk same problem again or do I cancel and lose deposit ? Have been offered same cruise for next year but up to £500 more expensive.

I have a problem with holiday companies that are offering the same holiday next year, but expect you to pay more. Essentially, you have entered into a legally binding agreement with Viking for a holiday to a specific destination, for a set duration in a specific class of accommodation and on a set date.

Viking may be unable to honour their side of the bargain with regard to date at present. Whilst they may be within their rights to vary the terms if Covid-19 or consequential restrictions prevent them from supplying the holiday as originally booked, they are not within their rights to increase the costs of the equivalent holiday, regardless of how much more expensive it may be for them to fulfill their obligation, unless specific terms in their contract allow them to do so. Even then, such terms and conditions may be unfair and therefore not legally binding.

I also have a problem with companies that are offering vouchers for the cash equivalent, but not the equivalent holiday, and expect the customer to make up any difference when rebooking. If you have accepted such a voucher already, and you find that the equivalent holiday is cheaper, insist on a cash refund for the balance.

In summary, you are entitled to the equivalent holiday for the price you originally paid. If the holiday company cannot provide this, demand a refund.

I was due to travel back to Lagos on March 22nd from London Gatwick to Dubai then connect from Dubai to arrive Lagos – Nigeria on 23rd March. All on Emirates airline. When I got to Gatwick that morning to catch, I was told that my flight from Dubai to Lagos had been cancelled because of the Covid-19 crisis and in fact all flights flights had been cancelled. This meant that if I went on that plane to Dubai, I would be stranded in Dubai! It didn’t make sense to me to get on that flight that morning. But I had to run back to my little boy who was waiting at home for me with my mother in Lagos and I didn’t want to be stranded in the UK. I went online and their customer service on their chat messages told me different things – only offering a voucher ticket, which I didn’t want as I don’t live in the UK. I didn’t know what to do. They didn’t even offer any alternative flights for me.

After spending hours at Gatwick trying to find a flight, I eventually caught the last flight going straight to Abuja, Nigeria (instead of Lagos because that was what was available) on British Airways, that night. It cost me Two and half thousand pounds! My brother in- law had to help me pay on the spot at the Airport (this is money I now owe him). From Abuja, I had to catch another flight to my final destination – Lagos. This of course cost me more money. Right now I am completely out of pocket.

It is now over four weeks and have heard nothing whatsoever from Emirates. No email either. When you go on their website, there is no email address where you can send them an email. And all the contact forms on their website have been designed in a way whereby it does not suit your type of complaint. I have rang several times to speak to someone but the long wait on the phone is just exhausting – as if they do that on purpose to put you off. All I just want is my refund and a refund of all the money that was spent on the other flights I had to travel on to go back home because it was Emirate’s responsibility to get me home.

Right now, I don’t know what to do. Any help / advice would be greatly appreciated.

My friend and I thought we were helping when we heard that there would be no flights to USA and tried to contact Virgin Travel office where we booked and paid for our holiday at Shoreham “Next Store” , for 14days 1st May to be told that Virgin could not refund our package holiday because we had bought it at a travel agents and not on line ? we were offer half of the cost bu emal , which we we rejected ,having paid it in full before we travelled , in February 2020 , and have not heard a thing since, we are Pensioners and could do with that money now , we are going to have another go by sending a letter to them next week when the holiday is due to start . Jean and Sue

symon macintyre says:
25 April 2020

We booked a holiday cottage with Colonsay Holiday Cottages for the 8th May for us and our grandkids . During the lockdown Calmac ferries are not carrying tourists to the island and the Scottish Government have asked us not to travel .
The lockdown will likely be extended
We have asked Colonsay Holiday cottages for a refund or to exchange for the same date next year. They said it wasn’t there fault and asked us to Go to our Travle insurance . ( RBS ) our insurance company have taken down there online claims page and you will wait over 90 minutes to connect to anybody.
We told the holiday company getting insurance was proving impossible they offered us a 50% of the current holiday as a voucher for a future booking.
What is going on. Its over 800 pounds we self employed and have no work . THis loss should be covered ..But …
How do I get hold of RBS ?
And what are Colonsay Holiday cottages like .. an island fiefdom run by scoundrels who just fob people of.

ATOL Protection – Cancelled holidays and vouchers.

When you book a package holiday, you should be immediately, or as soon as practical thereafter, be issued with an ATOL Certificate. If you imagine that a voucher will somehow be covered by this, go and find your
ATOL certificate now and read what is says … .

The protection provided is essentially for a single trip between very specific dates and only covers you if the ATOL holder stops trading, between the date of purchase and the end of your trip.

It is effectively a single trip insurance policy – where the ATOL holder pays a £2.50 premium to cover the very specific possibility of them going bust between taking payment for your holiday, and assuming you make it that far, the date of your scheduled flight and your repatriation flight home, should that become necessary (Thomas Cook et al).

For such a modest premium, it would be very generous indeed for ATOL to extend the period of cover indefinitely, particularly as many holiday companies will be queuing up to enter insolvency proceedings in the coming months.

On the same principle, if you expect your single trip holiday insurance to cover you when you finally redeem your travel voucher and take that delayed holiday, then I wish you luck.

ABTA have updated their FAQs on travel advice, with a section on Refund Credit Notes (RCN) and how they are different to holiday vouchers.

https://www.abta.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak

Holiday cottages are a nice little earner: a good return for not a lot of work and at premium seasonal rates. The capital investment has been appreciating for some years now as well. Like other forms of business, there is commercial risk, and I am disappointed that so many owners and their letting agents are expecting to transfer all that risk onto their customers whio have usually paid in advance.

How is it reasonable to retain all the money and provide nothing in return? Why have they not protected themselves against a downturn or a disaster? Many people wouldn’t consider taking out travel insurance just for a week or two’s stay in a holiday cottage in the UK, and if they’ve got basic accident or illness cover as part of a comprehensive policy that comes with a bank account the chances are it won’t be any help in this sort of crisis.

Simon – I feel you should insist on a refund of all you have paid for the hire of the holiday cottage. While the situation is not the owner’s fault, it is certainly not yours either. The government has assumed responsibility for assisting businesses with the adverse consequences of the coronavirus outbreak: it is not the fault of the customers if the government doesn’t give the hospitality trade the priority it thinks it deserves. If you are put under extreme pressure you might like to offer the money you will save by not having to travel. I would not accept a voucher – you don’t know whether the firm will even be in business this time next year and a voucher that is not bonded, insured or protected in other ways is worthless.

Bizarrely, Colonsay Holiday Cottages have posted on their website, a plea from the Colonsay Community not to travel to Colonsay during the Covid-19 outbreak due to limited medical facilities.

The combined message seems to be please don’t come, we know you may have spent a significant amount of money on your travel plans, but you’ll keep us safe from disease and we’ll get to keep all your money too!