Holiday refunds for cancellations

Paid for a holiday that’s been cancelled? Paul Lewis explains how to get your money back

Boeing 747 Landing into sunset

All over the country thousands of people are due refunds for holidays, flights, trips, concerts or events for which they’ve paid but which haven’t happened. The law is clear – if you pay for a service and it isn’t provided, then you’re entitled to your money back. These rights are given under various legal provisions, but they all say money must be refunded.


Despite these clear rights, enforcing them can be difficult against a firm that says it will not – or cannot – pay you. It may have offered a voucher for a future trip or claim the event has just been postponed and your ticket will be valid at some future date. None of those take away your right to a full refund.

I’ll assume you’ve already written to the firm, been rebuffed – or ignored – and tried again. Then what? Time for the nuclear option.  If a firm owes you money, you can go to court to recover it. We used to call it the “small claims court”, but in England and Wales it is now done centrally through the official Courts & Tribunals Service website at In Scotland, it’s called the “simple procedure” at  In Northern Ireland, go to and search “small claims”.

Begin a court action online. Fill in the claim form with your details and theirs, the amount claimed and the reasons. Do not proceed any further and take a screenshot of the page. Next, email the chief executive of the company that owes you money. You can find that address from Attach the screenshot to the email and say you’re entitled to your money back and you expect a refund within seven days or you will go to court.  The boss will have minions to read emails, but you will have hit the top table with your complaint and it will usually be fast-tracked.

One happy reader who used this technique emailed me: “It worked!  [The airline] wrote back today and my credit card has been reimbursed.”  If it doesn’t work, then start the action after 14 days. At which point they’ll probably settle out of court.  I’m grateful to Helen Dewdney for this idea.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4