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Why your travel company won’t refund your holiday


No matter what you’ve been told by your travel agent or tour operator, if your holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’re legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days. No ifs, no buts.


The law has not been changed, as some travel companies are claiming, you do not have to accept a voucher instead, and if they point you towards ABTA’s new guidance that says it’s okay to receive a Refund Credit Note rather than cash, remember that you are entitled to refuse and insist on good old English pounds instead.


So why are hundreds of travel companies, including otherwise reputable outfits like TUI and many others, blatantly breaking the law and refusing to give us our money back within 14 days?


The simple answer is that many of them don’t actually have enough money to refund all the tens of thousands of cancelled holidays.


Why ever not?


For several reasons, actually.


First of all, some airlines are dragging their feet in refunding both tour operators and travel agents. Funnily enough, they’ve been much faster refunding customers who have booked direct than refunding their travel industry partners. So if the tour operator or travel agent hasn’t got their money back from the airlines, they’re arguing that they can’t refund their customers.


Unfortunately for tour operators, they are legally obliged, under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations, to refund their customers regardless of whether they’ve secured a refund from the airlines.



However, many travel companies, including some big household names, are genuinely fighting for their own survival right now. This is because typically a tour operator doesn’t make any money in the winter, in fact many of them make huge losses – and the bigger the company, the more money they lose. Even the most successful tour operators only make a profit in the summer, with July and August being by far the most profitable months.


Let’s look at TUI, Europe’s biggest holiday company, as an example. During the first three months of 2020 it made a whopping €78 million pre-tax loss. That doesn’t mean it’s a rubbish company because prior to the coronavirus it was on course to make an annual profit of €850 million to €1.05 billion, but this just goes to show how heavily dependent tour operators are on the summer season.


So no summer holidays = no profits for the majority of them.


As it’s looking highly likely that the entire summer season will be cancelled this year, some tour operators are unlikely to make it through to next year. They simply won’t be able to afford to pay their staff, rents and other fixed costs without the profits they expected to make in the summer. In other words, they need your money now to pay wages, rents and other fixed costs until the bookings start flooding back in.


Even those companies that can afford to give you your money back say they can’t do so immediately because of the sheer volume of refunds they’re having to process. Also bear in mind that many have staff working from home, which means communication is taking longer than usual. Many travel companies have taken advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and furloughed the majority of their staff so that 80% of their wages will be covered by the Treasury until the end of June. Under the terms of the scheme, staff aren’t allowed to work, even to process refunds.


Some companies are telling customers they can’t refund holidays because they’ve already used their money to pay for their hotel and flight, but this article shows that this might be a somewhat bogus argument.


Another reason travel companies aren’t issuing cash refunds, even when they might be in a position to do so, is that the travel trade association ABTA has more or less given them permission not to do so.


It’s issued new guidance to its members, which includes the vast majority of the biggest tour operators, telling them that it’s okay to issue Refund Credit Notes instead. These are a sort of IOU with a promise to pay any time up to March 2021.



ABTA still says that where customers insist on cash refunds these should be forthcoming, but instead many companies have taken the guidance as permission to avoid issuing any immediate refunds.


Does this mean that it’s okay for holiday companies to refuse refunds?


No, it doesn’t. ABTA is a trade association, not a governing body and travel companies still have to abide by the law, which hasn’t changed.


That said, you can’t get blood out of a stone and if the tour operator hasn’t got cash in the bank to refund you, well, they’re not going to refund you.


So what should you do if your holiday company is refusing to refund you?


Fortunately, you have several options and this article explains how to go about getting your money back, but before you do anything, it’s important to check exactly who has your money and who to pursue for a refund, as explained here.


It’s worth noting that not all travel companies are refusing refunds and the consumer champion Which? has found numerous examples of firms that are giving customers their money back.


Here’s a list of those that it’s been told of so far:


Adventure Creators (Pyrenees specialists)

Carrier Travel

Explore Worldwide

Ffestiniog Travel

Friendship Travel

Journey Latin America

Jules Verne


Llama Travel

Much Better Adventures

Mountain Kingdoms

Responsible Travel

Sona Tours


Vivid Travel


Have you been refused a cash refund by your holiday company, or do you want to give a shout out to a company that’s given good service? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!



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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  1. Dominic White says:

    Skiworld Ltd – cannot get any acknowledgement for a refund

    1. Linsey says:

      That’s so disappointing to hear because I went on holiday with them in January and I thought they were great. Have you tried to a S75 or chargeback?

