Coronavirus: The best and worst airlines for flight refunds revealed

Credit: PA

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, thousands of flights were cancelled and customers left waiting for refunds.

Regulations require customers to get their money back within seven days, but a review into airlines' practices during the outbreak found many were "not performing adequately".

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) began looking into the issue in May and found "the sheer scale of flights being cancelled" resulted in many airlines missing the seven day policy.

  • Here's a breakdown of how the UK's airlines performed:

British Airways

The airline was found to have processed most refunds within 30 days or less, with a relatively small backlog of requests.

Passengers complaints indicated that customers have experienced difficulties in contacting the airline, however, to request a refund in the first place.

BA has since made changes to its customer helpline to ensure that calls are no longer terminated after a recorded message.

A British Airways Boeing 747 plane landing at Heathrow Airport Credit: Steve Parsons/PA


Initially easyJet was taking up to 90 says to process refund requests.

The company was also found to have a "sizeable backlog of refund requests" from customers trying to get their money back.

Under pressure from the CAA, the airline has added the number of staff working to process refunds and has said it is now able to process refund requests in less than 30 days.

EasyJet says it also expects its current backlog of request to be processed by early August


Jet2 is one of only three airlines, of 18 in the review, that was identified as having beenconsistent in processing cash refunds quickly. The airline has only a small backlog of refund requests.

Jet2 is calling on the Government to provide clarity for the industry. Credit: PA


Rather than issuing refunds directly, TUI automatically gave customers a credit note for the value of their flight.

Customers then had to wait 28 days from receiving the credit note before they could claim a cash refund - which could then take a further 28 days to be processed.

Following a request from the CAA, the airline has changed its practices and now automatically begins a cash refund process once a customer's flight is cancelled.

TUI says, on average, cash refunds will be processed within 14 days.

Virgin Atlantic

Initially in the outbreak, the airline was taking up to 60 days to process refund requests.

The airline's performance became "significantly worse," according to the review -making a commitment to customers that the maximum wait for their money back would be 120 days.

A Virgin Atlantic plane. Credit: PA

Facing criticism from the CAA, the airline pledged to make improvements with refund claims made in August expected to take up to 80 days.

For September the airline says it will aim for refunds within 60 days, and all claims made in October within 30 days.

The CAA says it will monitor Virgin Atlantic "particularly closely," given the longer wait times and says it will even consider using "formal enforcement powers if necessary."

Passengers on a flight at Heathrow Airport Credit: PA

  • Here's how other airlines with large UK operations performed:

Aer Lingus

The airline has a "sizeable backlog of refund requests to process" but is doing so "relatively quickly". Refunds are being processed in between around 30 to 40 days.

Air Canada

Based on passenger complaints, the review found Air Canada has not paid its customers cash refunds.

In response to enquiries made by the CAA, the airline said it was paying cash refunds and is in the process of contacting passengers on cancelled flights to inform them of the options.

Air Transat

Again, this airline was found to not be paying customers their money back - based on customer complaints.

It has since said it is providing refunds and is contacting customers who have been impacted.

American Airlines planes. Credit: AP

American Airlines

The airline is one of only three airlines in the review that was identified to be consistently processing cash refunds quickly, with only a small backlog to sort through.


Initially in the outbreak, the airline was taking up to 90 days to process refunds, this was found to improve to around 60 days as the situation developed.

The airline has promised more staff to ensure it can process refund requests in, on average, 40 days or less from the request being made. It says passengers will, in future, face a maximum wait of 50 days.

Emirates says it has processed 100% of claims received in March and April and95% of those received in May.


Customer complaints suggested Ethiad has not been paying cash refunds to its customers.

Following the review, the airline has confirmed it is giving customers back their money as is required. It also made improvements in notifying customers of cancellations, with a direct link to the website where passengers can find information on refunds.

A Emirates Airbus A380 plane lands at Heathrow Airport Credit: PA

Malaysia Airlines

The CAA identified this airline as not paying cash refunds, based on customer complaints.

Malaysia Airlines has since confirmed it is paying back customers' money and has made it clearer to passengers who have had their flights cancelled that they can claim back their cash.


Ryanair was found to be taking 10 weeks - sometimes longer - to process refunds at the beginning of the disruption.

On 3 July, the airline listed a number of commitments on its website, aimed at improving the timescales for processing cash refunds.

The Irish budget airline says 90% of its backlog would be cleared by the end ofJuly - with all refund claims made in April to be processed by 15 July and most of the claims made in May by the end of July.

Ryanair and easyJet aircraft parked near to an empty long stay car park at Southend airport after airlines reduced flights Credit: PA

Turkish Airlines

The airline was forced to confirm it was offering customers their money back, after customer complaints suggested otherwise.

It has since made adjustments to its website, its online refund form, and thenotification that it sends to passengers on cancelled flights - all to make clearer to customers that they are entitled to a cash refund, and how they can claim it.

Turkish Airlines is set to face further monitoring by the CAA to ensure it is not "systematically denying passengers their right to a refund."

United Airlines

United Airlines was one of just three airlines in the review to have consistently processed cash refunds quickly.

Passengers flying from Malaga arrive at Birmingham Airport Credit: Jacob King/PA

Officials have accepted commitments from the airlines that refunds will speed up their refund processes.

But the results have angered consumer groups, Which? says the CAA is "failing the consumers it is supposed to protect".

It added: "The reality is that people are still owed millions of pounds."