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Flybe collapses into administration and cancels all flights

Flybe collapses into administration and cancels all flights

UK airline Flybe has collapsed into administration and all its flights have been cancelled with immediate effect – but some people have already reported successfully getting refunds. If you have a booking with Flybe, we've full help below on what you can do.

Flybe was Europe's biggest independent regional airline and employed about 2,400 people across the UK, most of whom are sadly now likely to lose their jobs.

It avoided collapse in January after the Government reached a deal with its shareholders, but entered administration last Thursday (5 March) – with its chief executive saying the company had been "unable to overcome significant funding challenges". A drop in demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak had "made a difficult situation worse", an airline source told the Press Association news agency.

Passengers with upcoming flights on Flybe or its sister airline Stobart Air have been told not to travel to the airport as their flights will not be operating. If you have a future Flybe flight booked, you can take steps to try and secure a refund – see full refund help below.

For help with travel disruption relating to the coronavirus outbreak, see our Covid-19 Coronavirus Help guide.

Martin: 'A sad day for the aviation industry – but my hope is many should get money back for flights'

This is clearly a sad day for the aviation industry and first thoughts go to the staff who are going to go through a difficult time now, and the many travellers and businesses for whom key domestic routes have been taken out of service.

But if we focus specifically on customer refunds, this is a simple three-step process for most.

The first thing to do is to look at doing a chargeback. This is where you ask your debit or credit card provider to try and get the money back from Flybe's payment processor. While not a legal protection, it's a locked-in process for Visa, Mastercard and American Express customers, and has worked very well in the past. It tends to be the quickest way of getting your money back – effectively you're disputing the transaction as you've paid for something you've not received.

For credit card customers – if you've paid for something over £100 – Section 75 offers legal protection, which means the credit card company is jointly liable with the retailer. Having said that, the card companies will tend to prefer you to do a chargeback because then they're not shelling out for the money themselves. So I would go for chargeback first and use Section 75 if that doesn't work.

If you believe in either of these cases that your case has not been handled correctly, then you can take the payment provider to the Financial Ombudsman based on the fact that it hasn't followed standard industry practice and treated you fairly. Having said that, on past occasions like this most payment providers have paid out pretty well.

If you have knock-on costs from not being able to go on your flight, to try and recover these is where your travel insurance comes into play. In that case, travel insurance will only tend to cover you if you have cover for 'scheduled airline failure'.

My hope is that many people – for their flights at least – should get their money back.

I'm due to take a Flybe flight shortly – what can I do?

All Flybe and Stobart Air flights from Thursday 5 March onwards have been cancelled – so unless you have ATOL protection, which most won't, you'll need to arrange alternative travel.

Flybe's franchise partners Eastern Airlines and Blue Islands are continuing to operate, but if you're booked to fly with one of them you should contact the airline to confirm your travel arrangements.

If you booked your flights as part of a package holiday and have confirmation that your trip is ATOL-protected, the travel firm you booked with should organise alternative travel for you so your trip can go ahead (or give you a full refund). If you're already away, it's responsible for making arrangements to bring you home at the end of your trip.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it believes very few Flybe passengers are ATOL-protected, so most will have to make their own arrangements.

The Department for Transport says it's asked bus and train operators to accept Flybe tickets, and other airlines to offer reduced rescue fares.

And last Thursday the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said all UK train firms had agreed to provide free travel to affected people "for the next week" after Flybe's collapse so they could complete their journeys.

The exact date the free rail travel offer is running until varies from firm to firm – for example, London North Eastern Railway and West Midlands Railway say affected Flybe passengers and staff can travel free until Wednesday 11 March, while Avanti West Coast, Hull Trains, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express have all extended their free travel offers until Sunday 15 March.

You'll generally be able to travel on any "reasonable" route in relation to your original journey with Flybe. It's best to check with your train operator directly for full details of its policy before you travel – and staff at railway stations will also be able to offer advice.

Easyjet has also said it will offer a "rescue fare" of £65 (with a 15kg checked bag) until the end of May for customers with a Flybe booking reference.

I had a future booking – how can I get a refund?

Unless you have ATOL protection, you won't be guaranteed a refund – but there are several routes you can try to get your cash back.

Check first if you are ATOL-protected, though the CAA says few in this situation will be (see How to check for ATOL protection). If you do have ATOL protection as you booked your flight as part of a package holiday, contact your travel firm – it should arrange alternative flights or give you a full refund.

