Travelers forced to cancel a flight face a refund lottery, with some airlines providing full refunds while others won’t return a cent.
And since it’s up to the airline to decide its own cancellation policy, some throw up all kinds of obstacles to dissuade you from making a claim.
For example, Wizz Air customers who want a refund to their bank account can only get one by calling its customer service number, costing £1.45 per minute plus any charges their phone company charges.
Customers who apply online have their money deposited into their Wizz Air account, where it can only be spent on future flights.
It’s up to each airline to decide whether they will refund you, and each has its own rules. Some reimburse you if you or a loved one gets sick, others don’t.
Wizz Air: If you want a refund you need to call customer service at £1.45 per minute
It’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance, which can reimburse you if you are forced to cancel even if the airline refuses to reimburse you. You must do this at the time you purchase your ticket to be covered in the event of cancellation.
And it’s worth checking your airline’s rules before making a claim. Airlines don’t always play fair and refund you according to their own rules – and they have considerable discretion over when they choose to pay.
Earlier this month Money Mail Consumer Champion Sally Hamilton had to intervene after Wizz Air refused to refund a customer the £364 cost of her flight when she had to cancel following the death of her husband.
Here we take a look at how airline refund policies compare.
British Airways: You must cancel within 24 hours of booking for a full refund without penalty.
If you cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking it, you can request a full refund without penalty. Once you are outside this window, you should contact British Airways as soon as possible.
If you wish to cancel a flight due to serious illness or the death of a family member, you will need to provide documents such as a medical or death certificate.
British Airways says it will refund tickets for passengers diagnosed with a terminal illness. Those who are not seriously ill but are unable to fly can usually suspend their ticket for up to a year. But when rebooking, they will have to pay the difference between the two fares as well as any increase in air taxes.
EasyJet: charges more if you call customer service to cancel rather than doing it online
Passengers who cancel an easyJet flight online within 24 hours of booking will receive a full refund, less the £49 booking fee. Cancel online if you can, as the charge is £55 for those who do so by calling customer services.
Passengers suffering from a serious or terminal illness must submit a medical declaration form online. Once submitted, easyJet will review the file and may offer you a refund or a flight voucher, to be used within six months.
If you are bereaved, easyJet will review your case and may offer you a refund, a free flight change or a voucher for a future flight, within six months.
Not all Jet2 flights can be refunded. The airline suggests passengers purchase travel insurance at the time of booking to cover unforeseen events that may prevent them from traveling as planned.
Jet2 says there may be some situations where it can help, but this cannot be guaranteed. You can change the name or date of your flight for an administration fee of £35, plus the price difference between your original fare and the new flight price. To make changes to your flight, visit jet2.com/login.
Ryanair: The airline does not offer reimbursements for common illnesses like chickenpox
You may be able to cancel a Ryanair flight and request a refund if someone you were due to travel with or a member of your immediate family dies. Ryanair does not consider aunts, uncles or cousins to be immediate family members.
Depending on the circumstances, the airline may refund the full cost of the flight for everyone traveling on the reservation.
You may be able to get reimbursed in the form of a travel credit if you become seriously ill and can no longer travel. All requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and the airline does not offer reimbursements for common illnesses such as chicken pox or routine medical procedures, including pre-planned treatments.
Visit reimbursementclaims.ryanair.com to apply.
If you are diagnosed with a serious or incurable illness, you may be able to request a full refund upon presentation of an official medical certificate.
All refunds are paid as Wizz Air credit, so if you want to make the refund to your bank account you need to call the airline’s customer service, which costs £1.45 per minute.
Vacationers who are ill but not in critical condition may be entitled to a 50% refund if they send the airline a copy of their medical certificate.
The refund applies only to the patient and not to other passengers included in their reservation.
If your child is sick, you can request a 50% refund on their ticket and yours. And if a close family member dies within 30 days of a flight departure, you can request a full refund by filing a claim online.
A Wizz Air spokesperson said: “When booking, we advise you to use our WIZZ Flex service if you think your plans may change in the future. »
Travelers face a lottery as airlines decide their own cancellation policies when you can’t fly
Claim your tax refund
Even if you are not entitled to a full refund, you should be able to reclaim the airfare taxes you paid on your ticket. This tax is paid by passengers and passed on by the airline to HMRC. However, the tax is only paid if you take the flight, so if you don’t, the tax should be refunded to you by the airline.
Airlines don’t automatically refund it, and yours may not even tell you that you’re eligible to claim it. Contact your airline and tell them you want to claim yours, otherwise they will pocket the money for themselves. The amount of airfare you pay on each flight depends on the distance traveled and the type of seat you book.
A passenger flying from Edinburgh to London Gatwick on an economy seat will pay £7 in taxes, or £14 for a premium seat, such as those with more legroom.
For a flight of less than 2,000 miles, to destinations like Italy, Greece or Turkey, you’ll pay £13 in taxes for an economy seat or £26 for a premium seat.
For more remote hotspots like the Bahamas or Costa Rica, you’ll pay £88 for a standard seat, but that rises to £194 for an upgraded seat.
A flight to a destination more than 5,500 miles away, such as New Zealand, carries £92 air passenger duty for an average seat, or £202 for an upgraded seat.
Anna Bowles, head of consumer policy and enforcement at the Civil Aviation Authority, says if customers have a problem with their booking or flight they should first complain to of their airline.
“If they are still not satisfied with the response they receive, consumers can seek redress from the approved alternative dispute resolution service, who will independently review their complaint,” she explains. Visit aviationadr.org.uk.
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