      1. michael says:

        I have been waiting for 6 months for a refund from opodo but I have sent numerous emails and phone calls but they keep saying that they are waiting for Singapore airlines to refund them, but i paid my money to to opodo so surely they are responsible for my refund .

        1. Linsey McNeill says:

          Hi Michael, Opodo could argue that they’re only an agent of the airline and ultimately it’s the airline that will have to refund. However, if you bought a package holiday from Opodo they are responsible for refunding you. How did you pay?

  2. Agnieszka Holda says:

    Flixhotels.com a German travel agent from which I have booked a ‘free cancellation’ hotel on Iceland is refusing refunds claiming that German’s government is supporting it (it is still illegal!) they are giving non-working vouchers and inform customers that if they choose refunds they will get them AFTER 31.12.2021! Take a look at trustpilot reviews:

  3. Anna Taylor says:

    Travel Republic are saying that Covid-19 is not their fault so they don’t owe a refund.

    I hope nobody else risks their money by booking with them!

  4. Julie Cahill says:

    Pillinger World Travel refusing to refund, will only offer part refund (£700 short of cost of holiday) or credit voucher.

    1. Linsey says:

      They’re breaking the law, you’re entitled to a full refund

  5. KENNETH CARR says:

    My TA refuses to return my holiday cash due to the covid issues and thus cancellation of the holidays.
    We are out £5,500 and they said i should take a voucher or wait till end of the year for any cash back.
    It was paid in total by my banks CC
    What else can I do now?

    1. Linsey says:

      You should call your bank (or card issuer) and raise a Section 75 claim

    2. Linsey says:

      You should call your bank (or card issuer) and start a Section 75 claim

      1. Done a section 75 and travel agent are fighting it, MasterCard gave me money back but looks like there going to take it back over 10k

  6. We have been waiting for a refund from Debbie’s Villas for Disney/universal tickets since the end of March. They have refunded the villa money but communication has dried up waiting for the rest of the refund.
    We started with the holiday company who told us to go to our insurance who told us to go to the credit card company who wouldn’t pay out , so back to the insurance who told us to wait 25 working days to finally tell they won’t pay out because it was a package deal. So back to Debbie’s villas who said yes we will pay under the 2018 act. Why didn’t they own up initially. Still £2700 out of pocket.

  7. Paul Barrow says:

    This is the most recent email that I sent to loveholidays.com
    Hi There

    I have followed via faqs to attempt to have my money refunded for my hotel and holiday extras. It states that I should go to manage my booking, then select holiday options. There is no such button or link to holiday options to enable me to do this. I am disgusted at this deception as I have waited 5 months for this money. You are aware that I requested a refund because I completed a form for you. I am also aware that JET2 refunded their customers money as soon as flights and holidays were cancelled due to COVID19. D I need totake legal action as I am paying interest on my credit card. Life is stressful enough for us at the minute, without you adding to it.
    My reference is LOVXXXXXXX [supplied to LH]
    Please process my refund immediately.

    Kind Regards
    Paul Barrow and Elaine Montgomery

  8. Dream World Travel in Ealing. I have been calling and they just hang up, if you get to speak to a person they tell you they don’t know who is able to help and someone will call tomorrow.

    Emails get a blanket response of “we are busy at this time, please allow us 14 days to process your refund…”

    I’ve been waiting since March. I have no idea where to go from here to get my money back.

    1. Linsey says:

      Hi Ches, are you able to claim on your credit/debit card?

      1. I can’t get a refund from my bank as they have a month limit and I booked in January.

        1. Linsey says:

          When was your holiday?

          1. Ches says:

            March in Singapore.

          2. Linsey says:

            Have you tried contacting your bank? They usually have a 3 month limit but the clock starts from the date you should have received the service and since you’ve been trying to get hold of the supplier since March they might still
            consider your claim

          3. Ches says:

            Yes and the bank says it’s past their statute of limitations.

  9. beverley turnbull says:

    booked holiday through pillinger world travel they have told me that as they are only atol they do not have to give me a refund as it is in their booking conditions not going until November but i don’t think USA will be letting us in anyway

    1. Linsey says:

      It depends if the holiday is cancelled. If it is, you are entitled to a refund. If the flights go ahead but there are travel restrictions which prevent you from travelling it’s usual practice for tour operators to cancel package holidays, but some agents are saying they’re not legally obliged to refund the flights if the flights go ahead and if the airline refuses to refund.

      1. They’ve finally said I will get my refund minus a£60 “admin fee”. I hope they refund me, it’s so exhausting and I’ve already lost my money for the hotel as they say they won’t refund me because at the time Boris Johnson had only advised against non-essential travel, he hadn’t banned us.

