Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays and Ryanair named and shamed after hideous results in major new MSE Covid travel refunds survey – action's needed
A major new survey by MoneySavingExpert.com has revealed which travel firms are least likely to have paid out full refunds for trips cancelled due to coronavirus, with Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays, Loveholidays and Ryanair among those rated worst. With many customers waiting over six months to get cash back, we're passing our findings to the Government and regulators and calling for urgent action.
Update: 11 May 2021: Since we first published this story, many firms have made commitments to improve how they deal with refunds. However, the following info may still be useful if you're looking to book a new trip. For up to date info on the latest rules, travel insurance, refund rights and more, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
The survey – our third this year looking at refunds for those unable to travel due to coronavirus – ran between 19 November and 4 December and had 42,653 individual responses. It found:
- Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays, Loveholidays and Ryanair are among the big names that were rated worst for giving full refunds for trips they'd cancelled. Just 8% of Lastminute.com customers told us they'd had a full refund. See firm-by-firm refund rates.
- One in seven of all those who'd had a trip cancelled and have got or are seeking a refund said they've had to wait over six months – and with some firms it's far more. That's despite the law saying you should get a refund for cancelled flights within seven days, and for cancelled package holidays within 14. See firm-by-firm waiting times.
- Big names with dire overall feedback include Lastminute.com, Ryanair and Loveholidays. Once again, we found a stark divide in the way different firms treat their customers when we asked about your overall experience, including on refunds and cancellations – Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 did much better. See firm-by-firm feedback.
- The travellers who had most trouble are those who booked holidays before the pandemic – if you booked more recently, firms are making it easier to get a refund. Thirty-three per cent of those who had booked since March said they were able to get a refund within two weeks, compared with just 19% of those who had booked before, and they were also more likely to have been automatically refunded and happier with outcomes. See pre-pandemic vs mid-pandemic bookings.
- 30% who had bookings cancelled have had to make at least three phone calls to the travel firm. And 16% spent more than two hours on the phone. See firm-by-firm contact times.
While not a statistically random sample of the UK public, this huge survey does paint a strong picture of what's going on in travel refunds, and we'll be passing the findings on to Government and regulators. Here are the detailed results – for full help on refunds, your cancellation rights and more, see Coronavirus Travel Rights.
"As you'll know I have been lobbying for far more help for the possibly up to 3m who've fallen in the gaps.
"Many affected have asked me about the report in The Sun regarding the Federation for Small Biz DISS proposal for providing grants to ltd company directors; most of whom have been left out in the cold when it comes to support schemes.
"I've put feelers out among the powers that be, and I'm afraid to say it seems the article is over-egged. It is unlikely to happen. The self-certification is seen as too much of a fraud risk.
"I do get the sense that there is this time round more warmth to proposals to include those who've previously been excluded & there isn't a principled stance against it (possibly unlike there was for some categories before).
"I certainly think there's a decent chance that 2019/20 tax returns may be assessed in the 4th self-employment grant, and other nuanced changes.
"To manage expectations though. The key stumbling block I'm hearing is on the balance between 'fraud risk, cost to the taxpayer, and helping the individuals missing out'.
"It's going to require someone coming up with technical solutions which mean govt won't get a National Audit Office report highlighting too much fraud opportunity. Let's hope."
1. Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays and Loveholidays are among the big names least likely to give full refunds
We asked travellers who'd had bookings cancelled by firms whether or not they'd had a full refund from the firm.
Among the big names, Lastminute.com performed extremely poorly, with just 8% of customers telling us they'd had a full refund. Teletext Holidays (12%), Loveholidays (32%) and Ryanair (33%) also did badly. And of the 74 respondents who'd had trips cancelled by package holiday provider Fleetway, not a single one said they'd had a full refund – unfortunately Fleetway went into administration in July. STA Travel also stopped trading in August, and just 3% of its customers said they'd had a full refund.
Some who didn't get full refunds may have been able to rebook, or get a voucher or partial refund, instead. But in most cases firms that had paid out full refunds to a smaller proportion were unlikely to see many customers rebook either. Fewer than 1% of Lastminute.com customers told us they'd rebooked – just 1% of Loveholidays and Ryanair customers had, while for Teletext Holidays it was 8%.
Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 were the firms that had paid out the highest proportion of full refunds – with both brands, 89% of customers with bookings cancelled said they'd had their money back. Another big firm that did well was Hays Travel, with 73% reporting full refunds.
