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Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays promise to pay outstanding refunds by end of October

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays customers with outstanding refund requests should receive their cash by the end of October, the company's chief executive has said - and strict timescales have also been set for future refund claims.

We've received a deluge of complaints from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays customers since the coronavirus pandemic began to affect global travel earlier this year. The firms were previously promising refunds within 120 days, and many customers have told us they're furious at having to wait almost four months to get their cash back.

But speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme on Monday, Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss promised that refund requests would be handled faster. He promised:

  • Outstanding refund requests will be cleared by the end of October.
  • Refunds requested by the end of September will be paid within 60 days. 
  • Refunds requested in October will be paid within 30 days.

He added that in November Virgin expects to go back to offering refunds within seven to 14 days.

See our info on how to get a refund for a cancelled booking if you need more help.

What is Virgin saying?

In a wide-ranging interview, Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said: "If you look at the volume of refunds requested it's in the millions of course. We transport and travel millions of customers per year and of course they are entitled to their money. First of all, thank you for your patience and understanding.

"It has taken us much longer - I would now say we have increased the capacity of our team to handle refunds tenfold. Those requesting a refund in September will be dealt with very quickly, and in October even more so, and in November we expect to go back to the standards which our customers are used to, which is a refund within seven to 14 days."

Asked if anyone who had an outstanding cash refund request for Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays should expect a refund by the end of October, he replied: "Yes".

How to try and get a refund from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays

Unlike some firms which have been reluctant to pay out refunds at all instead of vouchers, Virgin insists it WILL give cash back if you ask – you just may face a long wait for it.

In brief, here's what to try if your trip's been cancelled (see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for full help):

1) Weigh up first whether you definitely want a cash refund. With many travel firms struggling, we always say it's worth considering whether you're in a position to show forbearance. If you choose to accept a voucher or credit rather than demand a refund, you won't need to do anything to claim it – these are being sent to those with cancelled trips automatically.

2) If you want a refund, applying online may be (slightly) quicker than phoning up. If you want a cash refund, you'll need to get in touch to ask for one.

With Virgin Holidays, the simplest way is online, using the refund request links in the email you should have received letting you know about the cancellation and the 'Manage my booking' portal. You can also ring up customer services, but if you request a refund online, the 'clock' for getting the cash starts as soon as you submit the request. If you call, it starts when the adviser you speak to confirms your request, so it could be slightly less efficient.

With Virgin Atlantic, you'll need to use the SMS service on +44 (0)7481 339184. Here, the 'clock' will start once an adviser has confirmed the refund request. You'll then be sent a refund request number, which Virgin says could take seven to 10 days.

3) Can't wait for your cash back? You could try complaining to Virgin. Many customers who've contacted us are worried about when they'll receive their refunds – with some saying they simply can't wait to be paid much-needed cash.

You can try making a complaint by contacting Virgin Holidays or Virgin Atlantic. Explain what's happened and what you've been told by Virgin, and demand your refund is paid. Technically you should be owed a refund within 14 days if your package holiday is cancelled, or seven days for a cancelled flight under EU law – though of course Virgin is far from alone in struggling to meet that at the moment.

4) Still no refund? You could also try chargeback or Section 75. If still struggling to get your refund without a long wait and you paid for your flight or holiday using a debit or credit card, you can also try using the chargeback scheme. This is where your bank tries to get money back from the firm's bank, though remember that this is a customer service promise rather than a legal requirement.

There's no guarantee of success, especially as Virgin is promising to eventually pay refunds, but we've heard of some successfully getting refunds this way. For example, Penny told us on Twitter that she'd waited unsuccessfully for a refund for a month after Virgin Holidays cancelled her package holiday to Florida in May, but: "I claimed a chargeback from my bank and the money was back in my account within an hour".

If you paid for a flight or holiday costing over £100 using a credit card, you could also have extra legal protection through Section 75, which makes your card firm equally liable when something goes wrong.

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