        1. Linsey says:

          Did you book a package – ie flights and hotel together?

      2. beverley says:

        but pillinger say because they are not abta only atol all the money is held at global travel,they do not have to give refund as stated in their booking conditions.

        1. Linsey says:

          It depends what you booked and if the flights are still going ahead or not. If you booked a package and the flights have been cancelled, they must refund you under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations 2018. The PTRs apply to all tour operators, not just ABTA members.

  10. Philip Johnson says:

    Owe a £6K refund from Planet cruise (Iglu Cruise) due to a cancelled Viking river cruise due to sail 16th June. Despite this money being refunded to Planet Cruise by viking on 30th June they refuse to say when this will be refunded to us! After waiting over 9 weeks as advised we found we where not even on the priority list! Now they claim we are but cannot say what that means or when we will receive a refund!

  11. ELENA LLOYD says:

    Booked a package holiday through teletext holidays to go to Spain September 2020, saw a tweet to say hotel will be closed until Feb 2021 – Teletext have said they will refund the hotel within 90 days but won’t refund the flights as “They are still live with Ryanair, so they won’t pay us (teletext) so we won’t pay you”. They have told us to contact Ryanair ourselves (even though we booked through teletext) and ask for a flight change. As this was booked as a package deal I thought that Teletext should have agreed to refund the entire package deal not just part of it? Is that right ? Thanks

    1. Linsey says:

      Elena, if you booked a package you should be refunded for the entire holiday by Teletext

      1. ELENA LLOYD says:

        Thank you for your replying and confirming our rights. I will try to pursue this with Teletext for the full refund. Thanks again

        1. Linsey says:

          No worries, just make sure that you booked a package, ie flights and hotel in one single transaction with one payment; if you did, Teletext is responsible for delivery your holiday, offering you an acceptable alternative or refunding you. Good luck

  12. Thanks. Spent two hours on the phone to them again today. They are outright refusing point blank to refund us for the flights. I’ve even quoted legislation to them but they aren’t budging. They’re not giving is anything else and that’s that. Literally don’t know where else to turn.

    1. Linsey says:

      Did you pay by card Elena?

  13. Bought a package holiday from sunmaster holidays, they cancelled my holiday and offered a credit note to which I refused. They emailed and said I will be refunded in or around november and asked I not contact them again till they refund me. Unacceptable and now they wont return emails and I cant get through on phone spent 4hour on hold to get no where.

    1. Linsey says:

      Hi Saranne, if you booked with a card you could try claiming from your card issuer, it should be faster.

  14. Hi,

    Bought a package holiday, with flights and accommodation in Madeira through lastminute.com, and three weeks before our departure date, I have received an email saying that our flights have been partially cancelled by Swiss Air ( flights via Zurich) and that they will contact the providers to ask for a refund and they will inform us back. I tried to call them, but for the phone number provided ( charging) we only listen to a robot and then the call is simply disconnected. They are only hiding behind computers, and when I send them emails, I only get standard written templates saying:”Given the exceptional circumstances, it is taking us longer than usual to manage your request. You can always check the status of your refund in your account area on our site.”
    Every time I’m asking something, the only reply I get is like the above one, no answers showing that we’re actually talking with human beings and not robots. It is very frustrating, and we really don’t want to loose the £1500 paid. I really don’t know what to do anymore 😕

    1. If you bought a package and the flights have been cancelled then lastminute.com are obliged to provide you with an acceptable alternative or give you a full refund. If you don’t hear anything within 14 days of being informed that there was a problem with your flights you can approach your card company and request a refund or check to see if you can claim on your travel insurance.

  15. Astrid says:

    I have booked a package holiday with Jetline Holidays to go to Iceland early November.
    The flights were cancelled, so I contacted the agent to get issued a refund. He offered me to move the holiday to a later date, which I don’t want as this Covid situation is nowhere near cleared…
    The agent said that as the hotel booking is still on, he can’t refund me the full amount. So if I refuse to postpone my holiday, then I will only get the money back for the flights (which is less than half of the amount I paid).
    Sounds very dodgy to me as I’m pretty sure they have te refund the full amount. Paid for this holiday with a Visa debit card and not a credit card unfortunately. What are my options now ? I’m a bit confused and worried !

    1. Linsey says:

      Hi Astrid, if you booked a package you should be refunded the full amount. Did you book and pay for everything in a single transaction? If you did and Jetline continue to refuse you a refund you can either try to get a refund from travel insurance If you
      have it or claim a chargeback on your debit card.

