The European Commission is now advising that customers take credit notes for package holidays cancelled as a result of the coronavirus, as long as they can ask for a full refund eventually.

Abta called on the UK government to follow the same lines in its own guidance on the Package Travel Directive (PTD).

The association has been in talks with government officials and ministers, as well as European trade associations this week – and wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday.

Agents and operators have been calling for guidance on how to deal with refunds, as they bid to look after cash reserves to avoid redundancies and failures as travel has come to a halt as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive, said: “Today, the European Commission updated its guidance on the Package Travel Directive (PTD) in relation to customer claims refunds.

“It encourages customers to accept credit notes, as long as the customer is allowed to ask for a full refund, eventually, if he or she does not make use of the credit note towards a new booking.

“Crucially the Commission states that the credit note should be covered by appropriate insolvency protection. This is an extremely positive step and shows that the Commission recognises the strains being placed on tour operators due to Coronavirus.

“The Package Travel Directive is the legal framework on which the UK Package Travel Regulations are based, and we now need the UK government to follow the European Commission’s lead and confirm a similar approach.

“This new guidance will give customers the essential assurance that they will either get a holiday or their money back, as well as providing a much needed helping hand to travel companies through these difficult and unprecedented times.”