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How long should you wait for a holiday or flight refund?

Updated 04 March 2021

Foreign holidays won’t be allowed until 17 May at the earliest.

This means that thousands more holidays will be cancelled over the next few weeks.

The good news is that if you booked a package holiday you are entitled to a refund within 14 days.

If you booked a flight-only deal and your airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a refund within seven days.

The bad news is that many travel companies and airlines aren’t refunding within the legal timeframe.

So the question is how long should you wait for a refund from your travel company or airline before you get the thumb screws out try to get your money back through other means?

The answer is this really depends on how you paid for your trip – but some of you have a lot less time than others. Some of you need to take action FAST.


What if I paid by credit card?

Paying for flights or holidays by credit card gives you the most amount of financial protection. You’re covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means that if you don’t get the service you paid for you can claim a refund from your card issuer (usually this is your bank).

This rule applies even if you only paid the deposit by credit card and the rest by other means.

If you live in England you have up to six years to make a Section 75 claim and if you live in Scotland it’s five years.

But don’t relax just yet. There are some circumstances in which you might not be able to claim a refund from your card issuer under S75.

If your trip was paid for using someone else’s credit card and they weren’t included in the booking your payment isn’t covered by S75.

Also, if the total cost of the trip was less than £100 or more than £30,000 it won’t be covered either.

And if you paid via a third party, such as Paypal or a travel agency, you might not have S75 protection.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have no protection. You might be able to ask your card issuer to process a chargeback instead, but you have less time to make a claim. See below.



What if I paid by debit card?

In this case you need to act fairly quickly.

You can ask your card issuer, usually your bank, to process a chargeback. This means they’ll take the money you paid back from the travel company’s or airline’s bank account.

Chargeback requests must be submitted within 120 days of the flight or holiday cancellation.

That sounds like quite a long time, but your card company will require proof that you’ve tried to obtain a refund first from the airline or travel company – and getting a response from them might take some time.

While most reputable travel companies are trying to process refunds within the legally-required timeframe, others are dragging out the process. They’re taking ages to respond to requests for refunds – or ignoring them altogether.

Some are emailing clients promising refunds within 120 days, but if you wait that long and your money doesn’t arrive back in your account your chargeback request will be refused.



My advice would be to contact your travel company as soon as your trip is cancelled and if you haven’t received a refund within 14 days for a package or seven days for a flight chase them again. If they don’t pay immediately, you can then tell your card issuer the travel company hasn’t resolved the issue. At that point, they should process a chargeback.



What if I paid by cheque/bank transfer?

If you don’t receive a refund within the legal timeframe you can try to claim a refund via the small claims court. You’ve got up to six years to do this, but there are costs involved which you’ll forfeit if you lose.

Before you incur any fees, you could download a form from the small claims website, fill it out and send it to the travel company giving them a further 14 days to pay. This might prompt them to cough up before you’ve spent a penny.

You can only use the small claims court for trips that cost up to £10,000.


Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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