Last time we did this survey, overall fewer than a third (31%) said they'd had a full refund. This time there was an improvement, but still only 51% said they'd had their money back. A further 15% had been told they're getting a refund but not yet received it, 8% were in the process of chasing one and 6% said they'd managed to get money back via their card provider instead – via the chargeback or Section 75 schemes.
|Firm||Respondents with bookings cancelled by firm||% who have received full refund from firm|
|1. Fleetway (1)||74||0%|
|2. STA Travel (1)||90||3%|
|3. Air Transat||144||3%|
|9. Teletext Holidays||660||12%|
|13. Holiday Extras||72||21%|
|14. Villa Plus||244||30%|
|15. Secret Escapes||127||31%|
|19. Princess Cruises||85||34%|
|20. Turkish Airlines||55||35%|
|23. Brittany Ferries||114||36%|
|24. Air France||100||39%|
|25. Qatar Airways||63||40%|
|26. Travel Trolley||81||41%|
|28. Wizz Air||79||44%|
|31. Aer Lingus||141||49%|
|37. P&O Cruises||417||52%|
|38. On the Beach||333||56%|
|39. Virgin Atlantic||587||56%|
|41. Sykes Cottages||70||57%|
|45. Center Parcs||94||62%|
|46. Co-operative Travel||53||62%|
|48. First Choice||112||65%|
|49. British Airways||1,761||65%|
|51. Easyjet Holidays||197||69%|
|52. Norwegian Air||129||71%|
|54. Hays Travel||774||73%|
|55. Virgin Holidays||527||74%|
|56. Travel Counsellors||198||76%|
|57. James Villa Holidays||55||80%|
|59. Travel Republic||279||81%|
|62. British Airways Holidays||227||87%|
|64. Jet2 Holidays||1,454||89%|
We asked those who'd had trips cancelled by a firm and have got or are seeking a refund how long they've had to wait.
Overall,15% told us they'd waited over six months – and in many cases these people hadn't yet got a refund and were still waiting. Some 38% said they'd waited at least three months. The law says you should get a refund for cancelled flights within seven days, and for cancelled package holidays within 14, so the vast majority should have been refunded much quicker.
Among big names, Lastminute.com (38% said they'd waited over six months), Teletext Holidays (37%) and Ryanair (33%) appeared to be dragging their feet, while two-thirds (66%) of BudgetAir customers said they'd waited over six months.
At the other end, Airbnb and British Airways Holidays were quick to refund, with 92% of customers waiting less than a month for their money back. Jet2 Holidays (90%) and Jet2 (88%) also did well.
Note that below, the columns include those who got their refund in the time stated, and those for whom it's been that long since they started their claim, though they hadn't had their refund yet.
|Firm (& no. of votes)||% waiting less than 1mth||% waiting 1-3mths||% waiting 3-6mths||% waiting over 6mths|
|1. BudgetAir (87)||1%||8%||25%||66%|
|2. Opodo (277)||3%||15%||36%||47%|
|3. Jetline (123)||2%||14%||40%||44%|
|4. Iglu (569)||2%||5%||52%||40%|
|5. Lastminute.com (459)||4%||20%||37%||38%|
|6. Teletext Holidays (417)||12%||13%||38%||37%|
|7. Alpharooms (146)||10%||12%||41%||37%|
|8. TravelUp (98)||9%||19%||35%||37%|
|9. KLM (134)||10%||17%||37%||37%|
|10. Ryanair (1,866)||8%||16%||42%||33%|
|11. Air Transat (64)||3%||8%||56%||33%|
|12. Secret Escapes (62)||21%||15%||35%||29%|
|13. Lufthansa (88)||24%||25%||26%||25%|
|14. Princess Cruises (53)||21%||28%||26%||25%|
|15. Emirates (146)||27%||26%||24%||23%|
|16. Loveholidays (814)||12%||23%||42%||23%|
|17. Air France (62)||26%||24%||29%||21%|
|18. Travel Trolley (55)||15%||33%||33%||20%|
|19. Virgin Atlantic (432)||6%||18%||57%||20%|
|20. Expedia (226)||33%||23%||26%||18%|
|21. Aer Lingus (94)||32%||29%||26%||14%|
|22. Netflights (66)||21%||35%||30%||14%|
|23. Barrhead (118)||4%||27%||55%||14%|
|24. Wizz Air (51)||35%||31%||22%||12%|
|25. Riviera (55)||42%||22%||25%||11%|
|26. P&O Cruises (290)||21%||39%||31%||9%|
|27. Virgin Holidays (437)||11%||12%||69%||8%|
|28. Booking.com (122)||68%||14%||11%||7%|
|29. Norwegian Air (111)||55%||23%||17%||5%|
