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The 50 best and worst travel firms for cancellation refunds: Ryanair and Teletext fail, Hays Travel and Jet2 succeed

The 50 best and worst travel firms for cancellation refunds: Ryanair and Teletext fail, Hays Travel and Jet2 succeed

The coronavirus pandemic has been uniformly devastating for the travel industry, with millions of holidays and travel bookings either unavailable or cancelled. Yet how firms treat their customers due to it has led to a stark divide, according to a major new investigative survey by MoneySavingExpert.com.

Our coronavirus travel survey received more than 27,000 responses (from 1-11 May 2020), and asked travel customers for their rating, feedback and experiences of dealing with companies due to problems arising from coronavirus. Firms were then ranked by subtracting the percentage who had a poor experience from those who had a great experience with the company.

We asked for feedback on 81 airlines and travel firms, and also allowed people to add their own if they weren't included in our list. Of the 53 firms that we received more than 100 responses for, travel agent Travel Trolley was the worst with a net score of -95%, followed closely by TravelUp also at -95% (but with a slightly lower proportion of 'Poor' votes) and Teletext Holidays at -94%. Of the big names, the worst were Ryanair at -82% (from a massive 2,500 responses) and Tui at -60%.

But it's not all doom and gloom, as some firms did manage to impress the majority of their customers. Travel Counsellors came top with a net score of +91%, followed by Hays Travel with +70% and Airbnb with +56%. Of the big names that did well, Jet2 Holidays scored +54%, Booking.com +18% and British Airways +8%.

We'll be compiling a full, detailed report of travel firm behaviour, with both the ratings and people's experiences, and sending the findings to the Government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as the Competition and Markets Authority.

See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for the latest on holidays and refunds.

Which firms were rated as the best and worst?

The table below ranks firms by net score (the number of 'Great' votes minus the number of 'Poor' votes – we excluded the 'OK' votes as a neutral rank) and lists the number of responses for each. We've only included firms with more than 100 responses and have bolded the 10 biggest firms by number of respondents in our survey.

Travel firms ranked from best to worst

Rank & firm Responses Net score (1)

1. Travel Counsellors 

207

+91

2. Hays Travel

1,017

+70

3. Airbnb

924

+56

4. Jet2 Holidays

1,621

+54

5. Jet2

1,593

+47

6. British Airways Holidays

289

+45

7. Center Parcs

202

+42

8. Disney Holidays

147

+37

9. Trailfinders

233

+32

10. Haven

212

+30

11. Saga

151

+26

12. Hotels.com

441

+21

13. Booking.com

1,178

+18

14. Easyjet Holidays

163

+10

15. British Airways

1,809

+8

16. HomeAway

199

+8

17. American Airlines

123

+1

18. Ebookers

108

-11

19. Onthebeach

283

-18

20. Qatar Airways

112

-21

21. Travel Republic

266

-27

22. Easyjet

2,425

-28

23. Expedia

811

-28

24. P&O Cruises

603

-30

25. Eurotunnel

106

-35

26. Aer Lingus

193

-38

27. Norwegian

196

-42

28. Riviera 

142

-45

29. Eurostar

239

-46

30. Wizz Air

158

-48

31. Emirates

450

-48

32. Lufthansa

142

-49

33. Brittany Ferries

253

-50

34. Virgin Atlantic

627

-51

35. Cottages.com

244

-54

36. First Choice

223

-60

37. Tui

3,252

-60

38. Vueling

119

-61

39. Hoseasons

451

-68

40. Love Holidays

677

-70

41. Virgin Holidays

775

-73

42. Air France

149

-76

43. Secret Escapes

299

-76

44. STA Travel

150

-77

45. Sykes Cottages

610

-79

46. KLM

596

-82

47. Ryanair

2,563

-82

48. Opodo

283

-86

49. Lastminute.com

550

-87

50. Holiday Extras 

291

-92

51. Teletext Holidays

251

-94

52. TravelUp

593

-95

53. Travel Trolley

338

-95

(1) Net score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who rated their experience with the firm as 'Poor' from the percentage who rated their experience as 'Great'. The number who rated their experience as 'OK' is not factored in.

Note: We allowed users to write in firms that weren't included in our initial list of options and have put them in the table if we received more than 100 responses for that particular firm. The 100 response threshold is why most of the firms included are national brands, rather than smaller, independent companies. Travel Counsellors, Riviera and Holiday Extras were written in by users and did not appear on our original list of firms.

Martin: 'This is a tough time for the travel industry'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "This is a tough time for the travel industry. It's one of the sectors worst hit by coronavirus, but it's a tough time for the public too, many of whom are also in dire straits. And they've been strident in telling us that they'll remember how firms dealt with them during this time – good and bad.

"People aren't just judging on whether firms failed to give a refund – though that plays a big part. Many poor ratings are also about difficulties in getting in touch, being given the run around, and terrible management of expectations – such as Ryanair sending vouchers to those who'd specifically requested cash refunds.

"People shouldn't be annoyed with firms offering to move bookings or offering vouchers as refunds. Indeed I'd encourage those who don't need the cash to take them, especially from firms with solid financials, as it'll help keep the industry going and keep people in work. Yet when people are entitled to monetary refunds, to make them sit on phones on hold for hours, often getting cut off to get it, when vouchers are available at the click of a button leaves people feeling rightly riled.

