Too many companies have hoarded your money and refused to provide the refunds you are entitled to during the COVID-19 crisis. But not all holiday companies have behaved badly.
Which? has already highlighted package holiday providers that have been following the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), and providing a cash refund to those customers who need it.
But airlines such as Ryanair are still potentially conning customers over refunds. And Which? has reported several holiday cottage and villa companies to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that we don’t think are following its guidelines.
So now we’ve gathered some of the hotels, airlines, accommodation providers and car hire companies that have been complying with the regulations, to help you choose who to trust your money with for future holidays, once the government has said it’s safe to travel.
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Who should I book flights with after the pandemic?
The coronavirus crisis has taught us that when it comes to booking flights, you’re best off going direct, especially when you’re flying out of the UK and Europe.
Using an online agent for bookings leaves you open to being given the runaround as to who should provide the refund. If your flight’s cancelled, you’re covered by the Denied Passenger Boarding regulation, and the obligation to refund ultimately lies with the airline.
But even those who’ve booked direct have struggled to get timely refunds from airlines. One exception, throughout the crisis, has been Jet2.
It may not have refunded everyone within seven days, but overall it has done a better job than most airlines. In our recent survey regarding coronavirus refunds, 84% of Ryanair customers were still waiting for a refund. By contrast, just 19% of Jet2 customers were.
One happy customer said: ‘I did not contact Jet2, it contacted me. The airline was first class, offering me a full refund without me having to ask.’
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Who should I book a villa with?
Which? has heard from people who found themselves unable to get refunds on villa-only bookings during the pandemic. Some of these bookings have been worth thousands of pounds.
Which? reported two villa companies – Solmar Villas and Villa Plus – to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for appearing not to follow the regulator’s guidelines on refunds. Villa Plus is now refunding villa-only bookings on a rolling basis.
Our best practical advice for future bookings, therefore, is to book flight-inclusive villa packages where possible. Both Kuoni and Jet2 Holidays’ villas can only be bought with flights, so you are always Atol protected and covered under the PTRs.
Our recent refund survey told us that, while Jet2holidays didn’t refund all its customers in the time required by law, it did better than most. And for cheaper villa breaks, Jet2villas is rated highly by Which? members. Kuoni has also been offering cash refunds to customers affected by coronavirus cancellations.
Which hotels are best to book with?
In the current climate, we’d advise booking direct with your hotel. Not only can you negotiate better rates by cutting online agents, such as Lastminute.com and Expedia, out of the equation, but it should also make your refund request simpler if the need arises. Some customers have told us they were passed back and forth between hotel and agent when trying to get money back.
And Which? has seen complaints from consumers who booked non-refundable hotel rooms via online travel agents. They say they struggled to get their money back, despite the hotel offering full refunds to those who booked direct.
When it comes to booking your next hotel stay, our advice is to book a refundable rate, even if it costs a bit more. The chance of hotels closing unexpectedly because of new coronavirus cases remains high.
If you’re booking in the UK, we’ve heard good reports about the refund policies of Premier Inn, which has provided a no-quibble refund to both refundable and non-refundable bookings since March. It’s also automatically upgraded customers on future non-flexible rates to allow for cancellations and refunds.
Greene King Inns and Old English Inns (part of the same company) have issued refunds for all bookings up to 3 July. It’s selling rooms from then onward with a guarantee. That guarantee means if you end up falling ill due to coronavirus and have to cut a future trip short, it will refund you for any lost nights.
International chain Hilton has been offering customers their money back on non-refundable rates, although there have been a few instances of this taking several months.
Who should I book a UK holiday with?
It’s been a testing time for many customers who booked UK breaks. Which? reported four of the UK’s biggest cottage rental companies who weren’t refunding and had potentially unfair terms in their contracts. Of these, Hoseasons and Cottages.com have now changed their refund policies and Sykes will offer a refund if you cannot find a date to swap your cottage to.
However, Center Parcs UK has offered full refunds from the outset. Those who wanted to rebook could do so without an amendment fee and were offered £100 off a new booking, as well as a refund if the new dates were cheaper. If it was pricier, you’d need to pay the difference.
Center Parcs admits that initially customers weren’t refunded quickly, but insists it has ‘implemented new processes to speed this up’ and is working through refunds ‘as quickly and efficiently’ as it can.
Airbnb is another website that has helped customers during the pandemic. Anyone who reserved their property prior to 14 March and has a reservation up to 15 July is entitled to a refund if they can’t travel.
However, now coronavirus is a known event, Airbnb won’t refund bookings made after 14 March. So when choosing your next property, ensure that the owner’s cancellation policy is flexible and be aware that Airbnb is entitled to keep the service fee under its normal terms and conditions.
YHA also did the right thing. Customers with bookings made before 17 April for arrivals up to 16 July are entitled to a full refund.
Who should I book my car hire with?
When looking to book a hire car, Zest Car Rental is a good place to start. As a broker, it sources the car hire company for you and it does its job well. It was awarded Which? Recommended Provider status this year, based on recent survey results, and throughout the coronavirus crisis it has put customers first. It waived its standard cancellation charges for rentals due to start before 1 July, so customers were able to get a full refund.
Multinational car hire companies Alamo and Enterprise also proved themselves during the coronavirus crisis, with flexible policies. They both extended their no-fee cancellation policy to include customers who had paid up front, provided they’d booked directly.
Find out the best and worst-rated car hire companies ready for your next trip.