/ 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

Amazed and dare I say in current circumstances delighted with travel company who have refunded both hotel visits at start and end of trip to Malaga, this was Booking.com.
Unfortunately but equally unsurprisingly No such joy with Ryanair, applied for full refund in line with guidance and c of a, but oh! Dear dealing with an eel with wet hands would have been easier, told I was finally ‘successful’ only to wait the obligatory 20 then received a voucher?
The only way to deal with this is through small claims and send in th Sheriff. imo.

Ryanair will tell you that you can rebook your flight with them, you have to pay to do this and you will also have to pay to have your luggage allowance transferred and it is entirely legal. Just read the terms and conditions. I won’t travel Ryanair and it is about time people voted with their feet and didn’t use them either.

Linda Lightfoot says:
26 April 2020

I booked a flight for my sister with Ryanair for mid march 2020, Cork to Stanstead, when they cancelled the flight they advised me via email. Then a couple of weeks later another generic email saying they had a lot of work on, and then an email to claim a voucher for the flight. Scrolling down the emails there was a small link to claim a refund, however this link brought you to the voucher claim page. I have gone around and around in circles, being redirected to the voucher page. My sister was coming over for a specific occasion which has now passed, a voucher is not acceptable. I am still waiting for my refund and have made complaint on their website.

Elaine Mceachern says:
27 April 2020

I booked return flights from Stansted to Ibiza for April 2020 and have the same run around as Linda L.
When they cancelled the flight they advised me via email that I could claim for a refund, which I did.
Then a couple of weeks later another generic email saying they had a lot of work on, and then an email to claim a voucher for the flight which lasts for a year. I don’t want a voucher I want my refund.
Scrolling down the email there was a small link to claim a refund, however this link brought you to the voucher claim page. I have gone around and around in circles, being redirected to the voucher page. A voucher is not acceptable.
I bought my flights in good faith, they have my money so why is it not being refunded?

I have just received 100% refund from Fred Olsen cruise lines of £8806 for a cancelled cruise last March. Totally professional reaction and no hassle. They will always get my future bookings
I am also exchanging e-mails with SYKES COTTAGES who have cancelled a booking for a cottage I had booked from 22nd May 2020 because I did not pay a deposit on time of £937 on 10th April 2020.
The irony of this is the cottage and the whole venue of Coniston Hotel group is closed until at least the end of May 2020 so we couldn’t go anyway!!
Are SYKES not totally without an ounce of common sense or customer care??
Finally I have just been informed by James Villas that the deposit paid of £1098 for booking I had made Greece in August 2020 will not refunded because I have cancelled it. Another very un professional attitude to take if they want to retain customer loyalty. If I have the awareness to realise this holiday will not be able to go ahead whilst there is global social distancing for the forseeable future why can’t they???
These holidays were to celebrate my 80th birthday with my family – so sad.

Richard Holmes says:
27 April 2020

RYANAIR. I have booked flights to Ibiza flying on 11 May and on 8 April I received an email from RYANAIR offering to me the option to change my flights up to 31 August with no flight change fee but that I would have to pay the difference in fare (which I expect has been hiked). Another condition was that I could not book a flight to the same destination in May which leads me to think that they know that they will not be running flights in May.

NB 1. Cleverly RYANAIR have not said that my flight has been cancelled. This is I presume gets them out of having to offer a refund.

I read in my Which magazine to leave trying to get a refund for a few weeks to give the airlines a chance to catch up.
Yesterday I received an email from RYANAIR informing me that I should reserve my seats.
NB 2. I had reserved seats at the time of booking my flights.
I hope that the computers that manage the airplanes’ engines work better and don’t send incorrect messages to their pilots.

So stimulated by the incorrect email, I was prompted to try for a refund. I used the RYANAIR online refund form and received a message that the flight had not been cancelled. If that was the case what was the original email all about. I expect that what I’ll have to do on the day of the flight is drive to the airport check in desk and photograph the departures board showing the flight cancellation to use as proof in due course.

My tale is the same as so many other customers of RYANAIR. Just being fobbed off in the hope that we’ll give up. RYANAIR’S computer programmers must be working overtime thinking of new ways to keep customers away from successfully completing the refund form.

Rogue Traders could make an interesting programme. Shame we are all in lockdown otherwise we could have a silent protest outside RYANAIR offices.

Richard – Your Plan B is a goood idea but it’s unlikely that restrictions on non-essential travel will be lifted by 11 May so driving to the airport so you can take that crucial picture could get you into trouble. I bet there’s a website that shows the flights departure status for each airport.

“I hope that the computers that manage the airplanes’ engines work better and don’t send incorrect messages to their pilots.”

