Beware airlines’ cancellation refund ruses

The battle for refunds for cancelled holidays rumbles on.

All airlines must provide a refund within seven days of a trip being cancelled. While many airlines are doing their best to process a huge backlog, some are digging in their heels. Around 47,000 passengers are still waiting for refunds from British Airways, according to David Byers in The Sunday Times. Now BA has “begun offering passengers points on its Avios air miles scheme instead of cash refunds”.

There are two reasons you shouldn’t accept airmiles. First, if British Airways were to collapse before you used your miles you would lose them. Second, the airline can devalue its airmiles at any time, so you could end up with airmiles worth far less than the original price of your flight.

BA is not alone; Ryanair is also trying to avoid its legal responsibility to refund passengers for cancelled flights. Customers have been offered vouchers with the option to claim a refund after 12 months.

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If your airline refuses you a refund and you paid for your flights with a credit card you can use section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to ask for a refund from your credit card provider instead. If you paid with a debit card you can try chargeback. This is a protection scheme that allows you to request that a transaction is reversed if there is a problem with the item or service paid for. Yet Ryanair customers “are wrongly being told that using the chargeback card-protection scheme is... fraudulent”, says Grace Gausden on This is Money. Some staff have also said customers using chargeback could be “blacklisted by the airline in the future”. But chargeback is entirely legal. If you have “exhausted all attempts to get the money back”, you are entirely within your rights to try to regain it via chargeback. Just get in touch with your card provider.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.