Sometimes it feels as though you need a PhD in gobbledygook to unravel the labyrinthine rules of travel vouchers.
Each airline seems to have a subtly different system, and tour operators are not much better. Once you start assessing whether a voucher can be used, you find that all sorts of travel limitations seem to apply. Then there are the expiry dates — which are easy to overlook — and the fact you can’t change your mind later and get your cash back instead.
Given the pitfalls, it would be better to accept a refund than a voucher. I’d much rather have cash in hand, which airlines and operators are legally required to supply within 14 days. However, for those who already have vouchers, here are some tips.
From BA to Wizz Air, each airline seems to have a subtly different system when it comes to how and when travel vouchers can be used
EASY BET EASYJET
At easyJet, vouchers are valid for 12 months and are non-refundable. This means you need to make a booking within a year of receiving the voucher, but the dates you depart and return can be outside of this period.
Be careful to keep an eye on the dates within which you can travel, though, as they do shift. For example, earlier this year the deadline was February 2023, but now it is the end of September 2023.
And easyJet recently relaxed rules for vouchers that expire between March and October 30 — these are all now valid until the end of this month for travel until September 30, 2023.
CHECK THE RULES: See ‘disruption vouchers’ at easyjet.com.
VERDICT: Cheeringly flexible.
VIRGIN BACK ON TRACK
Virgin Atlantic vouchers for cancellations before June 24 of this year can be used before their booking expiry dates for travel until the end of December 2023
For cancellations before June 24 this year, Virgin Atlantic was offering travel vouchers, but it has since dropped them altogether.
Now when flights are cancelled, customers will receive refunds or the chance to reroute or rebook at a date of their convenience (as is now also the case at BA).
For those who already have vouchers, these can be used before their booking expiry dates for travel until the end of December 2023. Conveniently, they can also be transferred to other people, but they are not refundable.
Regarding any future cancellations, Virgin says its ‘refund timetables have returned to normal’ and apologises for previous delays.
CHECK THE RULES: Visit the page ‘If your flight has been cancelled or impacted by changes to our schedule’ at virginatlantic.com.
VERDICT: Decent validity.
Ryanair’s Covid-19 travel vouchers can be redeemed for cash at any time
WHAT ABOUT REFUND CREDIT NOTES?
Tour operators legally had to provide refunds within 14 days of cancelled holidays during the pandemic, but owing to cashflow problems, Refund Credit Notes were introduced to avoid mass bankruptcies. As of September 30, these notes are no longer ATOL-backed. They can expire, but terms and conditions vary. Visit which.co.uk for information.
Its reputation may be for tough rules, but Ryanair’s voucher policy seems fairly straightforward, though, as ever, it’s essential to read the small print.
Covid-19 travel vouchers were issued for disrupted flights before November 2021. They are valid for a year but can be extended one time for 12 more months.
Each voucher has its validity period written on it. They can also be redeemed for cash at any time.
For flights disrupted after November 2021, the refund will be credited to your ‘Ryanair Wallet’ on your online account. Once there, it can be used to book flights or be cashed in.
CHECK THE RULES: Go to the ‘refund hub’ at ryanair.com.
VERDICT: Good, but keep an eye on the details.
MUDDLE AT BA
Confusingly, British Airways offered two different voucher types through the pandemic: eVouchers and Future Travel Vouchers.
The first type, eVouchers, are non-refundable and valid for travel until September 2023. They can be redeemed at any time up until then.
Future Travel Vouchers (FTV), provided during the early days of the pandemic, are no longer being issued, as the airline’s online system had a blip and failed to recognise their codes for bookings.
Refunds have been offered to all FTV holders. British Airways has now stopped issuing all kinds of vouchers for cancellations, reverting to pre-pandemic refunds or rerouting and rebooking.
CHECK THE RULES: ‘Using your voucher’ at ba.com.
VERDICT: Could be simpler.
WISHY-WASHY WIZZ AIR
Hungarian airline Wizz Air has a Wizz Credits system into which customers can opt to put money from cancelled flights, rather than ask for a refund. Once the money has been changed for credits, however, no refund is possible.
Credits usually have a two-year validity, but expiry dates vary so customers must check these. After that date, the credit will vanish from the account.
CHECK THE RULES: ‘Refunds and compensations’ at wizzair.com.
VERDICT: Confusing information on voucher deadlines.