Travel Q&A

Q. I bought Christmas flights to Albania with BelleAir, but the company went into liquidation. I paid about £1,000, with a debit card. Is there a solution for getting my money back? My parents were expecting us to spend Christmas together. Ledjan Denaj, London

A. Sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience. BelleAir was based at Mother Teresa airport in Tirana and flew to a range of European destinations, including London. As you know, the airline shut down last month.

The first issue is claiming your money back, which should prove straightforward, if slow. Though debit-card issuers have no legal obligation to refund cardholders for non-fulfilment of purchases, the vast majority of banks voluntarily offer broadly the same protection that you get with a credit card. If the supplier goes bust before you have received the item (in your case, flights to Albania and back) then you should get your money back.

Unfortunately, the "chargeback" system, as it is called, is not a speedy process. The bank may well ask for evidence and then spend some time evaluating your application. You are unlikely to get anything back before the New Year. So if you want to find alternative flights, you will need to pay.

You are in the invidious position of needing to buy at short notice, which means fares are high and availability thin. The best deal seems to be £560 return on Air France; Alitalia has a cheaper deal, but it involves a transfer in Milan from one airport to the other. It might be better to aim for Dubrovnik, and make the long overland journey, via Montenegro.

We asked Paul Lawler of about your case, and he said that in future you might consider paying with credit card because of the added level of protection you get.