  16. John Flynn says:

    Golf Holidays Direct cancelled my golf holiday to Turkey in March, they have refused to refund, they did not pay the hotel but have kept my money, they have contested chargebacks made by other group members stating they had refunded lead booker, NOT TRUE, they were told by ABTA to refund customers in June 2020, yet still no refunds, will end up in Court.

  17. Barney says:

    Love that Credit Card.
    In contrast to the numerous complaints of problems getting money back from travel agents for undelivered holiday services I thought my experience might be helpful to others.
    Love Holidays took my booking for a holiday in Larnaka Cyprus booked for August. In the event the hotel was closed until September. I had paid Love Holidays £530. I encountered a reluctance to refunding my money. Love Holidays website did not seem to have a refund button.(The website was offering some kind of voucher or an opportunity to change dates at the click of a mouse).
    I wrote to Love Holidays at its Registered Office by Recorded Delivery – twice – each time the Post Office returned the letters unopened, marked ‘return to sender’.
    At this point, denied the opportunity to discuss the booking with Love Holidays, I used the returned envelopes to demonstrate to the credit-card company the apparent reluctance to refund.
    The £530 was in my account two days later.
    It was so easy. Indeed I need hardly have troubled Love Holidays who clearly were very busy and unwilling to receive and answer recorded delivery letters.
    So my recommendation for speedy refund is: In the first instance for the legal protection always buy with a credit card. Write to the Agent – by Recorded Delivery. After fourteen days if no refund, tell the credit-card company. (Readers will know that like the Agent the credit-card company is jointly and severally liable).
    It works like this. The debtor (that’s you) claims refund from the creditor (the credit-card company).The credit-card company then simply takes the money from the account of the Merchant (the travel agent) and gives it to you. The Merchant is charged an administration fee and has 45 days to appeal.
    Be aware that the alternative of accepting vouchers ends the responsibility of the credit card company. Also the vouchers are likely to have an end date, at which point hundreds of customers may be feverishly trying to use their refund voucher, stoking demand and causing prices to rise.
    Giving the agent an opportunity to discuss matters with us the client should always be the first action, but it is good to know that the credit card company will respond if the agent is reluctant. It works direct with airlines too. It saves a lot of trouble especially to travel agents like Love Holidays who suddenly find their work load is such that everything has to be dealt with on line.
    It doesn’t.

    1. Elaine Montgomery says:

      Thank you Barney, I’ve been trying to get my refund from Feb and so stressed out, I will try this, do you have the address for loveholidays please?
      Kind Regards

  18. Martin says:

    Ocean Florida refusing to give me a refund of £8475 for a cancelled holiday in September.
    They have tried to persuade me for a credit note next year or year after with added on money but not interested.
    Told refund would be done by 30th November now yesterday after I again chased them up should be by 28th Feb next year!!Awful service,will never book with them again.

  19. Hi, 16 of us are still waiting on refund from Golf Holidays Direct, along with hundreds more, the company will not speak to anyone now looking for refunds, if u ring looking to book u are put in touch with sale as soon as u explain u are looking to sort out a refund the phone goes down. They will not return calls emails or any form of contact concerning refunds. But they are still taking customers money for new holidays, what can we all do. Thanks

    1. Linsey says:

      If you booked a package and paid by card the easiest way to get a refund is to claim the money back from your card issuer

      1. John Flynn says:

        Golf Holidays Direct have quit ABTA and are using mygolftravel and mygolfbreaks to scam new unsuspecting golfers, feel relieved I can start court process, Lewis Remington is a con man, now selling Watches at Prestige Watches in Stevenage, please warn everyone you know, he is trying to make money out of COVID

  20. Bought tickets for my family trip £2.500 and the flight was canceled on 14/10/2020 by the airlines. By the law, I am entitled to receive a full amount refund. I’ve contacted The travel makers numerous times and the Manager Jay which sold the tickets to me decided to ignore my calls and emails. My refund is not been issued and they told me initially 6 weeks to process the refund now they said they haven’t received the refund from their partners yet. A fraudulent company stole my money.

  21. Noelia says:

    Nightmare with Dream World Travel in Ealing, London. We booked flights to Vietnam to travel in April 2020 and since they were cancelled we’ve been trying to get a refund. We have just found out that Singapore Airlines refunded the money for our tickets to Dream World Travel 6 months ago. But Dream World Travel kept saying they didn’t have it. Excuse after excuse. We have also tried through our bank but they said it was not possible, as we paid for the flights too long ago. Or that we should be protected by ATOL, but this is only valid if the travel agent goes bankrupt. They also said that an association of travel agents should cover us. DWT does not seem to belong to any association. We don’t know what else to do. These flights were booked one year ago.

