The Co-operative Travel has demanded the government clarify rules on compensating customers in the aftermath of the closure of UK airspace this week due to volcanic ash from an eruption in Iceland.


Mike Greenacre, managing director of The Co-operative Travel, said the company has chosen to offer assistance to stranded customers who have not been offered help from their airline.


He said the situation underlined the need for clarification about the rules governing financial protection and urged the government to work alongside Abta and the CAA to find a solution.


Greenacre also asked the government to look at what financial assistance it can give firms in the industry that have been hit by the crisis.


“EU airlines are responsible for providing, free of charge, meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary.


“Where the airline is not an EU carrier, the tour operator is required to provide prompt assistance.


“Where airlines or tour operators have not done so, The Co-operative Travel has stepped in to provide accommodation for every one of our thousands of customers, doing our best to provide somewhere to stay of a similar standard to that which they had previously enjoyed during their holiday.


“Our in-house, dynamic packing tour operation, Escape, is providing similar assistance, and has also extended its opening hours to provide 24-hour support to customers until at least Friday, when the situation will be reviewed.


“That we have chosen to provide such assistance where other parts of the travel industry have not serves to further highlight the confusion that exists over this and many other areas of consumer financial protection, and we would urge decision makers in the UK and in Europe to work quickly – alongside ABTA and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – to clarify the whole area for the future.


“I cannot emphasise enough the potential long term impact that this event is having on all travel and airline businesses.


“I would implore the government to give serious thought to what financial support it might give to the travel industry – once the full financial impact has been assessed – in order to support those affected businesses and get them back on their feet, and importantly in recognition of the huge financial benefit that the travel industry delivers to the UK.”


Greenacre said he was delighted flights have resumed and that the Co-op was in helping to repatriate its customers as well as rebooking those expecting to travel in the near future.


New cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse is due top pick up 200 Co-op customers from Bilbao later today.


Greenacre also said the confusion over whether customers are covered by their travel insurance should also be sorted out.


He said the Co-op’s insurance provider was covering claims under the travel delay and abandonment section of the insurance policy provided the insurance was purchased prior to April 15.


Greenacre added: “Our staff have excelled themselves once again, working around the clock and throughout the weekend to provide the best possible customer service, and I would like to extend my personal thanks to them for all their efforts.


“We will continue to liaise closely with ABTA, the CAA and National Air Traffic Service (NATS) to monitor the situation, and will make further announcements as the situation develops.”