Although customers are legally entitled to cash refunds, they must directly apply to swap their credit for cash.
This is a more protracted process that is likely to leave many people settling for the credit refund, an option that enables them – and incentivises them with a 20 per cent bonus – to make future bookings via the firm.
Here’s what you need to know to claim your cash or credit refund.
How do I apply for a cash refund?
First Choice is part of the Tui group and follows an almost identical refund procedure to its sister company.
The travel firm will follow up cancellations with an apology email, four weeks after the failed departure date. This email will contain a refund code, which can be used as credit, or exchanged for cash.
Once you have a code, you can request a cash refund by calling customer service on 0203 451 2868. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm.
“Due to the volume of holidays impacted, we’re asking you not to contact us until you receive your refund credit so we can continue helping customers in date order,” says the company’s FAQ page.
Nevertheless, customers who need their refund before the four weeks are still entitled to request it. If this is you, call the aforementioned phone number.
The company does warn: “please be aware that our call centre teams are incredibly busy, so call waiting times are considerably longer than usual.”
As is true for most travel firms at the moment, callers can expect to be on hold for several hours before getting through.
There is one alternative: if you can afford to wait, the company will change credit for cash if you have not booked an alternative holiday within 12 months.
As it currently stands, refunds may take up to 28 days, which is longer than usual. They will be issued via your original payment method.
Note, these conditions may not apply to customers who booked through a third party, who should be contacted directly.
How does the credit refund work?
Refund codes can be used to book alternative flights, accommodation or package holidays on the Tui or First Choice website (even if the original booking was made in store).
You can call a Travel Advisor to assist with this on 0800 009 3836 or 0203 636 1997. Phone lines are open between 9am and 7pm from Monday to Friday.
If you feel like taking a risk, discounted holidays are up for grabs before October 31, 2021.
Rest assured, refund credit for package holidays is ATOL protected, meaning your money will be secured even if the firm goes bust.
Passengers who accept a credit refund will also benefit from a “booking incentive” of up to 20 per cent.
This means any bookings costing 20 per cent more than your original cancelled booking will be available without additional costs. It is a one time offer, however, so if you do not spend 120 per cent of your original fee, you will not get the bonus.
If your new booking costs more than your available credit, you will have to pay the difference. If it costs less than the price of your original booking, you will be emailed another refund code offering the difference.
If you’re keen to get on with amending your booking, you do not have to wait for a refund code. Just head to your “Manage my Booking” page where you’ll find the 20 per cent bonus ready for use. This currently applies to cancellations before 30 June only.
Beyond that, you may not need a refund after all. Watch this space.