The coronavirus pandemic has effectively brought global air travel to a standstill, leaving thousands of Brits wondering what to do about future flights.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice against all foreign travel until 16 April means that airlines and travel agents are obliged to cancel flights and holidays, and issue refunds or allow passengers to rebook for a future date.
However, according to consumer advice website Which?, despite being legally required to offer a full refund for cancelled flights, many carriers are only offering consumers credit vouchers or the chance to reschedule.
Many passengers are nervous that airlines, which have been especially hard hit by the crisis, might not be able to fulfil vouchers or rescheduled flights if they go out of business, so customers should seek a cash refund if concerned.
Passengers who are unsure of their rights should contact Which? or Citizens Advice.
Unfortunately for customers who have made bookings and now no longer want to travel due to the uncertainty, airlines are not obliged to offer refunds if flights have not been cancelled.
Due to the circumstances, most are offering emergency measures to help customers. Here’s what each of the UK’s major airlines is offering:
Passengers who were set to fly with the UK’s flag carrier can cancel bookings free of charge for all flights between now and 31 May.
BA will send passengers who cancel a voucher to the value of the cancelled flight, which will be valid for 12 months from the original date of travel.
Passengers can use the voucher for any destination on any date within the 12 month time period, but will have the pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive than the original.
If the new flight is cheaper than the original customers will receive a new voucher with the difference.
Low-cost carrier Easyjet is currently its normal cancellation policy, which means that if customers cancel with 24 hours of making a booking they are eligible for a full refund.
For existing flights, Easyjet is not offering refunds, but have waived their flight change fees.
Customers affected by coronavirus disruption are invited to switch their flights to any destination between 25 October and 28 February 2021.
Although customers will have to pay a change fee if the flight is more expensive, Easyjet has set prices for all flights for that period at £29.99 or below, so says it is “unlikely” customers will be charged.
Budget carrier Ryanair has waived change fees for all flights between 13 March and 30 April.
The airline said that fare difference charges will apply.
Virgin Atlantic has also waived change fees for all tickets booked by 31 March.
If passengers booked on or before 19 March there is no change fee or fare difference if travel is completed by 30 June 2020.
From 1 July, rebooked flights will be subject to availability, and passengers will have to pay the difference if new flights are more expensive.
Passengers will have to travel by 31 April 2021.
Norway’s state airline is offering “cash points” – a form of voucher – for the full value of the flight in question for those passengers who no longer wish to travel.
These apply to all flights departing before 1 June and are valid up until 30 November.
The airline is also waiving its change fees for Low Fare, Low Fare+ and Premium tickets, but normal conditions apply for Flex and Premium Flex tickets, which are fully refundable.
This is only valid for flights booked for 31 March and earlier.
Hungarian carrier Wizz Air is not offering any form of compensation for passengers who no longer wish to fly.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled will be offered a range of options including a cash refund and rebooking for new dates.