"Sadly, out of the 53 companies rated, only 17 were net positive. But that means they should get even louder plaudits for trying to do it right. They're struggling, but are protecting customers too, and the likelihood is when this is all over, they'll come out stronger and with more brand loyalty because of it."

What did people say about the best and worst performing firms?

Customers of the firms that performed badly told us of difficulty communicating with these companies in the comments box we provided with the survey.

For example, one Travel Trolley customer said: "The company failed to inform me that my flights had been cancelled. They would not answer emails and switched off their phone lines. After several attempts I made contact with their parent company, Southall Travel, and was informed I would not receive a refund but a credit note."

Another added: "They give you a different story each time you call, sometimes saying they are waiting for the airline to refund them. They did a month ago. Still waiting. Frustrating."

Likewise, Ryanair customers described similar problems. One said: "Ryanair approved a refund, then sent me a voucher. I tried the live chat but it's automated, so I got no response and waited in a queue on the phone several times. I finally got through again and said: 'I'd like a refund'. This was approved and I got an email to confirm, but was told I won't get it until after Covid-19!"

In contrast, one Travel Counsellors customer told us: "They were always one step ahead in getting things sorted for us. Totally hassle-free and very much appreciated."

Another said: "I was contacted as soon as my flights were cancelled and kept in the loop at all times."

Similarly, one Hays Travel customer told us: "Hays Travel was fantastic. Full cash refund offered before I even asked for it. Booking included Ryanair flights, so I had expected a problem. Really feel Hays Travel looked after me. Will book with them again."

MSE's quick tips to get your money back

The exact process to follow if your booking is cancelled and you want to get your money back will vary depending on the type of booking you have (flight, hotel, package holiday etc).

Before asking for a cash refund, consider if you NEED one. At the moment, many firms are really struggling. This means it's safer to demand a refund rather than settle for a voucher, in case the firm collapses before you can use it. But it's also worth considering whether you're in a position to show forbearance.

Having said that, if you're sure that you do need a cash refund, here are a few brief tips to follow – for full help, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

1. Speak to the firm first and use its refund system. Always start this way. Give it a chance, use its systems.

2. If that fails, warn that you'll take it further. If you can speak to the firm and it isn't helping, warn it you'll speak to your card firm (this costs firms, it's cheaper if they do it themselves, so give them the chance).

3. If the firm won't give you money back, ask your card provider. Speak to your card provider and ask it to do a chargeback – where it asks the firm's bank for the money.

If this doesn't work, your final action would be to take the legal route, perhaps through a county court.

For full help, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

If you choose to cancel your booking you likely won't be refunded

At the moment, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned against all non-essential travel "indefinitely", so holidays booked in the relatively near future are likely to be refunded. Though if you cancel a future trip before the firm cancels it, unfortunately there's no guarantee you'll get a refund. But some firms are now being more flexible and, in particular, are letting customers rebook.

With insurance, the situation is likely to depend on whether an FCO warning's in place at the point you're due to travel. If not, you almost certainly won't be able to get the money back on your insurance, as the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says travel insurance "is not designed to cover disinclination to travel where the FCO advice has not changed to advise against travel". None of the insurers we've checked with will cover you if you cancel in this scenario.

There's more information on this in our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

What do the firms that came out worst in our survey say?

A Travel Trolley spokesperson said: "Customer satisfaction is of paramount importance to Travel Trolley, and we are deeply sorry to hear that a number of customers are dissatisfied with the level of service they have received from us.

"With regard to customers who have had trouble reaching us via our call centre; due to the current Covid-19 crisis, we are experiencing extremely high levels of enquiries. However, in order to handle as many customer calls and emails as possible, and to deliver a first class customer experience, we have increased our staffing levels which has resulted in a call waiting time of no more than two minutes. Customers can also contact our dedicated team at urgent@traveltrolley.co.uk."

It also added that it sometimes had no control over the refund polices decided by airlines and said that as per its T&Cs, customers must contact it or the airline the booking is with at least 72 hours before the departure time shown on their ticket, to confirm that there have been no changes.

A TravelUp spokesperson said: "We understand that on occasions during this global pandemic we may have fallen short of the expected service levels our customers have experienced historically, and for this we apologise. Our team has been significantly reduced and the remaining team members have been working extremely hard to service as many customers as possible in the most efficient way possible.

"However, restrictions that have been put in place by airlines to hinder the smooth return of refunds has compacted the issues faced by our team and, in turn, our customers. I would like to thank the majority of customers that have been more than supportive in this difficult time."

A Teletext Holidays spokesperson said: "Teletext Holidays prides itself on its high level of customer satisfaction, and are committed to putting clients first and making sure their needs are met. Despite the adverse environment we find ourselves in, and all the constraints put upon us, we are working exceptionally hard to support our customers at this unprecedented and very difficult time.

"When we book holidays for our customers, we immediately pay for the flights, and therefore do not retain any of this money within our business. In addition, Teletext Holidays often pay hotels in advance in order to get customers the best room rates. Teletext Holidays therefore act as an agent and we are experiencing long delays in receiving monies back from airlines, with some telling us that we will not receive customers' money until 'the virus has passed'."

The firm added that it had put in place a two-stage refund process, offering customers ATOL-protected refund credit notes, which they could use up to 31 December 2020 for holidays travelling up to 31 December 2021. It also said it was offering full refunds from 31 July 2020.

We also contacted Ryanair for comment.