It has come to light that some budget airlines have cancellation policies that actually charge the passenger for NOT travelling.
Very few people would cancel their travel plans without a very good reason, most of us have saved long and hard for the much needed break we have booked, and would only cancel through accident or illness, however a combination of hidden charges and insurance red tape is leaving many passengers out of pocket if they have to cancel their flight. On top of this, frustrated passengers are facing administration fees for claiming back duty and tax, and further costs for a letter from the airline confirming that they didn’t travel.
These charges are leaving countless people out of pocket and many feel it is simply not worth claiming in the first place.
We are delighted when we find a budget price for flights abroad, and although many low cost airlines have extras that tumble out as we work through the booking journey, such as checking in online, booking a bag into the hold, Air Passenger Duty (APD) and card charges, we are still happy to go ahead with what we believe is a bargain flight. Extras can cost from as little as £5 for checking in online, £10 for booking a seat to £18 for checking a bag into the hold.
APD is the tax levied by the UK government and charged to the airline for every passenger departing from the UK, the airlines pass this charge on to the customer.
Card charges can vary from airline to airline but are usually a percentage (around 2.5%) of the overall cost of the flight, and this is not just exclusive to credit cards, debit cards can also hold a charge these days.
Some of these charges are available to claim back, however most companies won’t refund card fees, or the APD, bearing in mind the government does not claim APD for passengers that don’t fly, this money is going straight into the airline’s pocket.
To make an insurance claim when you haven’t flown, you need a letter from the airline confirming that you didn’t actually take the flight. Many airlines don’t charge for this service including Thomson, First Choice, Virgin and BA, plus low cost airlines EasyJet and Flybe. However Ryanair charge £17, Bmibaby £20 and Thomas Cook won’t send out a ‘no-show’ letter until you have handed over £25.
The insurance companies won’t hand over any money until they have this letter and you can’t claim back the money you have paid out for the letter as it is part of the written proof that you have to supply. Catch 22.
You also have an excess with insurance companies which means that, unless you took out their waiver (which costs more originally) you will have to pay the first part of your claim which could be between £50 and £100.
You can also be charged for claiming back the airport taxes, on a short haul flight these can be around £11 per person, however some airlines are charging a £25 per person admin fee for refunds. One exception is EasyJet who once again refund this fee without charge.
Consumer watchdog; the Air Transport Users Council wants airlines to refund all charges including fuel surcharges, airport taxes and security costs in full.
A spokesperson for TravelSupermarket.com stated “These charges are just a license for airlines to hold on to your money. Charges for no-show letters, when the airline is already retaining the full amount paid are out of order. Not only are they keeping the APD, in many cases they may be able to sell the seat twice.”
It is also worth remembering at this point that had you not taken out travel insurance in the first place, none of these costs would be refundable and you would be totally out of pocket.