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Holidaymakers struggle for refunds due to difference between traffic light system and Foreign Office advice

The i 11/06/2021 Hugo Daniel
a man and a woman posing for a picture: Caroline Coleman-Davies and her husband Brian had to battle EasyJet for a refund after Portugal was removed from the green list (Photo: Caroline Coleman-Davies) © Provided by The i Caroline Coleman-Davies and her husband Brian had to battle EasyJet for a refund after Portugal was removed from the green list (Photo: Caroline Coleman-Davies)

Conflicting advice from the Foreign Office and the Government’s traffic light system means families are struggling to secure refunds on some amber list holidays.

It comes after i reported that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is not currently advising against travel to some holiday destinations including Portugal, the Canary Islands and Greek islands despite them being on the amber list.

The FCDO has said its travel advice is based on a different criteria than the Department for Transport’s (DfT) traffic light system, and assesses several factors including terrorism, natural disasters, general safety as well as the risk of Covid-19 exposure.

DfT’s traffic lights system assesses the risk of people entering England and importing Covid variants.

Consumers being able to secure a refund or get their money back through their travel insurance usually hinges on the FCDO’s advice.

Caroline Coleman-Davies, 49, and her husband Brian, 48, from Porthcawl, Wales, booked EasyJet flights to Faro, Portugal, when it was added to the Green list for a trip at the end of June to see her parents who live out there.

She told i that she was initially not entitled to her money back from Easyjet because of the FCDO guidance on travel to Portugal.

Mrs Coleman-Davies said: “I’m blaming the Government for this. They’re giving contradictory advice. Either they want us to stay home or they don’t.”

Eventually EasyJet cancelled the couple’s flight meaning they were entitled to a refund – but the firm offered to compensate them with vouchers.

The couple had booked their trip using vouchers from a previous trip that was cancelled due to the pandemic and paid the rest with their credit card.

After being contacted by i, EasyJet agreed to provide Mrs Coleman-Davies and her husband their cash back.

Her husband is a key worker and cannot do the 10-day quarantine required, however Mrs Coleman-Davies is still considering whether to rebook and go to Portugal as her job allows her to isolate at home.

She said: “I am still deciding whether or not to go, on the basis I’m seeing my elderly parents so it’s not exactly a holiday in the traditional sense, it’s visiting elderly family members who I’ve not seen in a long time.

“The Government have got to give clear messaging and clear advice to people. It’s the total inconsistency that is the big problem here you can’t have one part of the Government saying essential travel only and another not.”

EasyJet said it was reviewing its flight programme to Portugal to take into account customer demand and travel restrictions, a spokesperson said: “EasyJet has a flexible policy in place for customers whose flights have been cancelled and provides the option to transfer for free to an alternative flights, take a voucher or receive a refund.

“We do recognise that some passengers who booked with vouchers may now have had more than one flight cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Historically we have always refunded passengers via the original method of payment so passengers who booked their flights with a voucher would receive a voucher refund unless there was extraordinary circumstances.

“However, given the increased number of voucher bookings we have changed our policy and are now offering customers whose flights were booked with vouchers which have then been cancelled the option of a cash refund. Customers can contact our customer service team and they will process a refund for them.

“We have been in touch with Caroline and Brian Coleman-Davies to apologise for incorrectly informing them of them of their options due to a manual error and have provided them with a full refund. ”

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