|30. British Airways (1,333)||75%||13%||7%||5%|
|31. Travel Republic (245)||21%||53%||21%||5%|
|32. Easyjet (1,720)||43%||39%||13%||5%|
|33. On the Beach (251)||30%||40%||26%||4%|
|34. Tui (1,682)||52%||30%||15%||3%|
|35. First Choice (76)||61%||29%||8%||3%|
|36. Center Parcs (61)||74%||18%||7%||2%|
|37. Hoseasons (75)||71%||13%||15%||1%|
|38. Easyjet Holidays (154)||73%||22%||4%||1%|
|39. British Airways Holidays (202)||92%||4%||3%||1%|
|40. Hays Travel (611)||78%||16%||6%||1%|
|41. Travel Counsellors (156)||72%||23%||4%||1%|
|42. Airbnb (162)||92%||6%||2%||1%|
|43. Jet2 (1,579)||88%||11%||1%||0%|
|44. Jet2 Holidays (1,319)||90%||9%||0%||0%|
|45. Sykes Cottages (50)||78%||14%||8%||0%|
|46. Saga (86)||70%||27%||3%||0%|
|47. Trailfinders (286)||70%||27%||3%||0%|
|48. Villa Plus (170)||27%||57%||16%||0%|
|49. Travelbag (50)||22%||50%||28%||0%|
3. Lastminute.com, Ryanair and Loveholidays are among the big names with dire overall feedback, while Hays Travel and Jet2 won praise
We asked survey respondents about their experience overall, asking them to rate it as 'great', 'OK' or 'poor'. We then ranked the firms by taking the percentage of those who had a 'great' experience with the company and subtracting the percentage who had a 'poor' experience to give a 'net experience score'.
Four big names did particularly poorly: Lastminute.com came near bottom with a net score of -92%, while Ryanair got -77% and Loveholidays -68%. Teletext Holidays scored -45%. Bottom of the pile was Jetline (-95%) followed by Opodo (-94%).
At the top, Travel Counsellors managed a net score of +88%. It was closely followed by Trailfinders (+82%) and Haven (+78%), which saw a marked improvement since our last survey. Among the big names, Jet2 and Jet2 Holidays scored well with +75% and +76% respectively, but the strongest big name was Hays Travel, which scored +77%.
As the table shows, there were some big improvements and declines in ratings since we asked the same question in our last survey in July. Top of the drops was Villa Plus, which plummeted 52 percentage points to -69%. Hotels.com and Vueling also saw big drops (both down 18 percentage points on last time). Teletext Holidays moved up 51 percentage points – though it sits at a still-dire -45%. Hoseasons, which reversed its coronavirus refunds policy after complaints to the competition watchdog, moved up 47 percentage points to +10%.
|Firm||No. of responses||Net score||Change from last survey|
|1. Travel Counsellors||297||88||+4|
|4. Hays Travel||1,052||77||+13|
|5. Jet2 Holidays||1,834||76||-3|
|7. Disney Holidays||105||67||+15|
|8. British Airways Holidays||307||63||0|
|9. Center Parcs||171||62||+9|
|12. Easyjet Holidays||266||40||+9|
|14. British Airways||2,299||24||+12|
|15. Qatar Airways||115||22||+28|
|16. First Choice||161||22||+16|
|19. Norwegian Air||148||18||-5|
|22. Brittany Ferries||222||8||+40|
|25. P&O Cruises||509||-1||+30|
|26. Eurotunnel||119||-4||New result|
|27. Princess Cruises||108||-5||+28|
|28. Travel Republic||341||-5||+7|
|32. Wizz Air||125||-21||+13|
|34. Aer Lingus||223||-26||+42|
|35. Air France||135||-26||+43|
|36. P&O Ferries||109||-30||-6|
|37. Holiday Extras||186||-31||+34|
|38. Sykes Cottages||186||-31||+47|
|40. On the Beach||509||-37||-4|
|42. Teletext Holidays||863||-45||+51|
|44. Secret Escapes||160||-54||+23|
|45. Virgin Atlantic||771||-57||+30|
|47. Travel Trolley||110||-58||+16|
|48. Virgin Holidays||656||-58||+29|
|51. Villa Plus||331||-69||-52|
|53. Air Transat||168||-73||+15|
|55. STA Travel (1)||110||-79||-1|
4. The travellers who had most trouble are those who booked holidays before the pandemic – if you booked more recently, firms are making it easier to get a refund
We asked survey respondents when they booked their trips that ended up being cancelled, so for the first time were able to compare how travellers who booked prior to the pandemic have been treated compared with those who booked since the start of the pandemic.
