When BA and easyJet cancelled flights at the start of the pandemic, their passengers were legally entitled to cash refunds. However, many passengers were issued with vouchers instead.
Some passengers were happy to accept vouchers, but others say they weren’t given the option of a cash refund. Others say they were given vouchers when they thought they’d applied for cash.
While I was researching an article for Which?, many BA and easyJet customers told me they’d ended up with vouchers they didn’t want and both airlines were refusing to swap the vouchers for cash.
These customers have been told by the airlines that since they’ve received vouchers they’re no longer entitled to cash refunds. This isn’t true.
If BA or easyJet are refusing to give you a cash refund, you have several options, which I’ll explain below.
1: Use BA or easyJet’s alternative dispute resolution service
You are legally entitled to a cash refund if your flight was cancelled by a UK airline or an airline operating from the UK. Airlines can offer vouchers instead, but they must explain that you also have the right to a cash refund.
Vouchers must not be issued as an alternative to cash refunds without your written consent.
If you received vouchers you didn’t want and the airline refuses to exchange them for cash, you should complain to the airline’s Alternative Dispute Resolution service (ADR).
ADRs are independent bodies set up to settle disputes between airlines and passengers.
I know of at least one passenger who succeeded in getting her BA voucher swapped for cash by taking her case to BA’s ADR. The ADR ruled that it was unlikely, based on the evidence from both BA and the customer, that she had ever requested a voucher.
BA’s ADR is CEDR.
It’s free to make a complaint to the ADR and it’s a fairly straightforward process. Everything is done online. You’ll have to upload any documents you have but there is no need for you to attend a hearing. Airlines have agreed to abide by the ADR rulings.
2: Take your case against BA or easyJet to court
You can make a claim through the county court. This is often referred to as taking your case to the ‘small claims court’.
You don’t need to hire a solicitor and you don’t need to appear in court in person, you only need to fill in a form on Money Claim Online – or you can do it by post if you prefer.
Unlike the ADR process, suing in the county court involves an upfront fee, which varies according to the value of your claim including any interest that will be added to your award if you win.
However, you may be able to claim the fees back from the airline, plus any interest, if you win.
3: Go to the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA)
The CMA is investigating whether airlines are in breach of consumer law by refusing to refund passengers for flights they can’t lawfully take due to government travel restrictions.
If your airline has refused you a cash refund when you couldn’t fly due to the lockdown, you should get this in writing and forward any evidence you have to the CMA.
If the CMA decides airlines were wrong to refuse cash refunds, you might be able to reapply later.
Should I use a no-win, no-fee firm to get a flight refund?
There are several no-win no-fee outfits who offer to help passengers claim flight refunds. However, they’ll take up to 30% of your refund so I don’t see why anyone would use them.
I hope I’ve explained that it’s easy enough to take your case against an airline to the ADR, or you can use the small claims process.
It isn’t any easy or quicker to use a no-win, no-fee firm. In fact, you might have to wait longer for your refund since they use the clogged up court process, rather than the ADR.
And why give away a percentage of your refund when you don’t need to?
What if I received a voucher for a flight I cancelled?
Some airlines, including BA and easyJet, are offering passengers vouchers if they don’t want to take a flight that is still operating.
If you took this option, you might not be entitled to a cash refund since it was your decision not to travel.
However, if you cancelled your booking due to government restrictions, you might have a claim against the airline (see above). In this instance, you should report your airline to the CMA.
If you cancelled your flight because you decided not to travel but there were no government restrictions in place at the time, you might be able to pass the voucherson to someone else, or even sell it, but this will depend on the terms and conditions of each airline. You should check with your airline first.
What if my airline is based outside the UK?
European airlines must refund passengers for cancelled flights within seven days under a law known as EU261. This still applies to UK airlines, even though we’ve left the EU.
Passengers flying from the EU (including the UK) on non-European airlines are also covered by EU261.
However, EU261 doesn’t cover flights to the EU on non-EU airlines, or flights elsewhere in the world.