National lockdowns in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make it illegal for anybody to undertake non-essential travel. Yet, British Airways and Ryanair continue to refuse to offer refunds for passengers who would have to break the law to take their flight.
Which? asked the UK’s five biggest airlines if passengers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can claim a cash refund if prevented from travelling by lockdown law. Jet2, Tui and easyJet confirmed they could, even if the flight is still operating. British Airways, however, are not refunding customers for flights that are still operating. Ryanair didn’t respond to our requests for information, but its website says passengers can only rebook rather than claim a refund.
In December, the competition regulator launched an investigation into the refusal of airlines to offer customers cash refunds for flights they could not take because national, regional or local lockdown laws in the UK prevented them from travelling.
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What you should do if your airline refuses a cash refund
Make sure you ask for a cash refund, ideally by email. If the airline refuses or doesn’t communicate with you, then act before your flight takes place by accepting the voucher or rebooking that is offered. The fact that you have asked for a cash refund on record may put you in a better position to retrospectively claim your money, if the Competition and Markets Authority later acts and tells airlines to pay cash refunds.
You should also submit a complaint to the CMA.
What easyJet, Jet2, TUI, British Airways and Ryanair say about refunds
EasyJet lockdown refunds
EasyJet will offer refunds to all customers.
It is still running domestic flight routes and a small number of international routes but most flights will be reduced.
It said: ‘We are contacting customers whose flights are cancelled with their options and all customers unable to travel as a result of the lockdown restrictions, whether their flights are cancelled or scheduled to operate, can transfer their flights to a later date for free, or receive a voucher or a refund.
‘Given the ongoing impact of the pandemic on travel, we continue to call for sector specific support such as has been provided to hospitality, where decisions have directly affected their ability to trade. The same principle should be applied to aviation.’
EasyJet Holidays has said all package holidays will be cancelled up to and including March 24, but flight cancellations are rolling
Jet2 lockdown refunds
Jet2 has cancelled all holidays and flights up to and including 25 March (26 April for Iceland), with customers getting a full refund.
It said: ‘Where customers yet to travel are affected by any programme changes, we have been repeatedly recognised for how we have been looking after them, and we will be automatically cancelling these bookings with a full refund.’
TUI lockdown refunds
Tui too says flight and holiday customers can claim a full refund. It said:
‘As a result of the latest national lockdown measures announced on 4 January 2021 all TUI holidays will be cancelled. Customers due to travel from an English airport before mid-February will be contacted in departure date in order to discuss their options, which will include amending to another holiday with an incentive, receiving an ATOL-protected refund credit note with incentive, or cancelling and receiving a full refund.
‘All holidays from Scotland and Wales have been cancelled until 31 January with the same options. We will constantly review holiday cancellations in line with updated travel advice.’
British Airways lockdown refunds
British Airways is refunding customers whose flights are cancelled but not those where the flight is still operating. They must rebook or accept a voucher. It said:
‘We are reviewing our flight schedule following the announcement of new national lockdown restrictions. Our focus is on keeping crucial air links open – transporting vital goods and ensuring people who are permitted to travel can continue to do so safely. As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled we offer a range of options including a full refund.
‘We have issued more than 2.9m refunds, 1.9m vouchers for future travel and we continue to offer highly flexible booking policies to our customers during this unprecedented pandemic.’
For British Airways Holidays customers the policy is better. It says:
‘Customers due to depart by 12 February 2021 will be offered a refund for their holiday. Our teams continue to monitor the situation and update our policy accordingly.’
Ryanair lockdown refunds
Ryanair didn’t respond to our request for comment.
The Ryanair website says customers whose flights have been cancelled can claim a refund, but not for customers whose flights are operating. Passengers can change the date of their flight, but will have to pay any fare difference, and only up to 30 April – when we may well still be in lockdown. It said:
‘A small number of flights will operate to/from the UK primarily to facilitate UK passengers stranded abroad and to support passengers who need to travel for essential reasons. For passengers (booked on these operating flights) who do not wish to travel prior to 31st Jan 2021, Ryanair will facilitate a flight change, where no change fee will apply (any difference in fare will be charged), to any new date up to 30th April 2021. Any passenger whose flight has been cancelled can also move to these operating flights, subject to availability.‘