Martin Lewis’ flight refunds and travel rights advice as airlines respond to lockdown

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With news of a full lockdown in England and Scotland and Alert Level 4 restrictions in place across Wales, most people can no longer travel abroad.

In Wales, stay-at-home measures have been in place since December 20 and mean nobody can travel without a reasonable excuse.

The Welsh Government states: “Travel is limited to essential travel only, for example, for caring responsibilities or for work purposes where people cannot work from home.”

It means leisure travel is now banned and those with holidays and flights booked will be looking at their rights.

EasyJet, Virgin and Jet2 have confirmed affected customers will receive a full refund, reports NorthWalesLive, but not all airlines have outlined the “options” for those now unable to travel from the UK.



a woman holding luggage: Martin Lewis on flight refunds and travel rights as airlines respond to lockdown


© Getty
Martin Lewis on flight refunds and travel rights as airlines respond to lockdown

Financial guru Martin Lewis has shared his advice in the latest MoneySavingExpert weekly newsletter. In it he reminded customers that “holidays are now banned” for most of us.

He explained: “The competition watchdog says you should usually be due a full refund.”

Martin did point out, however, that “in practice it can be tricky to enforce in some cases” and directed customers to the latest travel rights information on his website.

This states an important factor is whether the travel provider has actually cancelled the booking or not.

The trip has been cancelled

MoneySavingExpert states that you’re generally entitled to a full refund if your flight has been cancelled.

This is supposed to be issued within seven days, though in the current circumstances it’s likely to take longer.

The consumer site adds that in some cases customers have instead been encouraged to take a voucher.

It’s worth noting that customers are “absolutely entitled to a refund” though, if that’s their preference.

Similar rules apply for cancelled package holidays, which are usually meant to be refunded within 14 days.

Which? similarly noted previously that customers in these circumstances should be entitled to refunds.

It however warned that some airlines and travel providers weren’t fulfilling their obligations in late 2020.

“If your package holiday was cancelled, you don’t have to accept a refund credit note, nor do you have to rebook. You are legally entitled to a refund. Make this clear to the firm, in writing,” Which? explained.

Those with cancelled flights can instead keep asking for a refund or try claiming through their card provider.

The trip is still going ahead

The situation is “less clear-cut” in circumstances where the travel provider hasn’t actually cancelled the trip.

This applies to those unable to travel, because of lockdown, but whose flights or holidays are still scheduled.

MoneySavingExpert states that those in this scenario should be entitled to a refund but it’s not so simple.

The consumer site explains that Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance asserts that a full refund should be available if it would be illegal for the customer to use the booking.

This would be the case for customers in Wales, England or Scotland, as it’s prohibited for them to travel.

“Yet this isn’t a definitive interpretation of the law and the CMA recently launched an investigation into airlines only offering vouchers not refunds in this scenario, so getting a refund may not always be plain sailing,” it added.

Travel insurance might cover customers for trips where it’s illegal to travel though, but MoneySavingExpert warns that this will only be possible if the policy covers coronavirus cancellation.

Those who took out insurance after March 2020 are unlikely to have that protection on their policy though.

It’s also possible that customers may be able to get a refund by cancelling the flight or holiday themselves.

Some travel providers have offered refunds if the cancellation is because of travel restrictions, though others however are said to only offer vouchers in this case, so it’s worth doing research before acting.

You can find further travel rights guidance on the MoneySavingExpert website, including how you may be able to claim a refund through your debit or credit card provider.