Delta variant concerns: Can I cancel my flight this summer?

·3-min read
A British Airways plane
Make sure to read refund and cancellations terms and conditions when you book your flights. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

If you were planning to fly abroad this summer and have booked your flights separately then the chances are you may now be considering cancelling them.

The UK's amber and red traffic light system imposes restrictions on returning to the country, including quarantine times and potentially expensive COVID-19 tests. As a result of this, travelling abroad is increasingly becoming a gamble as countries switch between different colour zones.

So what are your rights if you want to cancel a flight?

Airline cancellation

If a flight that was due to depart from the UK is cancelled by the airline then the passengers are entitled to a full refund for the cost of the flight.

Alternatively, the airline should pay for a replacement flight, at the earliest opportunity or at a later date subject to availability.

Any disputes should be taken to the relevant alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service for that particular airline.

Customer cancellation

If a traveller wishes to cancel their flight because a country has moved onto the amber or red list then their options depend on the terms and conditions of the airline at the time of the booking.

"If you want to change the flight it is a matter between you and the airline. Your rights are very limited and you are reliant on the airline. Every airline is going to be different. You need to look at the specific airline's terms and conditions when you booked the flight," advised Coby Benson, of UK consumer law firm Bott and Co Solicitors.

Read more: Surge in demand for holidays in new green list destinations

Most UK airlines are offering flexible booking policies which allow customers to cancel their booking and receive vouchers to use on another flight.

British Airways (IAG.L) has a "booking with confidence" policy which allows passengers to change dates or the destination, or cancel a booking with no additional fee. Customers can then claim a voucher and rebook when ready.

EasyJet (EZJ.L) offers a Covid commitment service which allows for fee-free changes 24 hours before a flight or cancellation and credit towards a future booking.

And Ryanair (RYA.L) is allowing flight changes for no fee seven days prior to the departure date if a booking was made between June 10 2020 and September 30 2021.

Travel insurance

Insurance is unlikely to cover cancellation by the customer but it is always worth checking your policy details. Insurance providers will ask policyholders to pursue cancelled flight refunds with the airline first and credit card companies next, before making a claim.

Read more: How to get travel insurance amid UK rulings on red, green, and amber countries

Package holidays

There are different laws for package holidays which fall under the Package Travel Regulations (2018).

Package holidays can be cancelled by the customer and they can expect a refund but there are often high termination fees.

Travellers are able to terminate the package before the start of the holiday, without paying any termination fees in certain extraordinary circumstances. But it debatable whether the ongoing pandemic still counts as "extraordinary" if a passenger wants to cancel now because they don’t want to quarantine.

"Customers do have a right to cancel and receive a refund from a package holiday and will be entitled to some money back," said Benson.

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?