In recent weeks, I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are understandably frustrated and upset at their holidays being cancelled in light of COVID-19 and are struggling to get refunds. I have raised this with Government ministers and have had success representing Broxtowe’s residents to individual holiday companies. However, I thought it would be useful to share with you all what action is being taken by the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority to protect customers, and what more you can do to ensure you are being treated fairly.
If a short, medium or long-haul flight covered by EU law is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund for all parts of the journey from the airline. Air passenger rights in situations of cancellation are dealt with under EC Regulation 261/2004.
The link below takes you to the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) website, which can help you work out which category your flight comes under, if it is covered by EU law, and the full range of options available to you: https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/Delays-cancellations/Cancellations/Medium-haul-cancellations/.
I appreciate that airlines are having to process a very large number of refund applications and are trying to cope with high call volumes, but equally I also recognise the frustration and distress that some consumers are facing. I want to reassure you that the Government has been in close contact with UK airlines, the regulator and consumer groups to help make sure airlines deliver on their commitments. In addition, the CAA has written to UK airlines and some non-EU carriers to emphasise their approach on refunds, and to make clear their expectation that airlines deliver refunds within a reasonable period.
Accommodation & Package Holiday Refunds
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued guidance on consumer contracts, cancellation and refunds. This guidance is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cma-to-investigate-concerns-about-cancellation-policies-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic/the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-consumer-contracts-cancellation-and-refunds.
To summarise, in most circumstances, the CMA would expect you to be offered a refund if your holiday is cancelled because of the response to COVID-19. Please contact your holiday provider in the first instance to discuss this.
In addition to issuing clear guidance, the CMA has created a COVID-19 taskforce to ensure that consumers are being treated legally and fairly. Whilst the majority of businesses are being fair, some are being more difficult. You can complain about them to the CMA online at: https://www.coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk who may review the company’s policy and either enforce change or take legal action if needed.
Alternatives to Refunds
Both airlines and travel companies are also offering customers credits, vouchers or re-booking at the same rate as an alternative to a refund. The travel industry has been especially affected by COVID-19 therefore, if you are able to, you may wish to support the sector by accepting an alternative to a refund. In most cases, however, this is entirely optional, and you should not be pressured into accepting such an alternative.
If you feel that you are being pressured into accepting this or denied a refund, you may complain about this this using the link above.
As your MP, I will continue to monitor the situation and if customers are not being treated fairly I will look to raise this in Parliament.
I hope that the above information is useful and, if you have exhausted these options and would like additional support, please do not hesitate to contact me.