ABTA issues letter to ask customers for support
ABTA’s Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer has written an open letter to customers of the Association’s Members with travel arrangements that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis to explain the current situation and ask for their support.
Published today in the national press, the letter explains how international travel has been brought to a complete standstill by government measures to contain the pandemic and that this has led to hundreds of thousands of holidays being affected. It expresses sympathy for customers who have asked for a refund and may feel frustrated and concerned at the amount of time it is taking.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s Chief Executive, says, “Travel agents and operators are working extremely hard in the most trying of circumstances to do their best for their customers. But many travel companies are unable to provide immediate cash refunds.
“It’s in nobody’s interests for normally healthy travel businesses to go under. As well as the loss of thousands of jobs, the Government-backed ATOL financial protection scheme would be overwhelmed by a large-scale failure of businesses and it would take many more months for customers to get a refund.
“In the absence of Government action, ABTA has developed a regulatory framework for financially-protected refunds for its Members and their customers.”
Last week ABTA published updated information on its website for customers on why delays to refunds for package holidays may be occurring, and on how the system of Refund Credit Notes works.
Notes to editors:
The letter from Mark Tanzer can be read in full below and on pdf here.
A Letter from ABTA’s Chief Executive about holidays that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis
The coronavirus crisis is creating extraordinary difficulties for everyone, in ways that none of us could ever have predicted. International travel has been brought to a complete standstill by government measures to contain the pandemic and this has led to hundreds of thousands of holidays being affected.
Here, I want to write to customers of ABTA Members specifically to explain the current situation with refunds for holidays that aren’t going ahead as planned as a result of the pandemic, and to ask for your support.
Many customers have rebooked their holidays for a future date, but I completely understand why those who have asked for a refund may feel frustrated and concerned at the amount of time it is taking. In normal circumstances the rules to provide a refund for a package holiday within 14 days work well. But these are not normal circumstances and the 14 day refund rule is impossible for the majority of companies to stick to.
Many travel agents and tour operators are unable to provide immediate cash refunds because they have not yet received money back from airlines and hotels around the world that may have temporarily closed.
It’s in nobody’s interests for normally healthy travel businesses to go under. As well as the loss of thousands of jobs, the Government-backed ATOL financial protection scheme would be overwhelmed by a large-scale failure of businesses and it would take many more months for customers to get a refund.
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 crisis. Many other European countries with similar challenges have already taken action to support businesses while protecting customer rights.
Despite our pleas for support, the UK Government has so far failed to act. For this reason, to provide some order to the chaos brought about by the current crisis, ABTA has developed temporary guidelines for dealing with refunds for its Members and their customers, where Members are financially unable to provide an immediate cash refund. These are based on a system of financially-protected Refund Credit Notes where the customer’s fundamental right to a refund for a package holiday is preserved, as set out by law.
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.
Notwithstanding the issuing of Refund Credit Notes, ABTA’s expectation is that Members should refund customers as soon as they are able to.
This crisis will pass, and I’m sure like me you want to ensure that when it does we have a healthy and competitive travel industry able to provide you with the choice of holidays that you deserve.
Go to abta.com to find out more about what to do if your holiday has been affected by the current crisis.
ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.
The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.
We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.
ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.