ABTA issues new guidance on refunds and vouchers


As the weeks pass and the British Government isn’t making any decision on refunds, ABTA steps in and issues new guidance.

International travel has been brought to a complete standstill by government measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and this has led to hundreds of thousands of holidays being affected.

Customers are strongly encouraged to talk to their travel company to discuss alternative travel arrangements. Travel companies are doing all they can to ensure that holidays can go ahead where and when it is safe to do so and will be keen to offer you a range of options so that you can get the holiday you want.
Where no suitable alternative is possible, your travel company may offer you a refund of the money you paid depending on the terms and conditions of your booking and depending on whether or not you booked a package holiday.

If you booked a package holiday, you are entitled to a refund. It is understandable that those customers that would prefer a refund to rebooking,  may feel frustrated and concerned by the amount of time it is taking. In normal circumstances a refund should be paid within 14 days. But these are not normal circumstances and the 14 day rule is simply impossible for many companies to adhere to.

If you have travel insurance you might find it quicker to apply for a refund under your policy. Your travel company will be able to assist you with the paperwork for this.

Why is my refund being delayed?

Tour operators and travel agents are doing all they can to help customers but many don’t have the cash to pay customers a cash refund in a 14 day period, as they have not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers affected by the crisis. Forcing them to do so would put many of them out of business, which would mean customers would not get their money back for many more months as the Government-backed ATOL scheme of financial protection could not cope with the sheer volume of refunds. It would also result in significant long-term damage to the UK travel industry.

In many other countries, governments have taken action to temporarily amend their travel regulations and provide additional guidance to allow refunds to be paid over a longer period or to allow refunds to be paid by a holiday voucher. You can find out more about what other countries are doing here.

The European Commission, which is responsible for the relevant regulations, has advised Member states to find “flexible solutions” to demands for refunds on cancelled holidays during the Covid-19 crisis.  

In the absence of any Government intervention, and to provide some order to a chaotic situation brought about by the current crisis, ABTA has developed a regulatory framework for refunds for its Members and their customers, based on a system of financially-protected Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) where the customer’s fundamental rights are preserved, as set out by law (the Package Travel Regulations).  

This type of system is similar to those introduced in many other countries and is the framework under which ABTA will guide its Members and hold them to account.

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