British Airways and Virgin REFUSE to refund flights for Tier 4 customers leaving thousands scrambling to get money back

BRITISH Airways and Virgin Atlantic are refusing to refund Tier 4 customers for trips they can no longer take over Christmas. 

It means thousands of customers have been left scrambling to get their money back from the airlines, or left with no option but to rearrange their trips.

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Rivals easyJet and TUI, meanwhile, have confirmed they WILL offer refunds to travellers who can no longer fly due to Tier 4 restrictions.

It comes as Boris Johnson announced some 18million people across London and parts of the south East of England would be entering tougher Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions from today.

The new tier level has effectively cancelled Christmas for those in these areas, with households being told to stay at home.

Government guidelines state “you must not leave your home to travel unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons”.

Travel: What are your rights to a refund?

MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled due to coronavirus.

Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.

You are entitled to a cash refund if they've cancelled your holiday but many have large delays or may offer vouchers instead.

If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.

Keep in mind the travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCO advice changed, otherwise you won't be covered.

If you don't have travel insurance, and your flight has been cancelled but you're struggling to get a refund, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.

Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.

To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.

Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees. 

Households also can’t take holidays or stay overnight away their main residence, unless permitted by law. 

But despite the new restrictions banning travel, both BA and Virgin Atlantic say they won’t be refunding customers unless their flights have been cancelled.

So for flights going ahead, customers won’t automatically be entitled to money back. If they do travel, they'll also risk invalidating their insurance unless they have specialist cover.

BA is instead offering travellers the option to rearrange their flights, or to accept a voucher instead.

Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, is letting customers rearrange their flights for an alternative date up until December 2022. 

Customers have been complaining to both airlines on Twitter today.

One person said: "Utterly ridiculous that despite Tier 4 restrictions banning me from flying today, BA will not refund payment and Avios as it’s within 24 hours because of the flight that is still going as it’s a regional lockdown.

"I don’t want a voucher, I want a refund. Disgrace!"

Another said: "Why are you not willing to offer a refund to those now not allowed to fly due to Tier 4 restrictions.

"Every other organisation are offering customers refunds but the best BA can do is offer a voucher."

A Virgin Atlantic customer, meanwhile, said: "Hi, with the news Tier 4 restrictions. What is going to happen to the flights in the next week?"

Virgin responded: "We’re aware of the latest guidance issued by the UK government regarding Tier 4 restrictions with an advisory against non-essential travel.

"If we need to cancel a customer’s flight, we’ll be in touch and they will have the option to rebook or request a refund."

Rival airline easyJet has confirmed customers can get a voucher, rearrange flights or get a full refund if their flight is due to depart before December 30, 2020.

And Tui has announced all package holiday customers in Tier 4 can rebook or get a refund.

We’ve asked Ryanair what it’s policy is for Tier 4 customers and we’ll update this article when we know more.

It comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed it would be investigating airlines over their refusal to refund customers for flights they couldn't take.

This could include, for example, when a national lockdown was in place and non-essential travelw as banned.

Airlines only have to provide cash refunds or alternative flights where they cancel flights under EU laws.

If your holiday is cancelled by your tour operator, the money has to be refunded within 14 days, or seven days if the airline called off your flights.

Which? consumer rights expert Adam French: “These new restrictions will cause massive travel disruption and chaos, leaving many peoples' festive plans in tatters.

“If you've forked out on money for a train ticket and have to stay put you should be able to cancel the trip and get your money back.

“Rail operators should be as accommodating as possible by allowing passengers the flexibility to use tickets or issuing them refunds if they can't travel at another time.”

A British Airways spokesperson said: “Customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can continue to change their flights or request a voucher for future use as part of our Book with Confidence policy.

“As always, if a customer's flight is cancelled they are entitled to a full refund or a voucher, and we always contact any customers whose flights may be affected to discuss their options.”

A spokesperson from Virgin Atlantic told the Mail Online: "

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Mail Online: ''We understand the difficulties that Covid-19 and Tier 4 restrictions pose to some of our customers. 

"Where a customer is unable to travel for any reason, we offer as much choice and flexibility as possible to help them change or amend their plans, with a name change and two date change fees waived for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022."

The Sun has asked Virgin Atlantic for comment.

In July, the Civil Aviation Authority said that Jet2 was the only British carrier "consistently processing cash refunds quickly" with "only a small backlog of refund requests". 

LoveHolidays was ordered to repay £18million to 44,000 customers by the CMA.

And LastMinute has been ordered to pay £7million back to customers for holidays cancelled due to coronavirus.

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