Is your airline hanging onto money that belongs to you?

Big happy family with three kids traveling by airplane at Dusseldorf International airport, parents with teenager boy, toddler g

From 1 March this year, Air Passenger Duty has been abolished for all children under the age of 16. It means anyone flying with kids after this date could be due a refund from their airline. The problem is that each airline is dealing with this differently - so yours may be hanging onto your cash.

The change was announced back in December 2014. In the first phase, the duty was removed for all under 12s from 1 May 2015, and travellers with younger children taking off after this date were forced to claim the tax back. Now a new tranche of families are affected.

This is essentially excellent news. As Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, points out: "This will save a family of four with two kids £26 on a flight to Europe and £142 on a flight to the USA."

However, there's a real risk that families will not get around to reclaiming their cash. A Money.co.uk survey showed that over a third of parents couldn't be bothered reclaiming the money, while those who said they were prepared to ask for their money back would only do so if they stood to gain an average of £28. Given that the average short haul flight to Europe comes with a £13 fee for air tax, this falls well short of the kind of money people would bother for.

Maundrell urges parents to reconsider, saying: "Every penny counts when you're bringing up a family so please do not leave this money with your airline. Do what it takes to get the cash back and put it back into your holiday spending pot."

How can you do it?
The first step is to check whether you have been charged the duty at all. The removal of the tax was initially announced at the end of 2014, so if you booked your ticket since then, there's a chance you haven't been charged duty anyway. However, don't assume this is the case, because a number of airlines have continued to charge it.

Most companies don't put the tax charge on their tickets, so you will need to call customer services to see if you paid the tax. You should also ask them for the procedure for applying for your money back. Money.co.uk has published a guide to how to apply for each - along with the relevant phone numbers.

Some are still charging the duty for those aged between 12 and 16, but are issuing automatic refunds if you're flying after 1 March. These include American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Thomas Cook.

Others have stopped charging the duty for this age group, but if you booked before they stopped, you'll get an automatic refund. These include easyJet, First Choice, Monarch and Thomson.

Others are still charging the duty, and insist you fill out a form to apply for your money back. These include Cathay Pacific. KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle (via the 'contact us' part of its website), Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International, Virgin Atlantic and WowAir.

And then there are those who aren't charging for the duty any more, but if you booked before they stopped, you have to apply for a refund. These include Flybe and Ryanair.

Finally, there are those with more complex rules. British Airways is issuing automatic refunds if you booked after 30 September 2015. If you booked before then, you'll need to apply. Tickets booked very recently won't have charged the duty.

Jet2, meanwhile, asks you to log onto 'manage my booking' if you booked before December 2014, to request a refund. If you booked after this date, you'll get an automatic refund.

You also need to bear in mind that parents who booked package deals will have to go back to the tour operator to make a claim, not the airline.

Plus, if the total ticket price is less than the duty, you won't get a refund at all.

In future, there's always the hope that this tax will be scrapped for all passengers. This is something Flybe has been campaigning for. It says that the duty costs British passengers more than £3.1 billion a year - and has increased almost tenfold since 1995. It is the highest aviation tax in Europe and one of the highest in the world. It is particularly damaging for those flying within the UK - which it says is putting a brake on regional development.

We can only hope the government comes round to this way of thinking. In the interim, the very least we can do is make sure we reclaim every penny of the tax that we can.

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Is your airline hanging onto money that belongs to you?

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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