Flying on a Boeing 737 Max (thankfully still grounded), I wouldn’t hold out too much hope 🙁

If you want to check on Ryanair’s departures, you can used flightradar24 to track any commercial flight in real time.

Andrew Mortimer says:
27 April 2020

Booked with TUI a long time ago. They are only interested in us rebooking our holiday. They will not fund the £3,500 they owe us. we are due to travel to Croatia on 31st May 2020. This is not going to happen. What can we do? ABTA appears to be supporting TUI and the like saying that a credit note is the best we can hope for. This is just not acceptable. If “Which” can help I would be delighted. The government won’t help as it is not in there interest to support consumers. They will support business though. Especially those that are quite big like TUI. HELP!

Andrew – ABTA is not an official body but a representative organisation for travel agents. Which? has criticised its guidance to the travel trade as not conforming to the legal position. While it is not wrong to offfer alternative options, air tour organisers must not deny the right to a refund under the official ATOL scheme managed by the Civil Aviation Authority. Send a formal letter to TUI demanding a refund.

Jude Bregazzi says:
27 April 2020

Been trying to get hold of co op travel for information on refund for a holiday that was due to depart on 19/03/20, couldn’t get through. Tried different number to book a holiday and got a person!. No courtesy email/ call nothing on cancellation, Asked person on booking site and she said we will get an email with number to ring but didn’t know when.
So their not to busy to take our money, but to busy to advise on refunds due.

Matt says:
28 April 2020

Of course the Government should act. This is not really about travel at all, but respect for the law. If the Government cannot or will not enforce the law then it loses legitimacy, basically enforce the law or resign and let a legitimate administration take over!

Laurence Miller says:
28 April 2020

Personally I would be willing to re-book my flight if the airline offers me the same price and similar seat. I am happy to pay the same price even if I travel at a cheaper time but I expect the same price if I have to travel at a more expensive time. If the airline cannot do this then I want a cash refund so I can shop around.

Rosemary Stickells says:
28 April 2020

My flight was cancelled 6th April said they are busy not heard from them what do I do

Has anyone made a claim on their travel insurance for a flight or holiday that’s been cancelled due to the pandemic? If so, what happened?

We’d be interested to hear your experience!

I didn’t even bother trying!!!

Blue Bear Gold annual travel policy – a Which? “Best buy” policy for ages 65-79 – states: “Cover is only provided if: Cancellation is not … due to the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

The Blue Bear website confirms this: “Following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) there will be no cover for Cancellation, abandonment or curtailment claims if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises you not to travel … .”

Oddly enough, Blue Bear travel insurance is totally invalid if you DO travel against the advice of the FCO, so it’s pretty much a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t and thanks for all the money.

I sincerely hope that Which? will now review its travel insurance recommendations to ensure that such policy clauses receive more scrutiny.

Carole Wilton says:
29 April 2020

Even before we had notification of our 1st cancellation for 3rd week of March we got a message from our insurance saying that Covid-19 problems would not be covered

Reg says:
29 April 2020

Post office insurance said I’m not covered for the pandemic as I was not actually sick when I caught the last flight out of Sydney airport as recommended by my travel agent, loosing 4 weeks of my holiday and booked flights.

edith johnston says:
4 May 2020

We were brought home from Lanzarote due to the Spanish gov closing everything down because of Covid-19. My travel insurer AIG are refusing my claim, saying I’m not covered!

Michael says:
6 May 2020

Audley Travel repaid me in full (a little longer than 2 weeks, but they explained they were all busy getting their clients home)

I had bookings for a flight London-Boston-Charlotte -London in late March, which of course I could not use, not least as the US had suspended entry for non-US citizens. Total cost about £1400 for 2 passengers. The flights were booked with Opodo. I hung on the phone for 3 hours one day and failed to gat a reply, and have had a couple of emails since to which it is impossible to reply.

Also have booking for a trip to Svalbard in July with Hurtigruten. Deposit paid about £2700 for 2 passengers. Initially Hurtigruten wanted me to pay the balance of £10,000 with a reservation for 2021, which I declined, and so far have heard no more. Total of the two bookings about £4100 and impossible to make any contact.

I had two bookings with Brittany Ferries when the first one got cancelled by them I had no option but to receive a voucher for a future sailing after several emails to them explaining that I already have another sailing booked for the future they were very unsympathetic and said I had to accept the voucher again after several emails explaining the situation the still said I had to accept the voucher and this was in line with the advice they received from ABTA, due to them not answering any telephone calls I have had no option but to put this to my bank and get them to initiate a refund on my behalf as it was paid in full on a credit card and I believe under the consumer credit act they have to act on my behalf.

