Covid 19 Flight cancelled – Advice about refunds
DUE A REFUND
The Government’s “ lockdown” requiring people to stay at home and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s advice against all non-essential travel has led the airlines to pause their operations and effectively no foreign travel has taken place since March 17th.
Where you have booked a flight or a foreign holiday and paid for this in advance you are entitled to a refund of your money for those flights and holidays unable to be enjoyed during lockdown. The reason for this is not that the airline or holiday company has cancelled your flight but rather that the measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid- 19 has prevented the airline from operating and you from travelling. In law this means the contract is frustrated as performance has become impossible and the contract comes to an end and you are entitled to a refund of the money you have paid payable within a reasonable time.
Your claim may also be made as a Consumer under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 where the failure to provide the service you paid for namely your flight or holiday requires a refund within 14 days.
Under EC regulation 261/2004 where an airline cancels a flight they are required to reimburse the passenger within 7 days. In most cases the airlines have contacted passengers to advise them that the flight will not be operating and offering (i) alternative flights (ii) a voucher or (iii) a refund. If this notification is regarded as cancellation then under the Regulation the refund should be made within 7 days.
The better view is that the contract has been frustrated not cancelled and therefore a refund should be paid within a reasonable period.
I THINK I HAVE WAITED TOO LONG
During this pandemic a range of emergency legislation has been passed to extend deadlines and prevent insolvency and enforcement to reflect the effects of the government’s lockdown and the loss of income to a great many businesses. Sheriffs officers and bailiffs have stopped executing warrants to adhere to social distancing and there is a greater tolerance to delay in processing matters and this will include refunds whilst staff are furloughed or unable to work from their office. The law recognises that refunds must be made within either a reasonable period of time or within 14 or 7 days.
There has to be a balance between taking precipitous action which must be assessed against the background of the pandemic and the airlines and holiday companies simply taking too long to process your refund in an effort to hold onto your money. The court has power to award interest on your refund at the rate of 8% but this is a discretionary remedy which is likely to be exercised sparingly against the airlines and holiday companies given the background of the pandemic but in the correct circumstances ought to be payable and is an additional benefit to you in bringing action to recover your money. We believe that taking into account the circumstances of the Covid 19 pandemic and given that we are now emerging out of lockdown with many courts reopening on 15 June that if you have waited longer than two months for your refund you are justified in taking action to recover your money. This allows a very generous reasonable period way above and beyond the 7 or 14 days set out in the relevant consumer law.
Airlines offer vouchers redeemable against future flights. Before you accept a voucher you should consider the following:
- The airline may stop flying the route you want to travel.
- A voucher prevents you from shopping around for better deals later
- The voucher will have an expiry date often 12 months
- You should consider whether you will be able to fly to your chosen destination within the validity period of the voucher
- Will the airline still be operating and viable when you choose to redeem the voucher?
WANT SOME HELP
At Air Passenger Solicitors we are experts in the law relating to flights and the travel industry and we can quickly assess your claim and commence the legal process for securing the refund of the money you paid. Once we receive your request will quickly assess it and then write to the airline or holiday company confirming our action to you.
We recommend that a formal Legal Letter Before Action be sent allowing the airline or holiday company a further 14 days in which to respond before proceedings are commenced to secure your payment by a court judgement. We operate on a no-win no fee basis and our fee for this service is 20% (plus VAT if applicable – currently not) and anything payable by the airline in respect of costs and court fees pursuant to the court rules. We pay all Court fees. You will get 80% of the money you paid plus any interest awarded and paid.
Do Not ask the Airline to cancel your flight reservation.
Please note that should you decide to cancel your flight then the consumer laws will not protect you and the refund will be governed purely by the contractual conditions.
Why instruct us? You can do it yourself but the court work is complicated so why not leave it to the experts solicitors and let us fast track your payment.
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