Life

How to Get Your Money Back From Cancelled Flights

All the information you need to recoup the funds from your now almost definitely cancelled Euro sesh.
27 May 2020, 8:15am
How to get money back from cancelled flights
Photo: Sian Bradley

Holidays, remember them? It may be British summer time, but the coronavirus pandemic is still going on and you might be wondering what to do about your annual romantic break/sesh. Festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury have been cancelled and many tourist attractions remain shut, yet flights abroad are continuing to embark on a daily basis. So what are your options?

The situation is sticky. Some flight operators are currently fobbing off passengers with air miles and coupons for future trips with the same airline, while others are struggling to respond to the huge uptick in customer service enquiries. Like everything corona-related, the situation is ever-changing, but to help clear the air I’ve listed a few scenarios and possible outcomes below.

I’VE BOOKED A HOLIDAY BUT DON'T WANT TO GO ANYMORE. CAN I GET MY MONEY BACK IF I DON'T HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE?

This is an annoying one.

Many airlines are continuing to operate flights in and out of the UK – either because they’re carrying cargo and/or returning passengers home, are a connecting flight, or because rules at European airports mean airlines need to use or lose an allocated time slot.

Some companies also plan to reintroduce a number of flights – Ryanair say they’re kickstarting 40 percent of flights from 1st July 2020.

It’s understandable that you might not want to travel abroad, but sadly, the short answer is if the flight goes, you cannot get a refund. However if you’re sure you’re not going to want to go, there are a few options. Read on!

I’VE BOOKED A HOLIDAY WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE. CAN I RESCHEDULE IT FOR LATER IN THE YEAR OR 2021?

Potentially, yes. This all depends on who you’ve booked with and how flexible they are.

Virgin Atlantic say they will change your ticket to a future date – and even a different location, if you make up any fare difference – with no fee for doing so. There’s a bit of small print depending on when you booked, but essentially this applies to anyone who was due to travel before 31st December 2020. Re-booked trips need to happen before September 2022 at the latest, and you can sort everything via the rebook form on their website.

British Airways operate a similar scheme. Anyone due to travel before 31st July 2020, can claim a voucher that can be used to rebook onto any flight going out before 30 April 2022. The application form is also on their website.

Easyjet, Jet2, Norwegian and several other airlines are operating similar schemes – each with their own small print. If you’re unsure, it’s worth checking the latest COVID-19 information on your airline’s website.

MY FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. I DON'T WANT TO RESCHEDULE AND I DON'T WANT A VOUCHER. HOW DO I GET A REFUND IF I DON'T HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE?

You are legally entitled a refund under EU flight delay laws if your flight has been cancelled, but an increase in demand has meant many airlines are trying to push customers to take vouchers instead. You don’t have to accept one and are within your legal right to get cash instead.

The difficulty is getting through to a customer service representative. You can call – but phone lines are jammed. I don’t really know what to suggest to deal with this, beside calling as soon as they open in the morning, like you might with festival tickets.

If you bought the flight tickets with a credit card and are a) infuriated by the hold music and/or b) aren’t willing to spend money to be put on hold for hours, you can ask your card provider to try a chargeback. This is basically a protection that’s offered to consumers, where you’re able to claim money back if you paid for goods that weren’t received.

This applies to your usual online activities, like if you’ve been scammed buying a Nintendo Switch, but it can also apply to flights that haven’t been refunded. You can start a claim by calling up your bank, although they might also likely have delays in their customer service. However, the protection also isn’t a legal requirement and is at the bank’s discretion, so it’s not 100 percent certain you’ll be able to claim your money back. Worth trying though.

Some airlines are reportedly not giving customers cash refunds, even though they’ve asked for one. I’ve experienced this with Ryanair, who sent a voucher even though I requested a refund. Under EU law, they are not allowed to do this and MoneySavingExpert has made a formal complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority and Trading Standards, as thousands of passengers are in a similar situation. No news on what’s going to happen next, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. In the meantime, a Ryanair spokesperson has told MSE that any customers who don’t use their voucher will still be entitled to a refund, once the 12 month period in which to use the voucher is up.

The situation is far from great for consumers, but airlines are slowly introducing new policy, so not all hope is lost. Most recently, TUI customers are now able to apply for cash refunds for cancelled holidays, even after the holiday operator had previously experienced huge delays in processing anything.

I’VE GOT TRAVEL INSURANCE AND HAVE A HOLIDAY BOOKED, BUT THE FLIGHT MIGHT BE CANCELLED OR I MIGHT CANCEL IT MYSELF. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

If the flight is cancelled, head to the section above. If not, you might still be protected by your insurance. Info varies slightly on provider, but essentially, if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against travel (which they are right now), and they’re still advising against it on the date you planned to head away, you’re able to use your insurance, providing the cover was bought before coronavirus stormed the world (e.g. if you booked in 2019 to travel in 2020).

However, do not (!!) cancel the holiday or flight yourself. If you do, you won’t be able to use your insurance as you’ve kicked in something called "disclination to travel" – basically, voiding your insurance. Just wait until the flight is either cancelled or the date comes up and you’re inevitably still not able to go.

I MIGHT BOOK A HOLIDAY FOR LATE SUMMER. IS THIS A GOOD IDEA?

If you've an inbox like mine, you'll no doubt have plenty cheap airline junk mails landing in your inbox offering affordable flights to a range of weekend Euro break destinations. Airlines have lost out big time due to coronavirus and are now starting to re-book passengers onto flights later in the year, or next. Should you book one? Obviously that's up to you – you are your own boss. But travel insurers are unlikely to cover you, meaning you won't be able to get a refund if travel restrictions are still in place. I guess it depends how much you care about losing money. Personally, I'm gonna be sitting in my garden and local park for the rest of the summer.

@ryanbassil