More than two million airline passengers have yet to receive refunds for flights they were unable to take due to Covid-19 restrictions, according to research from consumer body Which?
Which? said that 2.3 million people in the UK who could not travel due to lockdown or other restrictions are not being refunded by airlines because their flights still operated – even during periods when it was illegal for most people to travel.
The EU 261 regulations, which requires airlines to refund passengers for cancelled flights on an EU-based airline or flying from a country in the EU, does not apply if the flight still goes ahead, regardless of any restrictions or travel bans in place.
Which? said that just under half of those consumers (49%) yet to get their money back from missed flights said they could not travel due to national or regional lockdowns instructing them to stay at home, while 27% said they could not fly because of the restrictions being enforced at their destination, which would prevent them from entering the country.
Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against all non-essential travel to their destination caused 37% of consumers not to take their booked flight. The need to quarantine on returning to the UK also led to 28% of people with airline bookings not travelling.
Which? pointed out that those with package holidays would have had their trips cancelled by their operators due to this level of FCDO advice and would be entitled to a full refund.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “For almost a year now, Which? has been hearing from frustrated passengers who’ve been left out of pocket for flights they were unable to take, often through no fault of their own, because the flight went ahead as scheduled.
“While some have successfully been able to claim on their travel insurance or through their bank, others have been left high and dry.
“With non-essential travel currently illegal, airlines must play their part in protecting public health by ensuring no one is left out of pocket for abiding by the law and not travelling.
“All airlines should allow passengers the option to cancel for a full refund, as well as fee-free rebooking options, while these restrictions remain in place.”
Ryanair said that passengers who do not travel on “non-refundable” flights that operate are not entitled to a refund, but can use the airline’s “change facility” to amend their booking.
While easyJet stressed its flexible lockdown policy allows passengers to receive refunds on flights that still operate, as long as they contact the airline to change their booking before the original flight.