Coronavirus Journey Rights

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. Here’s what to try if your trip’s been cancelled:

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.

If you accept a Virgin Holidays voucher, you can use it to rebook up to 31 December 2021. You’ll have until 31 March 2021 to redeem the voucher  if you’ve not used it by then you can still request a refund.

If you accept Virgin Atlantic credit, you can use it to rebook on an alternative date up to 30 September 2022, and can also change the destination and name on the ticket. If you book to travel before 30 November 2020, any fare difference will be waived.

Of course, the safest option is always to demand a cash refund rather than a voucher – especially given the challenges faced by the travel industry at the moment. So you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons.

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.

We’ve seen a handful of cases where customers who’ve applied online have now got their money back without taking further action, eg, Betting Blab on Twitter told us: “Just short of 90 days but we received 100%”. Some who’ve been waiting for three months still haven’t been paid though. Virgin says it’s working through refund requests based on how long customers have been waiting, ie, starting with those who applied in March.

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 up to four months 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.

There’s no guarantee you’ll have success with this, but it’s worth a go and some have had luck, eg, Desired Destinations told us on Twitter: “We got a refund of four flights after chasing many times – finally a helpful person on email sorted it.” Plus if you do decide to chase a refund from your card provider (see below), you may be asked to show you’ve done all you can to demand a refund from Virgin first.

If you really want to push it, you could say you’re willing to file a county court claim if it doesn’t refund you (see more on this below, though while you may want to threaten, you’ll need to weigh up very carefully if this is actually worth pursuing). Some have also had success sending a ‘letter before action’ – essentially, a formal note warning you’ll take court action if the problem isn’t resolved. Matt tweeted: “It took 90 days and a letter before action, they coughed up the day before the deadline for starting court proceedings.”

If you don’t have any joy, Virgin Atlantic customers can also escalate their complaint to its alternative dispute resolution service AviationADR. However, you can only do it if you’ve received a deadlock letter from Virgin Atlantic or haven’t heard back within eight weeks, so it’s not a quick fix.

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 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”.

Bear in mind the chargeback scheme has its own 120-day time limit, meaning you’ll need to make a chargeback claim within 120 days of the scheduled date of your cancelled flight or holiday. Also be aware that even once you’re paid the money, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.

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.

5) Your absolute last resort would be to go to court – but it’s unlikely to be worth the hassle. As noted above, you may want to mention the possibility of going to court if you complain to Virgin – it may encourage it to take notice and hopefully refund you quicker. But you should weigh up very carefully if it’s actually worth following through with your threat and file a county court claim.

If you do really want to do this, you may be able to do it through the small claims route – see more in our Small Claims Court guide. There is a cost – it’s £25 to £300, and it’s refunded if you win. If you lose, there are no costs against you in the small claims court, but there may be if it goes up to a higher court (you’ll know beforehand though and could drop the case then).

It’s also worth weighing up the hassle factor when considering this – especially given given Virgin has promised to pay a full refund in time.

Please let us know how you get on and what you’ve tried at [email protected]

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