Almost nine in 10 respondents (88%) who had their booking cancelled by their travel firm said they booked before March 2020 – when coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The remaining 12% booked between March and November 2020.
Overall 48% of those who booked since March told us they'd so far got a full refund, compared with 51% of those who booked earlier – but of course, they've had longer to chase one. Otherwise those who booked cancelled trips after the start of the pandemic have fared much better:
- They were more likely to have got a prompt refund. Thirty-three per cent of those who booked since March said they'd been able to get a refund within two weeks, compared with just 19% of those who booked before.
- They were more likely to have got a refund automatically. Sixty-six per cent of those who booked since March and managed to get a refund said they didn't have to do anything to get their money back, compared with 46% of those who booked pre-pandemic.
- They were more likely to be happy with the outcome. Of those who booked since March, 75% said they were happy with the resolution they reached, and only 12% unhappy. Of those who booked earlier, 57% said they were happy, 23% said they were unhappy.
5. Customers who got refunds or rebooked were (unsurprisingly) happiest with the outcome
Not all of the respondents in our survey have got a refund or other resolution yet. But of those who have, there's a huge disparity in happiness levels between those who got full refunds or rebooked and those who reached other resolutions.
Of those who were able to rebook a trip, 72% said they were happy with the outcome, while this is true of 69% of those who got a full monetary refund. In contrast, just 7% who got a partial monetary refund were happy.
And unhappiness reigns for those who have had to fight tooth and nail to get a refund, with 57% of those who went via their card firm or travel insurer saying they're unhappy or very unhappy – despite getting money back. This figure was 50% when we last did the survey, suggesting consumers are becoming increasingly tired of having to battle for refunds.
6. 30% who had bookings cancelled have had to make at least three phone calls – some have spent over five hours on the phone
We asked how easy it was to get in touch with travel firms – and had a huge range of responses.
Overall, 30% of those whose firm had cancelled their booking had had to make at least three phone calls chasing a refund or other resolution, while 16% said they'd spent more than two hours on the phone. Six per cent said they'd spent over five hours making calls.
Firms that ranked highly for overall satisfaction were among those who were easiest to contact – for example, 95% of Trailfinders customers and 93% of Travel Counsellors customers said they'd found it easy to get in touch after their booking was cancelled. Among the big firms at the other end, once again Lastminute.com (6%) and Loveholidays (10%) scored poorly, while Villa Plus and Opodo were at the bottom with an abysmal 5% of customers saying they'd found it easy to get in touch.
|Firm (& no. of respondents with bookings cancelled by firm) (1)||% who found it easy to contact firm (2)||% who phoned 3+ times||% who spent 2+ hrs on phone||% who emailed more than twice|
|10. Travel Republic (279)||16%||18%||9%||25%|
|9. BudgetAir (127)||14%||18%||8%||74%|
|8. Ryanair (2,518)||14%||25%||15%||44%|
|7. Jetline (223)||14%||73%||36%||92%|
|6. Virgin Holidays (527)||13%||44%||28%||47%|
|5. TravelUp (294)||11%||52%||30%||73%|
|4. Loveholidays (1,197)||10%||31%||19%||51%|
|3. Lastminute.com (694)||6%||62%||27%||62%|
|2. Villa Plus (244)||5%||52%||31%||68%|
|1. Opodo (424)||5%||65%||45%||48%|
|Firm (& no. of respondents with bookings cancelled by firm) (1)||% who found it easy to contact firm (2)||% who phoned 3+ times||% who spent 2+ hrs on phone||% who emailed more than twice|
|1. Trailfinders (337)||95%||17%||2%||6%|
|2. Travel Counsellors (198)||93%||14%||3%||9%|
|3. Hays Travel (774)||90%||14%||4%||12%|
|4. Saga (130)||88%||12%||4%||6%|
|5. Airbnb (184)||87%||2%||1%||8%|
|6. Jet2 Holidays (1,454)||83%||5%||2%||3%|
|7. Jet2 (1,722)||80%||3%||1%||3%|
|8. British Airways Holidays (227)||70%||14%||5%||5%|
|9. Brittany Ferries (114)||59%||18%||6%||31%|
|10. British Airways (1,761)||58%||28%||12%||13%|
7. Those who cancelled bookings themselves were much less likely to get a refund – even if they believed they were owed one
Above, we've focused on those whose bookings were cancelled by the travel firm – as you're far more likely to be owed a refund by the travel firm in those circumstances. Most of the responses we got (68%) related to this scenario. However, we also collected feedback from those who had cancelled a booking themselves – 15% of responses were about this type of case.
