Airline by airline guide to claiming a flight refund
Few sectors have been as impacted by the coronavirus crisis as the aviation industry. A recent report by the International Air Transport Association predicted that airlines would lose $314bn in revenue this year – almost three times greater than its original ‘worst-case scenario’ prediction in March.
Due to this dramatic reduction in passengers and revenue, some industry bodies are speculating that the majority of airlines will be bankrupt by the end of May without government support.
In light of the above, it’s unsurprising to see that a study by Which? found that all of the UK’s largest airlines and most holiday companies are denying timely refunds to customers for travel cancelled during the pandemic.
The study noted that twenty of the UK’s largest operators are illegally withholding refunds that should in normal circumstances be paid within 14 days. Instead, many customers are being offered vouchers or credit notes, and are finding it difficult to obtain refunds online or speak to a customer care assistant on the phone.
It’s estimated that up to £7bn could be owed for cancelled trips, but with airlines dragging their heels, consumers are being denied the chance to claim compensation and get their money back in their account.
With this in mind, how can consumers navigate the barriers stopping them from getting a monetary refund? And what is the best refund process for each major airline in the UK?
For customers whose flights have been cancelled British Airways has removed the option of being able to submit a refund claim form online. Instead, the website will navigate you through to a page where you can claim an online credit voucher which is valid for travel up to 30 April 2022.
To get a cash refund, customers must call the airline on 0800 727 800 from within the UK, or +44 (0)203 250 0145 from abroad.
Like most airlines, British Airways is warning customers face a lengthy wait time if they do call and they may not be able to process the refund over the phone.
EasyJet grounded all commercial flights on 30 March and immediately removed the automatic refund option from its website to persuade passengers to opt for a future travel voucher.
However, it has since reversed its decision and become one of the few UK airlines to allow customers to apply for a refund online should the flight be cancelled.
The airline is trying to process all refunds within 28 days but has asked customers to allow up to 90 days before contacting customer service about their request.
Earlier this month, Jet2.com, Britain’s second-biggest holiday company, cancelled all of its flights and holidays up to mid-June. Under normal circumstance, this should have resulted in an automatic refund within 14 days for all customers affected.
However, the airline is instead offering all affected customers an opportunity to rebook their flight to a later departure date without paying an admin fee. To amend their booking, consumers need to fill in a form on Jet.com’s website before midnight 31 May.
Alternatively, customers can request a credit note and can use this to rearrange their flights from within six months of receiving the note.
At the start of the coronavirus crisis, Ryanair was offering a straightforward online form for customers to fill out to secure a refund for a cancelled flight.
But it has now made a U-turn and sneakily sent passengers who asked for a refund a voucher or credit note instead. While Ryanair’s voucher can be used for any Ryanair services over the next 12 months, many customers have still complained they would prefer a refund.
If a customer wants to get a monetary refund, they will need to call the support line and make a request. Ryanair has told consumers that some refunds will not be processed until after the coronavirus crisis has passed – and when that will be is anyone’s guess.
Few airlines have been in the headlines as much as Virgin Atlantic in recent months. It started the crisis by forcing staff to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave and has been criticised for requesting a £500m bailout from the UK government.
The airline has also been trying to avoid paying out refunds to customers. Instead, it is currently issuing a credit note automatically to any passengers impacted by flight cancellations. Customers must be aware that they don’t need to accept this credit note, and can ask for a full refund instead.
Wizz Air is one of the first European airlines to recommence flights, with services out of London Luton taking off last week.
While this is good news for the aviation industry, there are growing concerns this decision will mean passengers with existing bookings who are unable to travel won’t qualify for a refund.
Despite the UK still being under the lockdown, the FCO is still only advising against all but essential travel. Therefore, consumers are free to follow the advice or to ignore it.
This creates a loophole for the airlines and means that customers have no automatic right to a refund by law as they are free to travel should they wish.
In this instance, the only way to get a refund is if the airline decides you qualify – and in Wizz Air’s case, it may be unlikely consumers will.
Adam Ewart is CEO and founder of international luggage delivery service, Send My Bag