With ferry crossings cancelled until at least the end of April, the Consumer Council has received complaints from passengers having difficulty getting a full refund.
Travellers are being offered vouchers for future sailings rather than cash refunds. We understand this is because Condor expects to be able to honour the travel at a later date.
We approached the company about this as there are points to be considered:
– by law, a full refund should be given if requested
– the cancelled ferry journey may have been a one-off crossing for a wedding etc
– if a voucher is accepted, can customer change their mind at a later date, should the situation change?
– if a voucher is accepted, what happens if the customer is unable to travel in the next 12 months, due to illness etc?
Condor have advised that they are having to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and that the recent measures they have taken are to ensure the future of the company and jobs, and the continuation of lifeline services for the Channel Islands, including freight-only sailings to provide a sterile working environment.
They stated that initially offering a voucher is the position being taken by most ferry operators and the wider travel industry.
The company is offering passengers with existing reservations, who wish to alter a booking, the option to change their trip to a future date without incurring an amendment fee at the current time (although fare differential may still apply), and a complimentary seat upgrade for both their outward and return journey onboard their high-speed ships (subject to availability).
If you can’t yet commit to a future travel date, Condor is providing a travel voucher to the total value of the original booking without any cancellation penalty. The voucher has a validity date of up to 18 months.
Every email received by their Customer Relations team is being looked at on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, due to such high email traffic, responses may take several months to complete, which is not good news.
In response to this Condor advise that if there is a need to amend the booking voucher date many months into the future, their normal amendment policy may apply which includes the ability to change online up to seven days before departure free of charge. Should a more expensive sailing be chosen, the difference in fare will apply.
The Consumer Council has been receiving queries from concerned Islanders regarding flight cancellations.
It appears that rather than giving a full refund, airline companies such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair, are encouraging customers to take vouchers enabling them to travel at a later date.
The current law under the EU Convention and Regulation EU261, states that passengers are entitled to a full refund. However, companies are making the process difficult with a lack of on-line claim forms and excessive call centre wait times.
Airlines are being inundated with calls and are desperately trying to avoid having to pay out huge amounts in refunds. To protect their business, an industry body called Airlines UK is asking the UK government to temporarily change the law, allowing them to issue vouchers, instead of refunds. If refunds must be given, they want to delay the payments until after the coronavirus situation is over and flights return to normal.
Airlines are asking passengers to contact their debit and credit card providers to request a refund.
Under Section 75 legislation, if a service such as this has not been provided and you paid between £100-£30,000, credit card providers may be liable.
If the amount was under £100 or you used a debit card, you may be able to use the chargeback scheme (see Which?UK’s page for further information).
If you paid via Paypal, you can try requesting a refund from them directly.
It is always advisable to contact the airline or tour operator first, and ideally receive a written confirmation that they will not refund you. This will strengthen your refund request from your card provider.
Several airlines have confirmed that passengers do not have to claim right away. Our Chairman, Carl Walker, has this advice:
‘It is very disappointing to see that both BA and easyJet are making it as difficult as possible for Islanders to claim a full refund for their tickets.
If an airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a full refund. But it is clear that both these major airlines are trying to influence consumers to take vouchers instead. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as they are still offering the refund option, but only via the call centre, which obviously can take a very long time.
My advice to consumers would be to wait for a few days at least, to allow the rush to subside. Then, pick your call times carefully. The start of the day is likely to be very busy, but late in the evening there may be less of a wait time on the phone.
And, consumers have a year to the day from the original flight date to claim the refund, so there is plenty of time. And, looking at the increasing pressure both airlines are coming under, I would not be surprised if an online refund option appears at some point.’
If you do accept a voucher, you should be aware that your consumer rights are not the same as someone who has a ticket. If a company goes into administration, you may lose your money.