British regional airline Flybe has collapsed overnight and cancelled all flights – passengers will need to make alternate arrangements but many will be unsure as to what their rights are.
The airline announced it entered administration as soon as all evening flights had landed last night, after a government rescue bid fell apart.
Customers have been instructed not to go to the airport unless they have arranged an alternative flight with a different airline.
So what are your rights as a Flybe customer?
Can I get a refund?
You are unlikely to get a refund from Flybe. It has ceased operations and may not be able to pay all customers back.
Passengers will have to look to their travel insurance or credit card providers if they want to get their money back.
For flights operated by Flybe’s franchise partners – Eastern Airways and Blue Islands – passengers should contact the airline and confirm travel arrangements.
Am I covered by travel insurance?
Only about half of travel policies will cover the cost of the tickets and any additional expenses incurred. Brian Brown, of financial information business Defaqto, said cover for airline failure is an optional add on in around a fifth of all annual travel policies.
Around a third don’t provide this cover at all.
An insurer will first expect you to try to get a refund through the airline, or Abta, a UK travel trade association. However, in the case of Flybe this is unlikely to apply, Mr Brown said.
“Anyone who has booked a trip with Flybe as part of a package holiday will be fully protected through the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme and should not lose out. However, those who have booked flights directly and have not travelled yet, are at risk,” he said.
If you are in Britain and haven’t travelled yet, you will not get anything more money than the cost of the ticket from your insurer. This means that if alternative flights cost more, you will have to fund that yourself.
If you are stranded abroad, then travel insurance policies should pay for you to make “reasonable” alternative travel arrangements, Mr Brown added. This means a similar type of ticket to get you back, but you should contact your travel insurer as soon as possible.
Richard Moriarty, of the Civil Aviation Authority, said that if you did not book directly with Flybe and purchased your tickets through a third party, you should contact your booking or travel agent in the first instance.
If you booked your flights through an airline ticket agent then you should speak to the agent first as they may have provided travel insurance that includes Scheduled Airline Failure cover.
Some ticket agents will offer customers this policy and the type of protection may vary. A policy might only cover the cost of the original tickets purchased, or could extend to the additional cost of purchasing new flights, such as new tickets for travel back to Britain.
What if I booked a trip that includes flights and hotels?
Customers who bought Flybe flights that is part of a package should contact Atol – the body offers guidance on claiming a refund or a flight back home if a travel company goes out of business.
The Civil Aviation Authority said: “The travel firm is responsible for your flight arrangements and must either make alternative flights available for you so that your trip can continue or provide a full refund. If you are abroad, it should make arrangements to bring you home at the end of your trip.”
Can I get a refund via my credit or debit card provider?
The next step after checking travel insurance policies is to ask your credit card provider for a refund under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. The section is a legal act that protects you when you spend on your credit card but the value of the ticket must be between £100 and £30,000 to make a claim.
If you booked with a debit card you may be able to make a claim using the Chargeback scheme. This gives people a chance of getting their money back from their bank if a service has not been provided. This will only get you your ticket cost back, and will take time.
Some card providers will need a “negative response letter” confirming the position the customer has been left in.
Will Flybe fly people home?
Mr Brown, of Defaqto, said people should not hold out any hope of the airline flying people home.
He said: “There’s no point expecting Flybe to do anything. The company is bust, all staff have lost their jobs, and they have no funds. They are in no position to do anything to help their ex-customers.”
What alternative routes can I take?
Train operators in Britain have agreed to provide free travel for Flybe customers and staff who have found themselves unable to travel over the next week.
Ticket holders will have to show proof of their planned journey, such as a boarding card or flight confirmation, to operator staff at the railway station.
Robert Nisbet, of the Rail Delivery Group, said on behalf of train operators: “We know how distressing the news about Flybe is for their staff and customers which is why train operators have arranged free travel to help them get to their destinations.”