If you’ve got an unspent refund for a holiday you weren’t able to take amid Covid-19 travel restrictions, your funds will soon be at risk. Here’s why, and what you can do about it
When the Covid-19 pandemic began affecting travel regulations, many travellers had their getaways cancelled by their package holiday provider. If your holiday was cancelled, you may have been offered a credit note by your holiday company to use on a future trip.
Many holidaymakers accepted these notes, unaware that they were also entitled to a cash refund if preferred.
That’s because under the , travellers should be offered the option of cash refund when a provider cancels a package holiday, even if they’re also being offered other choices such as credit notes or opportunities to rebook travel fee-free.
Now, an estimated £85 million worth of travel credit notes are predicted to go unspent by travellers whose holidays were cancelled during the pandemic, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Yes – you have a right to swap your credit note for cash. You can do this by contacting your holiday provider and requesting to cash your credit note in. We strongly advise you to do this to ensure your money is safe. As long as your funds are tied up in a credit note, they are at risk.
Technically there isn’t a deadline. You can still redeem the credit note for cash after 30 September 2022. But to get the maximum protection for your unspent funds – i.e. to avoid losing your money if the holiday company goes bust – you should redeem it as cash as soon as possible. Tell your holiday provider you've changed your mind and ask for a refund instead.
If you’re unsure whether you have a voucher or a credit note, there are a couple of ways to check. First, any credit note should include the original booking details and original reference number. It's also important that it details only the amount you originally paid. It should be called a 'refund credit note' rather than a voucher. If in doubt, you should contact Abta and ask if you have been issued a voucher or a credit note.
Travel vouchers are different from credit notes, because they aren’t Atol protected, meaning that if the company was to go under you would not be able to get your money back easily. Regular vouchers from holiday companies have never been financially protected. You may have been issued a voucher rather than a refund credit note if your holiday isn’t a package holiday, or if your refund is for flights only.
If you accepted a voucher last year and were given no option for a refund, or you were misled into accepting it under the assumption you weren’t entitled to cash, you could dispute it. Approach your airline or holiday company and explain the situation, and why you want a refund. If they refuse, you can take your complaint to alternative dispute resolution. It's free in most instances, and several passengers have had success doing this.
If you were offered a refund at the time and the options were displayed clearly and you chose to accept a voucher, you won't be able to swap for a refund. The best thing to do in this instance is check to see if the validity has been extended. If not, use the voucher or you will lose your money.
As a final resort, if you have a voucher from a holiday company that is about to expire, you may want to redeem it to book a new package holiday, as this will at least be Atol protected.