What are the rules on travel refunds?

Many holidaymakers have struggled to obtain refunds for cancelled trips during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here the PA news agency answers seven key questions on the issue.

– What are the rules on flight refunds?

For most cancelled flights, you are entitled to a full cash refund within seven days.

This covers flights where the airline is based in the UK or EU, or you are departing from a UK or EU airport.

Airlines grounded the majority of their fleets following the coronavirus outbreak (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Airlines grounded the majority of their fleets following the coronavirus outbreak (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– How about package holidays?

Consumers are protected under the Package Travel Regulations, which mean they should get their money back within 14 days.

– So those are the rules, but what is the reality?

Many consumers have faced long delays in getting refunds for cancelled trips during the pandemic.

Consumer group Which? says more than £1 billion is still owed to package holiday customers.

£1 billion+ in refunds is still being unlawfully withheld for cancelled holidays.

Struggling families are suffering financial problems and stress as a result.

Some companies have been breaking the law for more than 6 months.#RefundPassengershttps://t.co/RGODcbhqXl

— Which? Travel (@WhichTravel) November 3, 2020

– Why has this happened?

The outbreak of coronavirus led to a surge of refund requests.

Travel companies have faced the dual pressure of trying to slow losses and operational difficulties in processing more payouts than normal.

– Is anything being done about delayed refunds?

The Civil Aviation Authority says its discussions with airlines resulted in them changing their practices and they are all now offering cash refunds.

The Competition and Markets Authority says it is continuing to investigate package holiday companies and it “won’t hesitate to take action” if it finds “any business is not complying with consumer protection law”.

– What about alternatives to refunds?

Many firms have tried to ease their cash flow problems by encouraging customers to accept refund credit notes instead of cash refunds.

These allow people to re-book their holiday or request their money back at a later date.

– What about vouchers?

Some companies have offered vouchers rather than refund credit notes.

Although these are often worth more than the original booking – to incentivise customers not to request cash – the Civil Aviation Authority has warned they are not Atol-protected.

That means holders face being out of pocket if the issuing firm goes bust.