Has a missed flight left you out of pocket?

Published by on 04 October 2010.
Last updated on 05 October 2010

missed flight

Q: We booked flights to New York with Virgin Atlantic through the Flight Centre back in February. But we missed our return flights to the UK due to the huge snowfall and had to pay $370 (about £250) for both of us to get on the next flight.

We haven't had any luck from the insurer as the freak weather conditions fell into the 'Act of God' category. However, I was wondering if we could at least claim for the taxes we paid on the missed flight?

I contacted the Flight Centre but it said we couldn't claim anything back. However, I have since heard through a friend that I can. Is this true, and if so, how can I go about it?

A: Many holidaymakers aren't aware that they can claim back taxes on missed flights. How much you'll get, however, will depend on where you are flying to and also how you book the flight. Airlines and agents will only reimburse certain taxes.

Airport passenger duty (APD) is the one type of tax that you can claim back. The rate on a short-haul European flight is £11, based on economy class (rising to £12 in November).

In comparison, APD rates to Australia are £55 for an economy passenger (£85 from November) or £170 for first-class.

According to HM Revenue & Customs, the issue of a tax refund isn't a legal matter but a "commercial decision", which explains why some airlines refund passengers and others don't.

Moneywise first contacted Virgin Atlantic. Although it does refund APD, it says because you booked the flight through the Flight Centre, you will have to seek redress from the travel agent.

The Flight Centre, however, is unwilling to refund the tax on your missed flights because you had already made part of the journey (to New York). If you had cancelled your flights in London, it would have refunded the APD.

It said: "APD is assessed on international flights departing from the UK, not on flights arriving into the UK."

It's annoying to see that the airlines don't have to follow a standard protocol on this, and that even though APD is levied on the number of passengers on board an aircraft at the point of takeoff, they can still get away with not passing the refund on or adding expensive administration charges.

Have you been left out of pocket through no fault of you own? Let Moneywise fight for your rights - get in touch today.

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