    1. Linsey says:

      Hi Noelia, I’m sorry to read this. How did you pay for the flights, with a debit or credit card? Also, when were you told the flights were cancelled and when did you first make a claim to your bank?

  22. June Ashmore says:

    Add two cruises book one July 16th 2020 this was cancelled so we move it to one 19th December 2020 that was cancelled just got a refund fro P & O for deposits now CRUISE http://WWW.COM are not repaying us till 19th March 2021 they have had the money since 13th March 2020 which was paid in full

  23. Tom Barnett says:

    Dream World Travel are also causing us (Family of 4) great concern. After chasing the refund (trip to Australia booked for march 2020) they said it had been paid. A week later, no show. We called them again they insisted it had been paid and it was our banks fault. Then they called back and admitted it was their fault and that it would be paid. A week later it was still not there. We called them again on Monday. They insisted it would be here today. Guess what. It’s not in our bank account.

  24. June Ashmore says:

    Was told got two many to deal with had our money since 13th March 2020 date they haven given us 1s 19th March 2021 that says they have the money over a year the company we booked with was http://www.cruise.co.uk will never book with them again

  25. Mehwish says:

    Me and my family had flights booked to Pakistan last March(2020) with travel agency Flysharp on Turkish Airlines.
    We made our outbound journey before the foreign office were advising against travel. Things escalated very quickly while we were our there and we tried to get back ASAP. Turkish Airlines had announced they would not be flying to the UK until at least April and being a pharmacist and keyworker I needed to get back. The agency were not answering calls as they were probably very busy, I also didn’t get any response to emails. We visited the Turkish Airlines office directly where we were advised of the last available flight which would be leaving before the travel ban in Pakistan. This cost us an extra £1375 for the change of date and seats to our flight. The flight was cancelled and we were offered no alternative dates. Numerous calls to the airlines told us to go back to the office for a refund but the office was closed until further notice. I also sent numerous emails to the airline who said we had to go through the travel agency for refunds. We got back on any flight we could paying a separate £2000. When we got back and finally contacted the agency they said they couldn’t ask for a.refund on any extra paid direct to the airline. Again numerous calls and emails to Turkish Airlines and they are refusing to give any refund at all, they say it was not their fault, it was due to ‘weather conditions’ and that I have to go through the agency for a refund even though I paid directly to them. I’m still also waiting for the travel agency to give a refund on our initial tickets. Its coming up to a year now! SO basically they have just been passing the buck. I’m still waiting for any kind of refund…..

  26. Hi,
    I booked a holiday through Flixhotels prior to the impact of covid19 travel restrictions. I requested a refund in lieu of a voucher and was informed by email that I would have to wait until the end of December 2020. The refund never materialised so I contacted Flixhotels again to be informed that my request for a refund has been passed to their accounts department and would be actioned in due course – no timescale provided – and that there would be no further correspondence from them.

    As I paid by credit card, would it be possible to raise a section 75 action or charge back against this company?

    Thanks in advance for any adive.

    1. Linsey McNeill says:

      If you booked a package holiday that was cancelled by the company you were entitled to a refund within 14 days of the cancellation. Since you haven’t been refunded your credit card company is liable and should process they refund for you. Further info is available here https://www.thetraveljournalist.co.uk/how-to-claim-credit-debit-card-refund-cancelled-holiday-flight/

  27. Hi I bought 4 tickets in Crystal travel agency before the pandemic a week before my travel the airports closed in the uk. Since that time to know Crystal travel holding my money and no refund me I see aeroline Avianca approved for a refund but this agency holding my money and ask me to give new dates but really I can’t travel any more is long journey and they holding £4K.
    Today Crystal travel agree to refund me 2k but I refuse.

  28. I am seriously having problems with Teletext Holidays. They have not acknowledged by email that our holiday was cancelled. They called me to say it had been cancelled January 9th 2021.
    I have emailed customer support 3 times, still with no response. After weeks and weeks of calling their customer support numbers ( 40 mins to answer) then they cut you off as soon as you mention refund. I am so frustrated and angry with their no response. They owe me £2600
    The airline has emailed and i have already activated the response for a full refund.
    So why haven`t Teletext answered any off my emails. I would not recommend this company for anything. I am glad I paid with credit card. I sure they can help.

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