The travel firms that are least likely to have paid out full refunds for trips cancelled due to coronavirus have been revealed.
A major survey asked travellers who had bookings cancelled by firms whether they had received a full refund.
And in the results, which cover 64 companies, Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays, Love Holidays and Ryanair were among the big names rated as the worst for refunds.
The travel firms that are least likely to have paid out full refunds for trips cancelled due to coronavirus have been revealed. In a study, just eight per cent of Lastminute.com customers said they’d had a refund for a cancelled trip
Twelve per cent of Teletext Holidays customers said they’d had a full refund due to their holiday being cancelled
The survey, which had 42,563 consumer responses, was carried out by MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) – its third this year looking at travel refunds.
It showed that just eight per cent of Lastminute.com (seventh-worst) customers said they’d had a refund from for a cancelled trip. Also faring badly was Teletext Holidays (ninth-worst) on 12 per cent, Love Holidays (seventeenth-worst) on 32 per cent and Ryanair (eighteenth-worst) on 33 per cent.
Ryanair has strongly defended its track record on issuing refunds for cancellations – saying all customers between March and August who had requested cash refunds have had them processed.
The misalignment between this defence and poor showings in refund surveys (in previous MSE studies, for instance) appears to result from the airline issuing vouchers to trigger refunds, which some passengers have struggled to process. Under EU law, airlines should only issue vouchers in lieu of refunds with the customers’ signed consent.
In addition, Ryanair says there have been issues with refunds for passengers who have booked through screen-scraping websites (more on this in our boxout below).
Of the 74 respondents who’d had trips cancelled by package holiday provider Fleetway (ranked worst), not a single one told MSE they’d had a full refund – although the firm went into administration in July.
STA Travel (second-worst) also stopped trading in August. Just three per cent of its customers said they’d had a refund.
Meanwhile, Jet2 Holidays (64th) and Jet2 (63rd) were the firms that had paid out the highest proportion of refunds, according to the study, with 89 per cent of customers with bookings cancelled saying they’d had their money back with both brands.
Another big firm that did well in the research was Hays Travel (54th), with 73 per cent reporting they had been refunded by them.
Out of the 2,518 respondents in the MSE study who said they’d had a trip with Ryanair cancelled, 33 per cent said they had received a full refund
Meanwhile, the study also found that one in seven of those who’d had a trip cancelled and have got or are seeking a refund had to wait over six months for their cash back.
Overall, MSE said 15 per cent of those chasing a refund waited over six months – and in many cases, these people are still waiting. Some 38 per cent said they’d waited at least three months.
Yet MSE points out that the law says you should get a refund for cancelled flights within seven days, and for cancelled package holidays within 14 days, so the vast majority should have been refunded much more quickly.
Among the big names, 38 per cent said they’d waited over six months for a refund from Lastminute.com as did 37 per cent of Teletext Holidays customers and 33 per cent of Ryanair travellers. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of BudgetAir customers said they’d waited over six months for a refund.
In contrast, MSE said Airbnb and British Airways Holidays were quick to refund, with 92 per cent of customers waiting less than a month for their money back. Jet2 Holidays (90 per cent) and Jet2 (88 per cent) also did well.
Meanwhile, researchers also asked respondents about their overall experience of dealing with travel companies while trying to secure a refund or dealing with cancellations – and ranked 61 companies from those offering the best to the worst experience.
And MSE said it found ‘a stark divide in the way different firms treat their customers’.
For example, it said Lastminute.com is near-bottom of the ranking (59th) with a ‘net experience score’ of -92 per cent, while Ryanair (54th) is on -77 per cent and Love Holidays (50th) on -68 per cent. Bottom of the pile was Jetline (-95 per cent), followed by Opodo (-94 per cent, 60th).
At the top of the ranking was Travel Counsellors, which managed an impressive net score of +88 per cent.
It was closely followed by Trailfinders (+82 per cent, second) and Haven (+78 per cent, third), which saw a marked improvement since MSE’s last survey.
Among the big names, Jet2 (sixth) and Jet2 Holidays (fifth) scored well with +75 per cent and +76 per cent respectively, but the strongest big name was Hays Travel (fourth), which scored +77 per cent.
When it came to establishing which travellers had the most trouble claiming refunds, the study shows it was those who booked holidays before the pandemic. MSE said for those who booked more recently, firms are making it easier to get a refund.
Overall, 33 per cent of those who booked since March said they were able to get a prompt refund within two weeks, compared to just 19 per cent of those who booked before.
Additionally, MSE said they were more likely to have got a refund automatically. Sixty-six per cent of those who booked since March and managed to get a refund said they didn’t have to do anything to get their money back, compared to 46 per cent of those who booked pre-pandemic.
