All major British airlines and travel agencies refusing refunds, which one? finds | Business

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Britain’s largest airlines and holiday companies are systematically breaking the law by refusing customers to timely reimburse trips canceled during the pandemic, researchers have found.

Consumer groups have warned that the sector may permanently lose public confidence in booking travel, with whom? finding that 20 of the UK’s largest operators are illegally withholding refunds which should be paid within 14 days.

Most offered credit vouchers or notes, and customers complained that they were unable to get a refund online or go over the phone to make a claim.

Ryanair began telling customers on Monday that they will have to wait until the “COVID-19 emergency is over” if they want a refund for a canceled flight. The Dublin-based carrier initially said it would process refunds within 20 business days, but quickly started tracking back.

According to the travel industry’s own estimates, up to £ 7 billion may be due for canceled trips. However, industry organizations such as Iata, for airlines, and Abta, for travel agencies, say the companies would be bankrupt by paying now because they receive no booking revenue.

Confidence in the reservation has likely fallen further since Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday that he will not book a summer vacation now. The Foreign Ministry has advised against non-essential foreign travel indefinitely.

Which ?, The Consumers’ Association, said that 20 of the UK’s largest tour operators and airlines were breaking the law by not paying the money back quickly. He has received thousands of complaints and requests for help from people struggling to get refunds for canceled trips, and said that vouchers or credit scores could prove to be worthless if businesses collapsed.

Consumer groups have warned that thousands of passengers stranded abroad on canceled flights are not aware that they are entitled to their re-routing charges.

Normally, when an airline starts to cancel, passengers are entitled to EU compensation of € 250-600 (£ 230-550). However, when the cancellation is considered an “extraordinary circumstance” – something beyond the control of the airline, such as a coronavirus – then the rules do not apply.

However, passengers stranded abroad by cancellation in the EU – or due to a return journey on an EU carrier – are entitled to a re-routing or their other travel costs to be reimbursed.

Thousands of air passengers found themselves on the wrong side of cancellations – especially in Spain but also in places like Morocco and Poland. If your flight is canceled, passengers can ask the airline to be redirected to another flight, if possible, or to pay for the replacement of a train or coach.

This applies to all flights that start in the UK, EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland or to flights that arrive in those countries if you are traveling on an airline based in the UK / in the EU.

The airline does not have to pay if the passenger chooses instead to receive a reimbursement for the cost of the return flight. If it is possible to go home, passengers are advised to take the diversion option. Returning passengers must keep all receipts and keep accommodation and other costs “reasonable”.

Concretely, passengers have to fend for themselves, since it is practically impossible to obtain airlines. Passengers trying to call British Airways said on Friday that it was impossible to speak to anyone – and that was before Donald Trump extended the U.S. flight ban to include the UK and Ireland.

The biggest problem may well be getting airlines to pay. They are reluctant to pay the re-routing costs in normal times, let alone the current climate. At the end of the day, it remains to be seen whether they will still be in business to pay, as many say it is unlikely that they will survive without state aid.

As a result, some travelers will likely find themselves relying on travel insurance, where their policy can disrupt the trip.

This is mainly offered by better and more expensive policies. When the passenger has used their credit card to book the flight – directly – with the airline, they may be able to hold their card provider responsible for their additional travel costs – if the flight costs more than £ 100 – and the airline refuses to pay.

Ultimately, the British government may have to intervene to repatriate large numbers of Britons stranded in places such as the Canary Islands or Morocco, where alternative travel is almost impossible.

Passengers on package tours are better protected. Ski customers in France on package tours should be repatriated by the tour operator – and if the business ceases to exist because it goes bankrupt, the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA is expected to fund emergency repatriation flights, under the terms of Atol protection. It’s a similar story for all cruise lines stranded overseas.

Rory Boland, publisher of Which? Travel said: “It is a difficult time for tour operators and airlines, but too many people receive no information or bad advice that could cause them to lose hundreds of pounds. Airlines and operators should be sure to inform customers of how they will bring people home and, if applicable, how they can claim any additional costs they have incurred, such as overnight accommodation.

Miles Brignall

However, he supported travel industry calls for government intervention, recognizing that companies are under “unprecedented pressure” and could shut down if they refunded immediately.

During which? said consumers’ legal right to cash reimbursement should be protected, recommended extending the processing time to 28 days, and that all vouchers be guaranteed against insolvency and possibly redeemable for cash. He also called for a final timetable for the Foreign Ministry’s travel warnings and transparent travel insurance conditions to restore confidence.

Which? researchers have found that 10 of the UK’s largest holiday companies, including Love Holidays and Tui, do not offer full refunds within the legal limit of 14 days, some offering customers only the choice of a new reservation or voucher. Some retain the price of the plane ticket until receipt of the carrier.

He also found that almost all airlines did not reimburse passengers on time, and many customers could not reach call centers to process complaints.

Some carriers, such as Air France and KLM, have refused to offer refunds before the end of a 12-month period, issuing credit notes or authorizing a new reservation instead. Which? said it was “a fair solution and a reasonable balance between protecting their passengers and the operational realities each airline faces.”

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