George says:
29 April 2020

Love holidays waited 6 weeks so far still no refund estimated refund, yes they actually answered me , (oh sorry they have me given me£10.), the rest 13 June if airline keeps their word they will pass to it to me .Another 8 weeks at least. Surely this is not right .Credit card supplier will not help said ABTA package their problem.

Ian Edwards says:
29 April 2020

I booked 2 return ticket to Sydney from Aberdeen in August 2019 for flights in February 2020. The flights where KLM and booked with Expedia. As the travel date approached I contacted both KLM and Expedia to ask if I could re-route the flights, the original tickets were booked with a stopover in Guangzhou in China, and we really didn’t wan to fly through China. They were KLM/Airfrance tickets, but operated by China Southern.
KLM wouldn’t talk to me because I’d booked through Expedia, Expedia, when I could get hold of them on the phone, there was no effective email address, tried to help, but need KLM’s permission to change the tickets, KLM wouldn’t answer their questions, round in circles, catch 22 stuff.
The log jam ended when China Southern cancelled the flights about a week before we were due to fly, I phone Expedia and got a full refund within 3 days.
I re-booked with Cathay Pacific and did the round trip via Hong Kong without a problem, getting back to the UK about a week before Australia went into full international isolation. Hong Kong airport was absolutely deserted during the 1:30 min stopover in the middle of the night.

Brian Connor says:
29 April 2020

Booked a cottage with Sykes Cottages for mid March 2020.
On making the booking I paid for travel insurance with Sykes Cottages.
I then received a letter from both Government and Counsel telling me that I am “extremely vulnerable” and must stay home for 12 weeks.
I sent an email to Sykes and received an acknowledgement of receipt of same.
I have since sent several emails all acknowledged as received by Sykes but no action taken whatsoever.
I then sent a registered letter informing them that I intended proceeding to legal action. This resulted in a return email saying they would contact the booked cottage and get back to me.
(my contract was with Sykes not the booked cottage)
I have now waited 10 days but no contact with Sykes who are absolutely impossible to contact by phone.
I will now issue a formal registered letter of my intention to proceed to legal action.

Janarda Vyas says:
29 April 2020

I want to expose another scandals by Indian stores. Indians- us included- have additional shopping needs like Indian vegetables, grocery, pickles, chappati flour etc. over and above our usual shopping. To our disgust the Indian shops have almost doubled the prices of everyday items and in some cases even more- Gram flour, previously sold at £2.45 for a 2 Kg bag is now £6.99 or more. Indian vegetables are typically £10 per Kg, compared to around £5 per Kg before the Covid-19. I would like our Indian readers to voice their experience and if widespread then boycott those shops exploiting the crisis.

I am waiting for a refund from Expeadia – They gave me a reference number promising to get back to me within 48 hrs and I’ve heard nothing since. It has now been about 5 weeks!! I am only fortunate in that the figure owed is in the hundreds and not thousands like some other people are waiting on.

I also noted Sainsbury’s Lactose Free Full Cream milk prices rocketed during the first week while other stores remained the same. They went up from £1.40p to £1.80p and then the next day it was £1.90p!! NOW they have reduced it to £1.50p but still more than it was and more than Tesco prices which stayed stable at $1.40p,

We booked a Sykes Cottage at the beginning of March for the week beginning Easter Monday, typically just before covid hit the UK. Sykes instructed us not to travel in an email sent 24/3/20 and the email included a link to change the dates of our holiday, but only for the same cottage. Trying to rearrange was ridiculous as (a) we don’t know when we’re safe to travel (b) availability was already severely limited, later in the year having already been booked and (c) I’m restricted to school holidays as I work in a school. So, I ended up looking at a year away, Easter 2021, again the week beginning Easter Monday…..which resulted in a price hike of almost double this year at the same time of year. Definitely a case of taking advantage of the current situation! I contacted Sykes via email and got an unacceptable standard reply of annual business price increases. After persisting to get through by telephone, and following three lengthy telephone conversations, to highlight the unreasonable price hike and therefore request booking a different property or obtain some sort of ‘credit voucher’, Sykes responded that there is nothing they can do as it is “the property owner’s prerogative” and they don’t operate credit vouchers as they “are an independent”. It’s a case of cancelling and losing the money (as our bank has retracted travel insurance) or paying almost double again! We tried every which way to negotiate but the property owner won’t budge and Sykes are obviously favouring their property owners! Profit gouging!!

I’m waiting for a refund from STA Travel that has nothing to do with a cancelled flight due to COVID-19. It is due to their incompetence with me being stuck at an airport last year and having to buy a new ticket to get home. They agreed to return my money… still waiting. Instead they sent me a ‘standard’ please be patient message. That was over a month ago. So as far as I can tell they are now using CV-19 as an excuse not to respond and not to pay me my money of almost £1000.