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3 Mar 2022

Flexible flight booking policies: Which airlines will refund you if you can't fly?

Find out whether carriers including BA, Jet2, Ryanair and Tui will refund or rebook your tickets if changing traffic lights or Covid rules derail your trip
Tui refunds on flights and holidays

As borders reopen to UK travellers and Covid travel rules ease, we recommend booking flights with a flexible provider. Here’s how different airlines measure up 

When heading on holiday, the safest option is to choose a package holiday provider with a great flexible booking policy. That’s because package holidays offer some financial protection. But that’s not always practical, especially if you already have accommodation for the trip. Many travellers will opt for a flight-only booking – a riskier option for a number of reasons, especially amid the pandemic. 

For instance, if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) suddenly advises against travel to your destination, an airline isn’t required by law to cancel the flight or to offer you a refund. Similarly, if the country is placed on the red list it’s possible the flight will still run.  

Fortunately, some airlines do have flexible policies in place so you can rebook your flight if necessary without paying an admin fee. However, not all policies will help if you’re unable to travel for reasons relating to Covid-19. Take Ryanair’s policy, which allows you to change your flight but with at least seven days’ notice. Any closer to take-off and you’ll have to pay a fee to rebook plus the difference if the new flight dates are more expensive.  

Other airlines – including  Wizzair – won’t allow you to rebook for free even if you test positive for Covid-19, unless you specifically opted for a flexible fare when booking. It pays to book with an airline that offers decent flexibility in its booking policy.

BA booking policy: can I change my flight for free?

Grounded flights

BA offers good flexibility. Under its 'book with confidence' promise you can rebook, or cancel and request a voucher for any reason right up until check-in for your flight closes. This policy applies to flight bookings up to 31 August 2022. This voucher will be valid for travel until 30 September 2023.

The offer of a voucher is more generous than most airlines. It means you aren't under pressure to book a new date and gives you time to find future flights that suit your budget.

Easyjet booking policy: can I change my flight for free?

Easyjet’s ‘Freedom to change’ policy was in place until 31 March 2022, giving customers the option to change their flights for free up to two hours before departure, with the possibility to rebook new flights until September 2022. 

Easyjet’s latest ‘Travel Restriction Protection’ policy offers some protection against Covid disruption until 31 December 2022. It states that if you can’t travel due to a lockdown travel ban or mandatory hotel quarantine, you’ll be entitled to a refund for flight(s), even if the flights aren’t cancelled. 

However, the policy doesn’t apply unless there is a travel ban. In other words, it won’t cover you if the FCDO advises against travel without a travel ban in place, or is if you’re required to self-isolate at home and/or test. 

Refund requests for mandatory hotel quarantine can be made up to four weeks before departure and refund requests for a travel ban can be made up to two hours before departure.

Ryanair booking policy: can I change my flight for free?

Ryanair’s ‘zero change fees’ policy only applies to bookings made between 26th December 2021 and 31st January 2022, for flight changes up to 30th September 2022. You’ll need to rebook at least 7 days before your travel dates. 

Now you have to pay at least €45 (around £37.50) if you want to change your flights ‘depending on the route and travel dates selected’, plus any difference in fare. 

You can change your flights without a fee within 24 hours of booking, if you’ve made a mistake in your times or dates. Additionally, we’ve heard from frustrated Ryanair customers complaining that even its previous ‘zero change fees’ policy still left them paying extra to rebook luggage

Jet2 booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
Jet2 plane

Jet2 has flexibility baked into its general terms and conditions. Flights are automatically cancelled and refunded if either Jet2 cancels the flight due to Covid-19 or government advice changes and it becomes illegal for you to go on holiday abroad.

You can amend your flights without a fee, or cancel and request a full refund if, in the 7 days before departure, the UK government places your destination on the red list and/or enforces hotel quarantine. This also applies if, in the seven days before your departure, the government in your destination requires children aged 11 and under to be fully vaccinated and they aren’t currently invited to receive the vaccine in the UK.

You’ll need to let Jet2 know at least three days before your departure and if rebooked tickets are more expensive, you’ll need to pay the difference.

Tui booking policy: can I change my flight for free?

For holidays departing until May 2022, under Tui's 'free changes' policy you can change your booking without paying an admin charge for any reason up to 28 days before departure. This policy does not apply to holidays departing from 1 May 2022. However, Tui offers continued Covid-specific flexibility for holidays departing on or before 31 October 2022.

For Covid related reasons you can also make a fee-free change right up until your day of departure. This applies if you or someone in your party tests positive; if you're officially required to self-isolate; if there's a local lockdown in the area you live in and you're unable to travel; or if vaccination, testing or quarantine requirements have changed since you booked and you are therefore no longer able to travel. It also applies if Tui identifies restrictions in a destination, introduced after the booking is made, that will 'significantly impact' your enjoyment of the holiday.

Wizzair booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
Wizz Air flight refunds

If you can’t travel for any reason (including testing positive for Covid-19), Wizzair will not offer a refund or fee-free rebooking unless you originally chose the ‘Wizz Flex’ flight option when booking. 

This costs more up front. When we looked at flights to Budapest from London Luton in July 2022 for example, the difference between a basic and ‘Wizz Flex’ return fare was an extra £30 per person. 

When selecting your flight, if you choose a more basic fare, you will later be charged an admin fee of €31 to €41 (approx £26 to £35) per person, per flight to change the dates. If you cancel altogether more than 14 days before your flight is due to depart and want a refund, you will be charged €60 (£51) per passenger, per flight. Any closer to the departure time and the cost increases to €83 (£71) per passenger, per flight. 

See more on Wizzair’s flight change fees.

Virgin Atlantic booking policy - can I change my flight for free?

Virgin Atlantic’s current flexible policy – which applies to flights booked on or after 16 February 2022, for travel due to take place by 31 August 2022 – allows you to change the date and destination of your ticket, or make one name change. Any rebooked flight must be completed by 31 December 2023. Alternatively, you can choose a voucher, valid until 21 December 2023. 

Changes can be made for any reason, whether you catch Covid-19 or simply don’t wish to travel. Just be sure to make the change before check-in closes for your flight. If you booked prior to 16 February 2022, you’ll need to check what Virgin Atlantic’s policies were at the time of booking, via their ‘Earlier Policies’ on the No Change Fees policy webpage. 

With any airline booking, it’s vital to take out insurance. Find out which insurance companies offer the most complete Covid cover.