The area of claiming back airline taxes (APD), fees and charges in the case of flight cancellations is a murky one.
Many people are often confused or unsure how to claim refunds on cancelled or unused flights.
But did you know that you are entitled to a full refund of the taxes you paid on your ticket if your flight is cancelled, or if you do not fly for any reason?
Skyscanner shows you how.
Airline taxes explained
Airline taxes now all come under the name of Air Passenger Duty (APD). This is paid upon booking (by you), but not collected by the tax man from the airline until you actually fly.
At the moment, APD tax per flight ranges from £12 for an economy class, short haul flight, up to £170 for a premium class, long haul flight. Full details can be viewed in this HM Revenue and Customs report.
The procedures for claiming a refund and the administrative charges that accompany them vary from airline to airline, mainly due to the fact that taxes seem to be lumped together with others like ticket tax, airport tax and fuel tax.
How to claim APD taxes back
When your flight is cancelled, you are well within your rights to claim back APD tax. Airlines are required to pass on the tax to the tax authorities, but only after you actually fly. So if your ticket goes unused you are entitled to claim back the tax, otherwise the airline pockets it! This could be one of the reasons it’s not very easy to do.
If you’ve had to cancel a flight and have been told the fare is non-refundable, contact the airline’s customer service department to request a tax refund. Note: a non-refundable ticket must be cancelled before the travel date otherwise you will be deemed a ‘no show’ and you will not be entitled to claim back the tax.
Each airline should publish details of how to claim back APD tax on its website. If you cannot find this, call the airline and request details.
The catch: airline administration fees
Unfortunately, in the case of many airlines it is simply not worth bothering to claim back the tax because their high ‘administrative’ charges can amount to more than the tax paid on a flight. At the time of writing, there is no law to stop the airlines doing this or a law requiring an airline to voluntarily refund the tax on an unused ticket.
Examples: three airlines and their charges
Every airline has a different procedure and admin fee for claiming back the tax, so you’ll need to contact the airline you booked with specifically. However, we looked at three different airlines to see how easy it was, and how much it would cost to claim back your tax.
Administrative Fee: Free
Easyjet Terms and Conditions state they ‘reserve the right to deduct a reasonable service charge from any such refund where you fail to fly with us despite a Flight being available’.
They will refund full APD tax and ticket costs but charge a £22.50 fee if you informed them you couldn’t fly. For missed flights i.e. ‘no shows’, only the APD can be claimed back, but there is no fee.
Administrative Fee: £17
If you do not use your booked flight, the air fare, fees and charges are non-refundable but you may apply in writing within one month of the date of travel for a refund of your APD Tax. If the refund amount is less than the administration fee, no refund will be made.
As all Ryanair fares are fully changeable in respect of flight/dates/times/routes and names up to 4 hours before the flight departure time it may often be better value to pay the small fee to change the dates and fly another time.
Administration Fee: £15 - £30
If you wish to claim the ADP tax back from an online booking, the fee will be £15 and you can make your claim through the ‘manage my booking’ section of the website. However, if you made your booking over the phone, the administrative fee will be £30. If you are a ‘no show’ it is still possible to claim your tax back but as there is no provision for this online so you would have to call and pay the £30 admin fee.
Specialist ‘airline tax back’ companies
If you require further assistance, or information, there are a few other options to try.
There are companies out there that specialise in reclaiming taxes and surcharges paid on unused flights, for a modest fee. Try Tripmole or Flight-delayed.co.uk.
Credit card company
If you paid for your flight with a credit card, you could contact them and ask for a charge back refund. Explain that you wish to reclaim the tax on a flight and that the airline is trying to charge you more than the tax to refund it.
If you require further assistance, check the Air Transport Users Council (AUC) website for information on passenger rights and travel issues. Travel Association ABTA can also help resolve disputes and give advice.
If you try to reclaim APD tax and are met with high charges that you consider unreasonable, write an official letter of complaint to the airline and to the Office of Fair Trading.
The more passengers that complain, the more likely it is that the process will change and become simpler and more uniform across all airlines.