Additionally, MSE said that of those who booked since March, 75 per cent said they were happy with the eventual resolution they reached, and only 12 per cent said they were unhappy.
Of those who booked earlier, only 57 per cent said they were happy and 23 per cent said they were unhappy.
Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 were the firms that had paid out the highest proportion of refunds
Meanwhile, 30 per cent of respondents in the survey who had bookings cancelled said they had to make at least three phone calls to their travel firm.
A further 16 per cent said they’d spent more than two hours on the phone chasing a refund or other resolution and six per cent said they’d actually spent over five hours making calls.
Unsurprisingly, MSE said firms that were ranked highly for overall satisfaction were among those who were easiest to contact.
For example, 95 per cent of Trailfinders customers and 93 per cent of Travel Counsellors customers said they’d found it easy to get in touch after their booking was cancelled.
Among the big firms, Lastminute.com (six per cent) and Love Holidays (10 per cent) scored poorly, while Villa Plus and Opodo were at the bottom with five per cent of customers saying they’d found it easy to get in touch.
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said: ‘Enough is enough. Firms big and small – including household names Ryanair, Lastminute.com and Teletext Holidays – have seemingly ignored the law and regulations, and left many customers frustrated, angry and out of pocket.
‘This has a real impact on people’s wellbeing, adding to the stress – both financial and emotional – many are already under.
‘Frustratingly, in this, the third time we have run this large survey, some firms have made very little improvement – with many people still waiting for their refunds half a year later.
The study found that British Airways Holidays was quick to refund, with 92 per cent of customers waiting less than a month for their money back
‘Of course, the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry has been huge, and I’ve regularly called for forbearance both ways – if people can help by taking vouchers, or rebooking, then they should. But the law is clear on when you’re entitled to a refund, and how long it should take, and some of the biggest names in travel have simply not complied.
‘We will again pass the results of this survey to Government and regulators. They need to step up their action. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has already started intervention with a number of firms, and last week noted it would step up that action. Let’s hope that bears fruit quickly. I’d urge those who’ve had trouble with a particular firm to ensure you report it directly to the CMA as well.
‘It’s important too to note that some firms have gone above and beyond in 2020, even amid the most difficult circumstances the travel industry has ever seen. Travel will return in 2021, and my hope is that when travellers are booking next year, they remember the likes of Travel Counsellors, Trailfinders, Haven, Hays Travel and Jet2 – and reward them with their repeat or possible first custom.’
Of course, the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry has been huge, and I’ve regularly called for forbearance both ways – if people can help by taking vouchers, or rebooking, then they should. But the law is clear on when you’re entitled to a refund, and how long it should take, and some of the biggest names in travel have simply not complied
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com
Teletext Holidays said: ‘As a travel brand that prides itself on always providing the best value to our customers we offer a wide range of product options for both flights and hotels.
‘Over 90 per cent of our customers choose to fly with low-cost carriers because of the convenience and value they offer, during this pandemic period, we have seen that whilst these airlines provide great value they have been the worst in refunding our customers money to us, with some refusing altogether.
‘This has created significant delays in our ability to refund these customers, leading to an extremely stressful ten months for both our staff and customers. We continue to chase low-cost airlines tirelessly for refunds on our customers behalf in order to rectify this situation.’
A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘Ryanair has issued over €1.5bn in free moves, cash refunds and/or vouchers to the millions of passengers whose flights were cancelled between March and August. All customers between March and August who have requested cash refunds have had them processed.
‘Unfortunately many online travel agents provide Ryanair with fake customer contact and payment details, which resulted in thousands of customers being unable to obtain their flight refunds during the Covid crisis, as many of these unauthorised screen scrapers held their cash for months. To help these customers Ryanair launched its Customer Verification process in July. We call on customers to always book directly.’
A LoveHolidays spokesperson said: ‘Despite the severe challenges caused by Covid-19, we are refunding all hotel and transfer elements of cancelled bookings within 14 days of the cancelled departure date, and from January we will be accelerating these refunds further as we improve our processing process.’
While a spokesman for TravelUp said: ‘We apologise to the small number of customers who have experienced difficulties with refunds this year and welcome this feedback. We have successfully issued over 54,000 refunds to the value of £48m which is not reflected here – but it is disappointing when anyone is not satisfied with our service.
‘The majority of any outstanding TravelUp refunds are for flight-only bookings where we act as the agent. We have to secure the fares back from airlines but some are continuing to withhold money for cancelled flights. This has been a big problem for us and our customers this year.
‘That is why TravelUp is lobbying for a change in the way airline refunds are processed. We want fares to be held in a secure third party trust account until departure. That way, if flights are cancelled in the future, passengers would get their money back immediately.’
MailOnline has also approached Lastminute.com, Air Transat and Alpharooms for comment.