Your refund rights for cancelled flights booked through third-party websites

Both booking websites and airlines have been giving duff advice to consumers, leaving many out of pocket when trying to get their money back. Our expert tells you where you stand

For many consumers, getting flight refunds has been harder than it should be

If you’ve been hitting a brick wall chasing a refund for a cancelled flight booked via a third-party booking site, you are not alone.

During the pandemic readers have been contacting me on a daily basis to complain about this and this has highlighted that consumers are getting the run-around due to both booking site and airlines flouting the law.

Mary from Wellingbroough has been chasing a refund for a cancelled flight since March 2020. She booked via a booking site and was told by the airline that she had to claim her refund from them.

The booking site rejected her request telling her she had to claim from the airline.

Jacob from Cardiff booked a flight via a booking site.

When the flight was cancelled due to Covid he asked for his money back. He was told he could have a voucher to use as the companies terms and conditions provided that cash refunds were discretionary.

Francesa from Ealing was told by a booking site that she would get her refund for a cancelled flight when the airline has refunded them. The airline says it has already done so and she has been on this merry-go-round for the past seven months.

The legal position

Many websites that offer ‘legal advice’ say you must pursue the third party booking site, not the airline, as this is who you entered into a contract with.

They are wrong for two reasons.

1) most of these booking sites act as agent only – meaning their terms will clearly say you are in fact contracting with the airline.

There are however some sites where you do contract with them.

ii) The law (known as EU261 across the EU and UK261 in the UK has other ideas, and it trumps the contractual position.

The legal position is therefore that passengers are entitled to a cash refund within seven days, regardless of whether they booked direct with an airline or via a third party and this legal obligation to refund rests with the airline.

This is why it doesn’t matter who your contract is with.

The problem

When you book via a third-party booking site it adds its commission to the flight cost. If you claim against the airline, you can only claim the amount the booking site paid the airline – the commission will have to be claimed from the booking site.

Escalating your complaint

If the airline is subscribed to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider you can lodge a complaint with the relevant ADR scheme. The Civil Aviation Authority has a list of airlines subscribed to one of the two approved schemes (AviationADR and CEDR) on its website.

All airlines are very familiar with their obligation to refund passengers following cancelled flights so you will eventually get your money if you keep pushing it and asserting your rights.

Know your rights

I’m often telling readers about the protection section 75 gives when you pay for goods or services with your credit card. There is a similar protection if you pay with your debit card, known as Chargeback.

When you make a successful Chargeback claim your bank withdraws the funds that were previously deposited into the recipient’s (retailer/trader) bank account and puts them back into your account.

Chargeback is not underpinned by law but instead is a voluntary scheme followed by banks and card providers.

Typically there is a time limit of 120, from the date of purchase, to lodge a chargeback claim. On most occasions this time limit is set in stone.

To make a successful chargeback claim you must be able to show a breach of contract on the part of the trader. This means the goods must be damaged or not match a description or not be of satisfactory quality.

Chargeback can also be used when goods do not arrive due being lost in transit or the trader going bust.

Like insurance companies, banks like to say no to claims. If this happens don’t take no for an answer and ask for it to consider your claim again.

If this does not work and you still feel confident about your claim the next step is to file a claim with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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