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The 10 biggest holiday firms and the 10 biggest airlines all broke the law on refunds for cancelled trips during the current pandemic.
Customers of Lastminute.com, Loveholidays and Expedia all had to battle to get refunds for cancelled holidays. They faced unanswered emails, unanswered phone calls and companies that made them wait months to get their money back. Many are still waiting.
These companies now want customers to book with them again. But given they broke the law on refunds already, there is every risk they will do so again.
Instead, holidaymakers should book with the handful of tour operators and holiday companies that have continued to refund customers throughout this crisis.
Which? Travel brand of the year Trailfinders, walking and cycling specialists Inntravel and luxury holiday provider Kuoni are among those who have offered passengers cash refunds within 14 days of package holiday cancellations, as required by law. All three are also Which? Recommended Provider holiday companies.
Find more unbiased advice on travel and the coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel.
Why you should book a package
However hard it’s been for the customers of some big package holiday firms during the pandemic, those who bought flights and hotels separately had it even worse.
There’s usually no way to get your money back for a flight if the government suddenly removes a destination from its list of travel corridors. If you’re careful when booking a holiday you can still be protected, even in these difficult times.
Specialist and smaller holiday firms lead the way
We have seen numerous examples of firms that are abiding by the law and looking after their customers’ interests. All of the following are complying with Package Holiday Regulations. These are just the ones we’ve heard about – there are almost certainly more.
- Abercrombie and Kent (Luxury holidays)
- Adventure Creators (Pyrenees specialists)
- Carrier Travel (Luxury, personalised holidays)
- Discover Egypt & Jordan (Holidays and cruises in Egypt and Jordan)
- Discover the world (Arctic and unusual holiday specialists)
- Erna Low (French alp ski holidays)
- Explore Worldwide (Small group, adventure travel)
- Far & Wild (Safari specialists)
- Ffestiniog Travel (Rail holidays)
- Friendship Travel (Solo travel)
- Inntravel (Walking and cycling specialists)
- Journey Latin America (Escorted tours and holidays)
- Jules Verne (Escorted tours for small groups)
- Kuoni (Luxury holidays)
- Llama Travel (Latin American travel)
- Much Better Adventures (Small group adventure holidays)
- Mountain Kingdoms (Walking and trekking)
- Nuco Travel (Ski holidays)
- Pura Aventura (Spain, Portugal and Latin America)
- Sona Tours (Escorted tours)
- Snow-wise (Ski weekends and short breaks)
- Sport Options (Sports tour operator)
- Trailfinders (Which? Travel brand of the year)
- Travel Local (Network of travel agents worldwide)
Why ring-fenced trust accounts are important
Some companies – such as Trailfinders put their customers’ money into a ring-fenced trust account when they receive it. This meant that when the pandemic hit it was much easier for them to refund customers. It’s also reassuring for customers making new bookings.
Other package holiday companies typically use customers’ money to pay airlines long before the flight, meaning that if the airlines fail to refund they struggle to get the money back.
Which? Recommended Provider commitment
The firms listed above were those that refunded within the law from the start of the crisis. As many of them are small, boutique firms they might not appear in our annual holiday companies survey but we’re confident they’re doing a great job.
You can also rely on our Which Recommended Providers. Jet2 has received lots of praise for its quick handling of refunds, as has Hays Travel. While they haven’t always refunded within 14 days, they have done so far quicker than major competitors, and not tried to force vouchers or credit notes on to customers.
Escorted tours and river cruise specialist Riviera Travel has refunded customers promptly for the last few months, despite problems at the very start of the pandemic.
We know, because we surveyed thousands of customers about their experiences in getting refunds from more than 40 holiday companies. We have used this data to inform our annual best and worst holiday company reviews.
This still rates each holiday company on customer experiences of everything from whether the holiday matched how it was advertised to customer service, but we have also assessed each company’s treatment of customers over refunds.
All Which? Recommended Provider companies have now committed to providing cash refunds for cancelled holidays within 30 days.
Read the full results of our best and worst holiday company survey.
How to get a refund if your holiday is cancelled
If your flight or package holiday has been cancelled, you don’t have to accept a voucher or credit note, nor do you have to rebook. You are legally entitled to a refund.
However many companies are ignoring this rule and hoping that the government will change the law.
If your travel provider is one of the firms that is playing fair, such as those above, you can help them by choosing to postpone your holiday, rather than take a refund, but you’re under no obligation to do so.
See our advice on what to do if your travel company is refusing to refund your money.