With the ever-changing rules on travel and green/amber/red lists, it is more important that ever to understand how and when to claim to a refund on your ruined trip or holiday.
As always, there is good news and bad. Often you are in a position to claim refunds, although the travel providers do not always play ball.
Cancellation by Traveller
The landscape of travel and holidays is shifting, and travel providers are realising that nowadays, customers’ plans are subject to much more change.
This means that travel providers and airlines are now often, though not always, much more sympathetic when customers need to change travel plans. Some package holiday providers are offering fee-free changes if you need to switch dates or destination, and automatic refunds if the company cancels a holiday.
But what are your rights if your airline or holiday company are not so obliging?
If you have had to curtail or cancel a holiday or trip due to a Covid-related issue, you should first sound out your travel provider to see whether you can get a refund. Consider keeping a record of phone calls made and copies of emails going back and forth between you.
If your provider is not willing to offer a refund, your next step should be to check your travel insurance policy. Your insurer will almost certainly ask if you have tried speaking to the provider first, before they commit to taking the matter any further. This is where that log of correspondence will come in handy.
Nowadays, most, but not all, have provision for disruptions caused by Covid, but not all offer equal cover. If you are yet to travel, take the opportunity to research and study the small print of various insurance policies to secure the best cover.
However good your policy, it is crucial that the problem that prevents you from travelling was not pre-existent: you didn’t already know about it when you booked travel. If a problem or impediment arises after you have booked and paid part or all of your travel and accommodation costs, you are in a position to claim against your travel insurance. So, if a country is moved from the Green List to Amber or Red for example, after you’ve purchased travel, or while you are at the destination, you are in a valid position to make a claim, assuming that your policy covers Covid risks. Similarly, if you test positive after booking, etc.
Cancellation by Travel Provider
This is more clear-cut. If your airline or holiday provider cancels your travel or holiday, you are entitled to a full refund (if the travel company failed to notify you 14 days or more beforehand, you may be entitled to compensation, in addition.)
Often, customers are pressed to accept a voucher to the same value for future travel or holiday but you are under no obligation to accept it. There are disadvantages to accepting a voucher. For example, if the company goes out of business before you can redeem it, you may end up in possession of a worthless piece of paper.
You may hear of a ruling by the Civil Aviation Authority that flights cancelled due to Covid-19 fall under the “extraordinary circumstance exemption” relating to compensation. This relates to EU rules regarding compensation to passengers for cancelled flights, over and above refund of the cost. It does not relate to refunds. If an airline cancels a flight, you are entitled to a refund.
If your airline or travel provider goes out of business, you can resort to the relevant umbrella authority. If your travel was an air package holiday or air travel, contact ATOL, which is run by the Civil Aviation Authority. Otherwise, contact ABTA.
If you are refused a refund and you think that you are entitled, speak to your travel insurance provider or you may be able to make a claim via your credit or debit card provider.
If your travel cost more than £100 and you paid for all or some via a credit card, you have rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This legislation makes the credit card company “jointly and severally liable” for any breach of contract – for example, cancelled travel. So, you can claim against the credit card company as if it was the travel provider. You can also do this if the travel company goes out of business.
If the cost of your travel was under £100 and you paid with credit card, or any cost when you pay by debit card, you don’t have the same rights but you can submit a chargeback request to the card company. This initiates discussion and negotiation between the card company and the company you bought the travel from. On balance, more than 75% of chargebacks eventually result in a refund,
The refund claim procedure can be lengthy and frustrating for the inexperienced, as you find yourself refused or referred back to speak to the same people repeatedly.
Ardens Solicitors are experienced in dispute resolutions of this nature and can offer expert assistance, if required.
Cancellation of one leg of a journey
If one leg of your journey is cancelled it can render the whole trip unfeasible. If every leg was booked from the same provider, the matter is straightforward. The provider who sold you the trip is obliged to source alternative travel for the cancelled leg and arrange extra accommodation if it becomes necessary. If this is not possible, you are entitled to a full refund.
If legs of the trip are booked with different carriers, it becomes more complicated when one carrier cancels a leg. If you have booked the whole trip via an agent such as Opodo or a bricks-and-mortar travel agent, you should be able to liaise with the agent to arrive at a solution.
Otherwise, and if the cancellation will cause significant financial loss, you would probably benefit from expert legal assistance.
Stalling or Stonewalling
If your travel provider, travel insurance company or card company is refusing your claim or dragging their heels, we can help. Ardens Solicitors are experts in the UK and EU law covering travel in or out of the UK or the EU. We are fluent in English, Polish, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati. For advice, assistance or representation, please contact our Head of Dispute Resolution, at Ivona@ardenslaw.com or on 0207 100 7098.