Cancelled flights because of Coronavirus – what to do?


The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and closure of borders by many countries to minimise spread has caused many airlines to cancel most or all flights. Hundreds of thousands of passengers are left with paid tickets wondering what they can do. GIVT’s experts reply:

Because of the global risk to health caused by Coronavirus, flight disruptions, including international flights, should be mostly considered as extraordinary circumstances which, by definition, exempt airlines from liability.

Some countries such as the USA, Australia, India, and Singapore have closed their borders to restrict the flow of people, however not all. If your country has not opted for a border closure then you can apply for compensation under EU Regulation for cancelled and delayed flights. Airlines may be claiming that flight disruption is because of Coronavirus, however the actual reason may be for cost cutting. In this case you may be entitled to compensation.

If you want to check if your flight was cancelled for cost cutting reasons we can help you. Just fill out our short request form so we can provide you with the information.

See full map of countries with closed borders (in red) and still open (in grey):

Situation as at 16 March 2020

Getting a refund or changing flight dates

Unfortunately, passengers with flights cancelled due to Coronavirus are not eligible for compensation under Regulation (EU) 261/2004 as this falls under extraordinary circumstances, however, they may apply for:

  • ticket cost refund or
  • free change of flight dates.

Some airlines may also offer care in the form of food and accommodation.

Wizz Air, for example, has announced that “120 percent of the cost of the original booking will be automatically credited to Wizz Air customer accounts for use for within the next 24 months for any Wizz Air products and services.” Passengers do not have to accept this offer, however and can opt for a full refund of the ticket cost, which Wizz Air says may take more time.

Ryanair issued a statement that passengers would be informed of refund or flight changes options via email. In either case passengers should note the time limits applicable in their country.

In addition to airline websites we recommend using our flight monitoring database to check exactly which flights were cancelled and if your flight is on the list. You can check Wizz Air, easyJet, and British Airways flights amongst others. If you had planned to use any of these airlines you can find a detailed list of cancelled flights on both the GIVT website and the airline’s.

The airline doesn’t want to refund the ticket – what to do?

Despite the airlines offering these three solutions, they try to force passengers to choose a voucher or change of flight dates, making it difficult to get a ticket refund. If you encounter such a difficulty, remember that you are not obliged to accept the alternative solutions offered by the carriers, and you can demand a refund. Carriers should make a payment to your account immediately, however, due to the situation, be patient, as airlines are increasingly reporting late payments.

It’s worth adding the following documents to your ticket refund claim:

  • booking confirmation or
  • electronic ticket.

These documents contain your data, such as name, surname, flight route, flight number and flight date. They are also a confirmation that you purchased the flight.

Repatriation flights for citizens

Stay in touch with your airline. Some airlines like LOT – Polish Airlines are scheduling repatriation flights, return flights for citizens abroad. Keep abreast of your airline’s latest news. If you cannot return home with that airline look for an alternative flight.

In the current circumstances, different airlines have their own regulations for cancelled flight compensation, so it is important to keep up to date of information directly on the airline’s website.

Cancelled package holidays – will I get a refund?

When you purchase a package holiday, as a British citizen you will be protected by ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) or ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s License), and should then receive:

  • ticket cost refund or
  • free change of flight dates.

If you arranged transport and accommodation separately, please contact your providers directly. There is no single easy way to receive compensation for travel disruption during health emergencies, so be sure to check the relevant information on your provider’s website.

Voluntary flight cancellation

In situations where, for fear of personal safety, you wish to cancel your flight due to Coronavirus and the flight is still scheduled to take place, please be aware that any refunds or free changes of flight dates depend on the General Conditions of Carriage and rules and regulations of each specific airline. Keep abreast of your airline’s policies, especially regarding changes in individual travel policies regarding Coronavirus.

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