Following the outbreak of Coronavirus, huge numbers of holidays and flights were cancelled. As a result, many passengers were offered either refund credit notes or vouchers as an alternative to a cash refund with some still waiting months later for the refund they are entitled to. If you accepted a voucher or a refund credit note, can you get your money back?
What’s the difference between a voucher and a refund credit note?
A refund credit note can be used to rearrange a trip for a later date but to be valid it must have the original booking details attached to it. ATOL backed Refund Credit Notes issued between 10th March and 30th December 2020 for a cancelled package holiday are protected by the government so that you don’t lose your money if the company goes under. Customers may choose to cash in their credit notes instead. However they need to either use them or cash them in for a full refund by 30th September 2021.
Vouchers do not have the same type of protection as credit notes. They are simply a way for the airline to keep the money and provide an alternate service at a later date when the voucher is redeemed. Vouchers are classed as compensation and are not ATOL protected.
Do vouchers and refund credit notes have expiry dates?
Yes they do, usually one year from issue but this may vary according to provider. If you are concerned that you will not be able to use the voucher or refund credit note before the expiry date then now is the time to open up those lines of communication with your travel provider. Conversations are key and in the long and short term, it’s in everyone’s interests for companies to be as flexible as possible regarding use of vouchers and refund credit notes. Whether they do so or not is however not a given.
Update June 2021:
Travel agents and tour operators will not be able to issue new Refund Credit Notes for non-flight package holidays cancelled due to Covid after the end of this month. Confirming that it was winding down the scheme for services it protects, Abta has said that it was introduced to help members manage the Covid crisis, but it was never intended to be a long-term solution. Existing credit notes will remain in place, with expiry dates no later than January 31 next year.
Can a voucher for a cancelled flight be exchanged for cash?
Sadly the protection for airline issued vouchers is not the same as with refund credit notes. You are at the mercy of the company’s terms and conditions regarding what is offered and you are unlikely to receive a cash refund alternative unless you were due one in the first place due to the cancellation of the flight by the airline.
What is the current policy of airlines regarding vouchers?
It varies according to airline. Ryanair customers have reportedly 12 months to use vouchers or they can be exchanged for cash. For BA, vouchers are valid until April 2022 and cannot be converted to cash. Easyjet also have a 12 month time limit on use of vouchers and they can only be cashed in ‘under exceptional circumstances.’
What are my travel rights with regards to refunds?
Cancelled package holidays are covered under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 and you are entitled to a refund within 14 days accordingly. If you accepted a credit note and you have changed your mind then you can request a cash refund instead.
If your flight was cancelled by the airline then under EU law you are entitled to a full refund within 7 days.
However disinclination to travel is not a valid reason for a refund so if you cancelled your trip, holiday or flight due to the pandemic then you do not have the same rights.
My refund has been refused. How can I get my money back?
If you are entitled to a refund, which is not forthcoming, you can take a number of actions:
Consider how you paid for the product or service. If payment was made (even if only in part) by Credit Card then you are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and can claim accordingly. If you paid by Debit Card then you may be able to claim using Chargeback. Contact your bank.
Check any applicable insurance policy Terms and Conditions to see if any which would support a claim.
Use the Resolver online issue resolution service for help in making your complaint and getting your refund.
If you are dealing with any company behaving unfairly during the current pandemic then you can report it to https://www.coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk/
Escalate issue if necessary. Contact details for CEOs of major companies and organisations can be found via CEO.email.com.
Take your case to the Small Claims Court. A final letter before action will be required before you can do so as you will need to demonstrate that you have given the company ample opportunities to address the problem before escalating it in this way. Use letter templates for complaints from Money Saving Expert, Which? and Citizens Advice. Ensure you thoroughly check what you are and what you are able to claim for before filing your case and take legal advice if necessary.
Refer your case to the relevant Ombudsman for that company after requesting a final response as per action for a small claims court claim.
If you’re entitled to it, fight for it!