Abta’s chief executive says the travel industry must do “all we can to preserve customer confidence” and has stressed government support must now turn into “action”.

Consumer frustration stemming from a lack of government clarity on how travel companies refund their customers intensified this week as consumer group Which? claimed that the UK’s 20 biggest travel operators were ‘breaking the law’ by delaying refunds.

The story was carried in multiple national newspapers as Which? set out a “ten-point plan” to maintain trust in the travel industry.

More: Abta chief pleads for consumer support over refunds

Comment: Customers should do what’s right and accept a credit note or rebook

Abta continues to press the UK government’s Department of Business (BEIS) for a temporary suspension of the requirement to pay refunds for cancelled package bookings in 14 days as it bids to alleviate the pressure on otherwise healthy travel companies fighting for liquidity amid the coronavirus lockdown that has put the global travel industry on pause.

Other European governments have taken similar stances, but industry sources say BEIS has so far balked at a temporary change – fearing a consumer backlash. Abta has said that customers would have to wait longer for refunds if companies go out of business, which it fears if they are forced to refund within 14 days.

In a blog post this afternoon, chief executive Mark Tanzer acknowledged the refunds issue “has attracted increasing focus this week”.

He wrote: “Our pleas to government to step in and provide more guidance and support have been echoed by consumer groups and this growing clarion call adds to the pressure for them to respond to clarify the situation for all concerned, particularly around financial protection arrangements.”

Tanzer added: “The situation is very challenging but we must also do all we can to preserve customer confidence. It is vitally important that if you do offer your customers a refund credit note because you are unable to process an immediate cash refund for a cancelled package holiday within 14 days, you follow Abta’s guidance for these refund credit notes. Customers whose package holidays have been cancelled because of the pandemic have a right to a refund, and where cash refunds are requested they should be given as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, Abta continues to engage with MPs from across the political spectrum that have been contacted multiple times though our Save Future Travel campaign to add to its weight. We know that many MPs are supportive of our asks, and have contacted ministerial or shadow ministerial colleagues, and we now need that support to translate into government action.”

The post follows an open letter Tanzer wrote to consumers, which was printed in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, asking for their support – which he said had received “many positive comments from members”.

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