Most customers are happy with how their airline handled the cancellation of their flights in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll of UK passengers.

ICN Business School teamed up with Opinium to gauge UK customer reaction to how carriers dealt with cancelled flights between March 17 and May 17, as travel restrictions and lockdowns were imposed across the globe – and shared the results exclusively with Travel Weekly.

Airlines have faced pressure from consumer groups over delays to the refunds process, and for offering vouchers in place of cash refunds. However, European Union states have urged the European Commission to allow airlines to choose how they reimburse passengers, be it by voucher or cash.


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More than a third (34%) of respondents agreed with the statement that they were happy with the airline’s attempt to resolve the situation, while 24% strongly agreed. That compared with 12% disagreeing, a further 12% strongly disagreeing, and 18% neither agreeing or disagreeing.

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They survey found that the highest proportion of passengers (35%) were informed of their cancellation 4-7 days before their flight was due to depart, 30% were told 10 days before, 3% between 8-9 days before, and 9% more than 10 days before the cancelled flight. It found 13% of respondents were told of their cancellation 2-3 days before their flight was due to depart, 5% one day before, and a further 5% were told on the day of the flight.

The majority (55%) were informed via email, with 12% receiving a text, 10% a mobile phone push notification, 7% a call, and 7% an instant message online – while 6% said they were told of their cancellation at the airport.

When it came to alternatives to their original booking, 16% of respondents said they received a full cash refund, 23% said they were given rebooking vouchers and 15% were given the option to choose between a refund or a voucher. Twenty percent were given the option to reschedule the flight at no extra cost, 11% were offered to reschedule at a different cost, 9% said they were given “several options” and 3% said they lost their money.

Most said they would have liked to have been given the choice between a refund and a voucher, with 34% agreeing with the statement and 37% strongly agreeing compared with 18% having no preference, 8% disagreeing and 3% strongly disagreeing.

Asked if, given the circumstances, their airline offered adequate compensation, 35% agreed and 28% strongly agreed. On the other hand, 10% strongly disagreed, and 9% disagreed, while 18% neither agreed or disagreed.

Airlines’ handling of the crisis did not deter many surveyed customers from using them again in the future. The survey found 43% of passengers agreed with the statement that they would use their airline again, and 35% strongly agreed. It found 4% disagreed and another 4% strongly disagreed, while 14% neither agreed or disagreed.

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Professor Giuseppe Catenazzo of ICN Business School, said: “Although two out of three respondents would have preferred to choose between a refund or a voucher following flight cancellation, the airlines’ reaction looked overall adequate.

“The clients’ relationship with airlines does not seem broken. This looks promising for airlines who are slowly redesigning their business in the months to come.”