If you don't have ATOL protection, here are a few ways you may be able to get your cash back:

  • Booked on a credit or debit card? Try chargeback. This is where you ask your debit or credit card provider to try and recoup what you paid from Flybe's payment processor. The chargeback scheme isn't a legal requirement, it's just a customer service promise. But it's worth trying and when other travel firms have collapsed previously, we've seen people successfully claim using this.

    You may be covered by the Visa, Mastercard or American Express protection schemes. You can usually start the process by calling your bank or card provider to dispute the transaction – see our Chargeback guide for full details.

  • Paid on a credit card and flight cost more than £100? You can also try Section 75. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay on your credit card for an individual flight costing more than £100, the card company's equally liable and you may be able to claim from it. See our Section 75 guide for more info and template letters.

    We'd still suggest trying chargeback first even if you could claim under Section 75, as card firms may prefer this because then they don't have to pick up the bill themselves. But in practice, the process is likely to be the same either way – go to your card provider.

  • Check your travel insurance. See if your policy will allow you to claim – either for the cost of the flight, if you can't get it back any other way, or knock-on costs for your trip, eg, hotels or car hire. You may be able to claim if your policy includes cover for 'scheduled airline failure', known as SAFI.

  • Didn't book direct? Contact your travel agent. The CAA says that if you booked your flight via an agent you should contact it in the first instance, as the agent may have provided travel insurance that includes scheduled airline failure insurance.

  • Booked another way, such as PayPal? Check protection schemes. You may have some form of protection – for example, PayPal told us its buyer protection scheme can cover flights and holidays which have been cancelled as a result of a travel company going out of business.

The CAA says that if you're trying to claim via Section 75 or chargeback – routes that have worked well for passengers previously – your card firm may ask you to provide a 'negative response letter' confirming the situation. This will basically be a note put out by the CAA confirming that Flybe has stopped trading – the CAA says it will be added to its website in due course.

Can I get a refund for hotels, car hire etc?

It's likely many passengers with cancelled flights will also have separately booked accommodation or other elements of a trip.

If you need to change your plans as a result of Flybe's collapse, first check if you can amend or cancel your hotel or other bookings. Even if officially it's too late to do so, it may be worth contacting the firm, explaining the situation and asking it to make an exception.

If you still can't cancel without paying a penalty, check with your travel insurer to see if you're covered for this kind of 'consequential loss'. Some policies may cover this – but unfortunately many won't.

Can I claim compensation for my cancelled flight?

Unfortunately, almost certainly not.

Under EU rule 261/2004, you are often entitled to between £110 and £530 in compensation if your flight's cancelled – see full details in our Flight Delays guide.

But while you technically could make a claim through Flybe's administrators as a creditor, you'd be at the back of a long line and the CAA's confirmed that in practice you'd be unlikely to get your money back.

If you have an outstanding compensation claim from a previous Flybe flight which was delayed or cancelled, the CAA says it will be up to the administrator to decide how to handle it – but again, based on what's happened when airlines have collapsed previously, you may struggle to pursue your claim.

'I'm absolutely gutted': What Flybe's passengers are saying

We've seen lots of reports from affected passengers on social media – here are some we spotted:

But hearteningly, some are already reporting being able to put chargeback claims through with their banks:

And some have already received money back – such as Ian, who emailed: "I had flights booked with Flybe to the value of £165 purchased with my bank's credit card. I filled out my bank's online claims form and have received a full refund to my credit card account."

If you've been affected, let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com.

Some routes are being taken on by Loganair

Regional airline Loganair has said it will take on 16 former Flybe routes from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle, and set up a recruitment line to take on Flybe staff.

It will launch the routes over the next four months, beginning on Monday 16 March. 

While it won't be honouring existing Flybe bookings, if you regularly travel on these routes with Flybe, you'll have the option to book with Loganair in the future.

What do the administrators say?

Simon Edel, Alan Hudson, Joanne Robinson and Lucy Winterborne of EY were appointed joint administrators of Flybe on Thursday 5 March.

Alan Hudson said: "Despite an agreement with the Government to provide assistance to the company, added pressures on the travel industry in the last few weeks have further deepened the severity of its financial situation. Flybe had already been impacted by rising fuel costs, currency volatility and market uncertainty.

"As well as carrying out our duty as administrators, we are also supporting Flybe's employees and customers at this incredibly difficult time."

Additional reporting by the Press Association.