It is not often that anyone involved in travel will praise the consumer publication Which? but for once Travel Editor Rory Boland has struck the right note with a statement reflecting on easyJet’s dreadful results.
"The travel industry has taken a battering as a result of the pandemic, and this update from easyJet should be a huge cause for concern for the future of travel. While airlines have rightly been criticised for illegally withholding refunds from customers for cancelled flights, many might have avoided doing so if support for the industry had been made available.
"Which? has long been calling for support for airlines and holiday operators to ensure they can meet their obligations to customers through this difficult period. The Government must urgently confirm how it intends to help this struggling industry, to prevent carriers ordinarily in good financial health from unnecessarily going under."
Which? has also published what it calls its “10 Point Plan” to “Maintain Consumer Trust and Confidence in the Travel Sector.”
BTN cannot agree with all the points made but it is a good read and a chance to reflect on where we go forward from here.
The Which? 10 point plan
All consumers who are currently eligible to receive a refund must be offered a cash refund when their flight or holiday is cancelled. This will ensure that valid refund requests are honoured and repaid within the applicable statutory period, via a simple, clear and easily accessible process.
A credit note/voucher may be offered as an alternative but not sole option when a flight or holiday is cancelled. These vouchers must also be time-limited, with a full refund provided at the end of the term, with terms and conditions clearly and proactively communicated. This will guarantee that consumers will get their money back should they not want to re-book one of the holidays on offer within the prescribed period.
Airlines must be supported throughout the outbreak and effectively held to account when failing to offer and issue refunds for cancelled flights. This will ensure refunds, both directly to passengers and to travel agents and tour operators, are honoured. The Government and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should take action where necessary.
The statutory 14-day refund period for package holidays should be temporarily extended to a maximum of one month, and all credit notes/vouchers must be insolvency protected. This will provide industry with additional flexibility to manage its workload and cash flow while also giving consumers confidence that they will get their money back should their provider collapse.
A temporary Government Travel Guarantee Fund should be established. This will provide funding to support travel companies which, as a result of coronavirus cancellations, are unable to fulfil their responsibilities to holidaymakers under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations.
All Foreign Office travel warnings should be extended to a definitive date. This will ensure that travellers have clarity around refunds, rebooking or claiming on insurance. These dates can be reviewed if needed.
Travel insurance terms and conditions should be more transparent and clear with customers signposted to relevant parts of their insurance policy booklets. This will make it easier for policyholders to know if they are covered and will help customers to find out what they need to know as quickly as possible, providing specific answers to their questions.
Time-limits on making claims should be relaxed. This will help customers who are struggling to get in touch or communicate with travel companies as a result of the pandemic.
Insurers should extend existing travel insurance policies, where relevant, to ensure the customer remains protected when stranded abroad. This will help those who cannot get home because of government-issued advice or restrictions on travel imposed by governments (i.e. through no fault of their own).
Insurance providers must work more closely with the travel industry and the government to ensure that all information given to consumers about how and when to claim is clear and consistent. This will stop people from being passed between providers and ensure they know who to contact when, for example, seeking reimbursement from their provider before turning to their insurer.