Thomas Cook drops policy of refusing flight tax refundsWhich? success as consumers can now reclaim APD

03 August 2013


Customers who cancel their flight with Thomas Cook Airlines can now get a refund of their Air Passenger Duty (APD). The company has improved its policy in response to Which? research showing that it was the only one of nine major airlines that refused to refund APD.

The Which? news story this April revealed that a family of four would have lost £332 in APD if they cancelled a Thomas Cook flight to Goa, or £268 for destinations such as the USA and Gambia.

APD is charged on almost all flights departing from the UK, but airlines only pass the tax to the Treasury if a passenger boards the plane. So when people have cancelled their flight on Thomas Cook Airlines, the APD amount kept by the company has been pure profit.

APD and cancelled flights

As a result of our research, Thomas Cook Airlines decided to change its policy and issue APD refunds when customers need to cancel their flight, just like other short-haul and long-haul airlines such as British Airways and EasyJet.

The amount charged in APD on top of the air fare depends on the distance of the final destination, ranging in economy class from £13 per person for flights within Europe to £94 on routes over 6,000 miles, such as to Argentina and Australia.

Airline admin fees

However, Thomas Cook has followed airlines such as Flybe and Ryanair in charging an admin fee to process the refund. The carrier charges £25 per booking, £12 more than the APD in the case of flights to a European city. 

Some airlines have more consumer-friendly policies, for example EasyJet issues APD refunds without any admin fee.

A Which? Travel expert said: ‘We welcome the fact that Thomas Cook Airlines has responded to our research on APD refunds by improving its policy. We're pleased that consumers cancelling long-haul flights will no longer lose out unnecessarily on up to hundreds of pounds of APD. However, we are disappointed there will be an admin charge that is higher than the APD for flights within Europe, making it pointless for some short-haul customers to apply for a refund.'

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