We've always warned that in this scenario you're much less likely to get a refund – which is why it's rarely a good idea to cancel a trip yourself and you should instead wait for your travel firm to cancel. (It's worth noting though that in certain specific circumstances you may be due a refund from the travel firm even if you cancelled – for example, if you book a package holiday and then have to cancel it because a Foreign Office warning is put in place for your destination at the time of your trip.)
We found only 30% of those who believe they were due a refund after they cancelled their own booking actually got a refund (vs 51% of those whose booking was cancelled by the firm). And only 58% had any kind of resolution (vs 71% where the booking was cancelled by the firm). Fourteen per cent have given up trying to get a resolution altogether (vs fewer than 1% of those whose booking was cancelled by the firm).
Where a refund was given, it was much less likely to be automatic – only 28% of those who cancelled their own booking got an automatic refund, vs 48% where the firm cancelled.
Despite this, 76% of those who cancelled themselves and have reached a resolution are happy with it (or think it was reasonable) – a similar proportion to those whose booking was cancelled by the firm (78%).
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 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 you need a cash refund, here are a few tips to follow:
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 your money back, ask your card provider. Speak to your card provider to ask it to do a chargeback – where it asks the firm's bank for the money back – though some firms may dispute this later.
If this doesn't work, it's also worth checking if your travel insurer will cover you. Failing that, your final option would be to take the legal route, perhaps through a county court.
Important! To qualify for a refund, it's usually the case that the firm needs to cancel the booking rather than you doing it, as if you cancel, unfortunately there's no guarantee you'll get a refund. Plus, you're unlikely to be covered by travel insurance, providers of which would usually regard you cancelling as a 'disinclination to travel'.
For full cancellation rights and help, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
What do the firms say?
Many firms received negative feedback in this survey, but we've highlighted a number of big names so asked them for a response, which also likely sets the tone for other firms in a similar position.
- Lastminute.com did not give us a comment on the survey's findings, despite us asking multiple times.
- Teletext Holidays said: "As a travel brand that prides itself on always providing the best value to our customers, we offer a wide range of product options for both flights and hotels.
"Over 90% of our customers choose to fly with low cost carriers because of the convenience and value they offer. During this pandemic period, we have seen that whilst these airlines provide great value, they have been the worst in refunding our customers' money to us, with some refusing altogether.
"This has created significant delays in our ability to refund these customers, leading to an extremely stressful 10 months for both our staff and customers. We continue to chase low cost airlines tirelessly for refunds on our customers' behalf in order to rectify this situation."
- A Ryanair spokesperson said: "Ryanair has issued over €1.5bn in free moves, cash refunds and/or vouchers to the millions of passengers whose flights were cancelled between March and August. All customers between March and August who have requested cash refunds have had them processed.
"Unfortunately many online travel agents provide Ryanair with fake customer contact and payment details, which resulted in thousands of customers being unable to obtain their flight refunds during the Covid crisis, as many of these unauthorised screen scrapers held their cash for months. To help these customers, Ryanair launched its customer verification process in July. We call on customers to always book directly."
- A Loveholidays spokesperson said: "Despite the severe challenges caused by Covid-19, we are refunding all hotel and transfer elements of cancelled bookings within 14 days of the cancelled departure date, and from January we will be accelerating these refunds further as we improve our processing process.
"We appreciate the efforts of those service suppliers who have worked co-operatively with us to help customers in this difficult time. Whilst we've made significant progress, there is clearly more to do, especially on airline refunds, and we urge all parts of the tourism sector to work together to ensure that customers are refunded as quickly as possible.
"Our priority is to continue our focus on securing flight refunds for our customers. We have so far processed 90% of all airline refunds owed to our customers and are working very hard on behalf of our customers to secure the remaining refunds."
- A spokesperson for Villa Plus, which had the highest fall in net experience score in this survey compared with our summer survey, said: "Villa Plus would like to apologise for recent delays in processing refunds. Customers awaiting refunds can be reassured processing is now complete for those due to depart in September and we are currently working through refund processing (in departure date order) for those due to depart in October and November.
"Villa Plus can confirm refund processing for all package holiday customers due a refund will be completed before Christmas."
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