Coronavirus flights – what to do if your airline refuses refunds as passengers say complaints being ignored

FURIOUS holidaymakers due to fly with airlines including easyJet, Norwegian Air, and Ryanair say complaints over holidays cancelled due to coronavirus are being ignored.

If you’re having trouble getting a refund, here’s what to do to try and claim back your money.

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As coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, major airlines are being forced to cancel flights and change their travel policies.

Norwegian has cancelled 4,000 flights and temporarily suspended 50 per cent of staff, while Ryanair has halted a number of flights to Italy and Spain due to Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice.

British Airways has cut 75 per cent of flights in April and May, and easyJet has grounded 100 flights across Europe while warning of “further significant cancellations”.

Meanwhile, TUI has announced it is suspending hotel stays, package holidays and cruises until further notice.

The cancellations and updates have understandably left customers confused and disappointed at holidays not going ahead, with some taking to social media to demand answers from the airlines.

'I simply want to cancel and get our money back'

One BA customer fumed: "Tried calling multiple times today but your number hangs up automatically.

"Trying to sort flights to the US that were due to leave on Friday, any other numbers/channels to get in touch with you?"

Another said: "We’re trying to get through to rebook our flight to be able to get home but it keeps cutting off, let us know how to contact you!"

An easyJet customer tweeted the airline saying: "Was on hold for two hours and finally got through to someone only to then get cut off.

"I can’t keep calling you as I’m at work and I need to speak to someone about my flights to countries that are on the no fly list."

Another said: "Currently stranded in Fuerteventura since Saturday, no contact from easyJet, just abandoned."

While a Norwegian customer tweeted: "Hi, can you help me please, supposed to be flying JFK to LGW tomorrow but need to cancel the flight, can I get a refund please?

"Have DM’d you but no response for two days. Thanks."

Another complained: "Why are you completely ignoring me. I simply want to cancel and get our money back.

"Send me the link to do this. Thank you."

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A Ryanair passenger said: "I have been trying since last night to change my flights after receiving email, no help from live chat."

Another person tweeted: "Hi we are two British nationals due to fly back on Weds with Ryanair – we rang the airline and they offered no help, we also called the embassy and no help was offered – we are unsure what do no next. Please give us some advice?"

While a TUI customer tweeted: "Have you asked your staff not to answer their phones?

"Have tried my local branch 20 times now. No one is picking up."

Another person said: "Flight back to Tenerife cancelled by TUI without a word as to what to do next to get home… looks like only option as an expat living in Spain is flying to London with BA and trying to contact consulates when they open tomorrow."

My flight has been cancelled – what should I do?

If your flight has been cancelled due to coronavirus, the first thing you should do is contact your airline if you booked individual flights and accommodation.

Your airline should be able to offer you a refund or the option to reschedule your flight – although you won't be entitled to compensation on top.

Most airlines are asking customers to only get in contact if they're due to fly imminently, usually within the next three days, to try and keep call volumes down.

For holidays booked through a travel agent, you'll need to contact the company you booked your holiday with to discuss a refund or rescheduling your trip.

If your flight is still going ahead, you'll unlikely be offered a refund.

Hotels are slightly more complicated as they usually set their own cancellation rules.

Holidaymakers should contact their accommodation as soon as they know their flight has been cancelled to discuss getting money back.

When it comes to package holidays, you should be protected by Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).

This covered you if any part of your package holiday or cruise package is cancelled or significantly changed.

The travel company may offer you vouchers to use against a future booking but you are entitled to request a full cash refund instead.

My airline is refusing to refund me – what should I do now?

You should be entitled to a refund if your flight has been cancelled, or if the FCO has updated its advice so that your holiday destination is no longer safe to travel to.

If you're struggling to get a refund, and you booked separate flights and accommodation, you should first escalate the case by writing an official complaint to the airline.

The following links will take you to the relevant airline complaint pages – or you can use a free complaints tool such as Resolver, which includes free template letters:

  • British Airways
  • easyJet
  • Norwegian
  • Ryanair
  • TUI

Should you still have trouble getting your money back, or it has been longer than eight weeks since you filed a complaint, you can contact the relevant alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body that your airline is signed up to.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a full list of ADR bodies and their associated airlines on its website – and we've outlined some in the box below.

As a last resort, you can ask the CAA to intervene – it has a full breakdown of how to send a complaint.

Not all airlines are signed up to an ADR body. If your airline isn't, you can complain to the CAA.

Which ADR body do I complain to?

IF you need to make a complaint about an airline, you'll need to know which ADR body to contact.

British Airways – CEDR

easyJet – CDLR

Norwegian – CDLR

Ryanair – CAA

TUI – CDLR

If a complaint to the travel company doesn't result in getting your money back, you can get in touch with trade body the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

But it will only be able to help if the travel provider you booked with is signed up to ABTA – you can check on its website.

Claims can then be made directly through the ABTA website.

Alternatively, if you paid on card you may be able to get a refund from your card provider as it can be jointly liable if you don't get the service you've paid for.

Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.

To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.

Flights and hotels booked by debit card may be able to claim a refund by their banks using the Chargeback scheme.

Chargeback can be used to reclaim cash for goods and services you didn't receive.

Claims apply for purchases made by debit card, or by credit card for purchases under £100, and must be done within 120 days of the transaction.

To start a chargeback claim, you need to contact your card provider but as it isn’t written into law there is no guarantee you’ll get your money back.

What are the airlines saying about coronavirus?

  • British Airways – It's offering travellers who are due to depart between March 14 and May 31 the option to cancel their booking in return for a voucher of the same value. On its website, BA has the following message: "We’re currently experiencing extremely high call volumes. Please don’t call or message unless you’re travelling in the next 72 hours so we can help those needing urgent rebooking."
  • easyJet – It told us any customers who are affected by flight cancellations will be able to change their flights for free. A spokesperson added: "We are aware call volumes to our customer contact centre are currently very high. We are working hard to try and assist customers as quickly as possible and would like to apologise for any inconvenience however we would recommend customers wishing to make free of charge changes to their bookings should do so on the website or app via the Manage Bookings section."
  • Norwegian – It says customers with existing bookings can rebook or cancel their flights online. It's also waiving the change fee for bookings for travel up to and including November 30, 2020. Norwegian says on its website: "If you are not booked to travel in the next three days, we ask you kindly to contact us at a later date."
  • Ryanair – It has removed the fee for changing flights on trips scheduled to depart between March 13 and March 31. The airline says on its web page: "Where we’ve been required to cancel flights, customers will be able to transfer to an alternative Ryanair flight free of charge or receive a refund."
  • TUI – It says any customers due to travel between March 17 and March 23 will be contacted about their holiday today. The travel company said: "In this rapidly changing environment the safety and welfare of our guests and employees worldwide remains of paramount importance."

Confused about whether travel insurance covers you when it comes to coronavirus? We've explained your rights as a traveller and if you can cancel your trip.

Martin Lewis has urged holidaymakers to check travel insurance and hotel policies to see if you cancel due to the virus outbreak.

We’ve also rounded up the travel insurers who will cover you if coronavirus causes flight cancellations.

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