Consumer groups have warned that the sector may permanently lose public confidence in booking travel, with whom? finding that 20 of the UK’s largest operators are illegally withholding refunds which should be paid within 14 days.
Most offered credit vouchers or notes, and customers complained that they were unable to get a refund online or go over the phone to make a claim.
Ryanair began telling customers on Monday that they will have to wait until the “COVID-19 emergency is over” if they want a refund for a canceled flight. The Dublin-based carrier initially said it would process refunds within 20 business days, but quickly started tracking back.
According to the travel industry’s own estimates, up to £ 7 billion may be due for canceled trips. However, industry organizations such as Iata, for airlines, and Abta, for travel agencies, say the companies would be bankrupt by paying now because they receive no booking revenue.
Confidence in the reservation has likely fallen further since Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday that he will not book a summer vacation now. The Foreign Ministry has advised against non-essential foreign travel indefinitely.
Which ?, The Consumers’ Association, said that 20 of the UK’s largest tour operators and airlines were breaking the law by not paying the money back quickly. He has received thousands of complaints and requests for help from people struggling to get refunds for canceled trips, and said that vouchers or credit scores could prove to be worthless if businesses collapsed.
However, he supported travel industry calls for government intervention, recognizing that companies are under “unprecedented pressure” and could shut down if they refunded immediately.
During which? said consumers’ legal right to cash reimbursement should be protected, recommended extending the processing time to 28 days, and that all vouchers be guaranteed against insolvency and possibly redeemable for cash. He also called for a final timetable for the Foreign Ministry’s travel warnings and transparent travel insurance conditions to restore confidence.
Which? researchers have found that 10 of the UK’s largest holiday companies, including Love Holidays and Tui, do not offer full refunds within the legal limit of 14 days, some offering customers only the choice of a new reservation or voucher. Some retain the price of the plane ticket until receipt of the carrier.
He also found that almost all airlines did not reimburse passengers on time, and many customers could not reach call centers to process complaints.
Some carriers, such as Air France and KLM, have refused to offer refunds before the end of a 12-month period, issuing credit notes or authorizing a new reservation instead. Which? said it was “a fair solution and a reasonable balance between protecting their passengers and the operational realities each airline faces.”
Passengers booking with carriers like easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways told the Guardian that they could not get a refund. Ryanair issued coupons and told customers requesting a refund that they were pending. BA and easyJet customers have complained that call center numbers are not answered.
An Airlines UK spokesperson said, “Airlines face unprecedented challenges in keeping vital routes open to repatriate stranded British travelers and to transport essential medical supplies and PPE during cargo operations. Carriers face a much larger volume of claims than usual, and current national restrictions mean that they are unable to hire additional staff to handle them. We are grateful to the passengers for their continued patience. “
Rory Boland, whose? Travel said: “We don’t want to see the industry suffer any more because of this epidemic, but it cannot be the responsibility of consumers to support airlines and travel agencies, especially when so many are in a situation difficult financial.
“The government must urgently define how it will support travel agencies and airlines to ensure that they can meet their legal obligations to reimburse customers for canceled travel plans and avoid permanently harming the trust and confidence in the travel industry. “
Some governments have already changed consumer laws to allow deferred refunds after calls from the airline Iata. Iata general manager Alexandre de Juniac said earlier this month that the reimbursement was “almost unbearable financially”, adding that the airlines were “fully aware of the difficulty for the passenger … but that’s a matter of survival ”.
Abta said that tour operators were stuck with claims for money that had been paid to suppliers, such as airlines and hotels, and not returned. Its managing director, Mark Tanzer, said: “The British government, despite repeated requests, has not recognized and responded to this reality, contrary to the clear and sensible actions taken by the European Commission and many countries across the world. ‘Europe.
“We fully understand and understand the frustration that many customers may experience. But if businesses go bankrupt, it will not only destroy livelihoods, but will extend repayment terms far beyond the duration of the repayment credit notes. “