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Airlines refuse to offer refunds, as the U.K. government curtails travel plans

21.12.20

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. aren’t offering refunds to passengers who cancel year-end trips following new U.K. coronavirus rules, even as regulators investigate carriers’ earlier refusal to hand cash back to customers caught in lockdown.

IAG SA-owned BA will grant ticket holders a voucher or let them switch to a later date, it said in an emailed statement. It said it will only refund fares if the airline cancels a flight, a policy echoed by Virgin Atlantic.

The refund issue ignited a firestorm when similar curbs were in place last month. The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority launched a probe last week into whether airlines violated consumer rights by failing to offer passengers their money back for flights they couldn’t lawfully take.

Top of FormBottom of Form“Some airlines like EasyJet have mostly been doing the right thing and offering refunds, while others like BA only offer the option of a voucher or a rebooking,” said Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer advocacy group Which?. “The CMA investigation is looking precisely into this, as the wording for Tier 4 restrictions indicates these are legal requirements, not guidance so you should be due a refund.” The latest travel rules took effect Sunday 20th December, less than a day after they were announced, catching many with holiday travel plans off-guard. London Heathrow airport was crowded after airlines largely kept to schedules and many ticket holders opted to fly.

EasyJet Plc said it would offer refunds for those who stayed home. “We understand some customers may now need to change their flights.”

On Twitter, passengers called out Ryanair Holdings Plc and Aer Lingus for refusing refunds.

Aer Lingus will waive change fees up to two hours before departure, the IAG-owned airline said in a statement. Customers may be entitled to vouchers or refunds depending on fare type, it said. Irish discounter Ryanair didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the tightening on Saturday, in a bid to stamp out a fast-spreading mutation of the coronavirus that’s behind a rapid rise in cases in London. Movement in the capital and much of southeast England has been restricted, including taking foreign flights.

The rise of the new virus strain forced the government into an abrupt policy switch at the height of the Christmas travel season. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had assured the public last week that so-called travel corridors won’t be switched for two weeks to give people certainty about booking holidays.

Some customers took to social media, with one Virgin Atlantic passenger saying he was unable to get through to make changes to a flight scheduled for Sunday.

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