Coronavirus holidays: Thousands of Britons owed £7billion as airlines deny refunds

Coronavirus has resulted in all holidays being called off as Britons are barred from all but essential travel. This has resulted in many holidaymakers requiring refunds for trips they cannot take. However, banks and airlines have been refusing to provide cash refunds – and are breaking the law in doing so.


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Under current EU law, customers are entitled to a refund within 14 days for cancelled package holidays and within seven days for cancelled flights.

However, as airlines become inundated with requests this is becoming an increasingly difficult deadline to meet.

What’s more, crisis-hit carriers are concerned about going bust – and are essentially using travellers’ money as interest-free loans.

In turn, this has a knock-on effect on package holiday companies.

These businesses are unable to issue their own refunds before airline repay them.

Industry estimates suggest companies are sitting on £7billion in unpaid refunds, according to ABTA.

The Commons transport committee chairman, Tory MP Huw Merriman, said: “Yes, airlines have a need for cash but this should be drawn from their lenders, not from passengers who are legally entitled to a refund.

“Many people have their own financial worries and may not be able to use a future travel voucher.”

The Competition and Markets Authority has revealed that four out of five complaints it is getting daily are from Britons who have been denied travel refunds.

The UK watchdog will soon announce a new crackdown, reported MailOnline.

Ryanair’s latest policy update explains that cash refunds will only be given  “in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over.”

British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Virgin Atlantic and TUI have also come under fire for providing customers with vouchers.

A Virgin spokesman told “Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays are currently responding to a huge volume of enquiries, and our customer advisors are all working from home in order to comply with the UK Government’s social distancing measures.

“We continue to adapt to these working arrangements, manage staff sickness levels, and help our valued customers. As a result, refund requests made now for cancelled trips are taking longer than usual to be logged and processed and we’re very grateful for our customers’ continued patience as we deal with this unprecedented situation.” 


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BA will only process refunds if telephoned by customers – although getting through on the customer service line can prove tricky.

A BA spokesman told “If a customer’s flight has been cancelled, they should call us to discuss their options. They can rebook, refund or choose to take a voucher to fly at a later date. Refunds can be requested at any point up to 12 months after the start date of the journey.”

A TUI spokeswoman told “We’re really sorry that some customers have had to wait longer than we expected to receive their refunds. As an industry, we are having to adapt to the current crisis and the unprecedented cancellation of worldwide travel. We are processing refunds as quickly as we can. 

“Where a customer has their holiday cancelled we’re offering them 120% of the amount they paid towards another holiday or they can get a cash refund. We haven’t refused to refund any customers but we’re exceptionally busy and most refunds are taking around 4 weeks to process. This is longer than we would like but these are extraordinary times.”

Credit-note vouchers have little consumer protection and, if an airline collapses, could prove worthless.  

British holidaymakers are even struggling to reclaim money from their banks under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Banks have told customers they are not eligible for cash refunds, or asking them to pursue the money from the travel firm first – which is not a legal requirement.

“If you claim under Section 75 though, you are asking the credit card company itself to cover you, and while they may be legally obliged to do this, they are likely to be much more reticent to,” said Martin Lewis.

On Tuesday night, the Commons transport committee of MPs confirmed plans to investigate the problem.

A series of hearings will be held with aviation bosses next week. has contacted easyJet for further comment.

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