Customers put in ‘holding pattern’ over refunds uncertainty

Agents are having to “be vague”, put customers in a “holding pattern” and “sit on the fence” over refunds on cancelled holidays due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Not Just Travel founder Steve Witt told a Travel Weekly Webcast: “The only thing we can be confident about is not having a definitive answer for people. A lot depends on the supplier. Some have been very clear, like Jet2holidays, but often we are having to be vague and put customers in a holding pattern. We are having to sit on the fence until there is some clarity.”

Despite the challenges, Witt said he had seen “overwhelming support for the travel industry” in general, with about 70% of clients rebooking.

“This isn’t like 9/11 when people didn’t want to travel. Consumers want to travel, they just can’t,” he said. “So in that respect it’s good. Most customers want to help us and when we explain the importance of keeping a booking live with us, most want to support us.”

But he added: “The uncertainty over refunds is steering a number of people towards credit notes at the moment.”

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Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel in East Anglia and the south coast, said he was seeing good rebooking rates on cruise, helped by enhanced future cruise credits, and also on packages with the likes of Jet2 and Tui.

But he said tailormade holidays were much more complex if people were travelling for special occasions, and credit notes were available only for the same destinations.  “We have to be a little bit vague,” he said.

Simon Morgan, chief executive of Tailor Made Travel in South Wales, added: “We’ve got to remember that we are agents. We have to relay the information that we are given by suppliers. Whether that is legal or true is another question, but my instructions to my team are to relay the policy of the individual supplier to the client, and smile and wave. That’s all we can do.”

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