Coronavirus travel shutdown: what are your rights?
My flight to Europe is cancelled. All I’m being offered is an alternative flight or vouchers. Is this legal?
No. But that hasn’t stopped a number of airlines doing exactly that. All flights on EU carriers within, or into the EU, and all flights leaving from an EU airport, are protected by the EU’s “denied boarding” rules, which require a full refund in seven days when flights are cancelled.
The problem for consumers is that enforcing these rights is proving very difficult. After initially promising to refund passengers within 20 working days, Ryanair has now said passengers should accept vouchers valid for 12 months, or wait until the Covid-19 pandemic is over for a refund.
Refunds at British Airways are only being processed by customer services which, of course, is impossible to contact. easyJet, initially only offered refunds through customer services but now has a web portal to request refunds.
Note: the EU cancellation rules do not apply to non-EU carriers where the flight started outside the EU – for example, a Korean Air flight from Seoul to London.
In the face of a no-refund policy, what should I do?
Taking the offer of replacement vouchers in the current climate is highly risky given the airline may not be around in six months. While some will be happy to accept vouchers, many will not.
Coby Benson of the specialist flight compensation lawyers, Bott and Co, advises passengers to submit their refund request in writing, using the following text:
I understand that my flight [fight number] on [flight date] has been cancelled and I therefore request a full refund pursuant to articles 5(1)(a) and 8(1)(a) of EC Regulation No.261/2004. You are reminded that the refund must be made within seven days. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not accept a travel voucher.
If the airline does not respond or does not agree then the passenger can either issue court proceedings or use Alternative Dispute Resolution.
If your flight cost more than £100 and was booked using a credit card, you can hold the card provider jointly liable. When things calm down we suspect many passengers will be forced down this route.
My flight operated as scheduled but I was unable to go on it. What then?
The fact that the government advised against all but essential travel means travel insurance policies should pay foreign trip cancellation claims provided you bought your policy before the pandemic was declared on 11 March.
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