The CAA has confirmed that Atol holders can continue to issue refund credit notes (RCNs) with Atol-financial protection up to the end of the year.

Atol holders are receiving confirmation that the CAA “will now consider claims for RCNs issued between 10 March and 31 December 2020 (inclusive)”.

However, the CAA says: “Any vouchers issued after 1 January 2021 will only be payable under the provisions of the ATT Payment Policy.”

The CAA makes clear that the obligation on travel organisers to provide consumers with a full refund within 14 days of a package being cancelled “remains in place and has not been amended”.

But the regulator notes: “It remains acceptable for a consumer to accept an RCN or an amendment to a booking as an alternative to a refund . . . if at the same time the consumer was also offered the opportunity of a full cash refund.”

The terms for issuing RCNs, set out by the CAA on July 18, remain in force.

The September 30 end date for Atol protection of refund credit notes also remains unchanged.

The CAA notes: “Consumers holding valid refund credit notes should redeem them for a new booking or a refund by this date.”

These include the requirement to inform the consumer that “the RCN can be exchanged with the Atol holder for cash by a specified date in the future if the RCN has not been redeemed against a new booking”.

The government confirmed Atol-protection of RCNs in mid-July only after months of delay.

At the time, the CAA issued guidance that the credit notes would be accepted “in respect of Atol-protected bookings cancelled between 10 March and 30 September 2020 due solely to the Covid-19 pandemic” and that this “currently will not apply” to RCNs issued after September 30.

CAA consumer director Paul Smith said: “In light of the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic on travel, the decision to extend Atol protection for refund credit notes will strengthen consumer confidence and allow for Atol holders to continue to offer them to their customers in good faith.

“Travel businesses should ensure that if they offer their customers vouchers or refund credit notes after 31 December 2020 they include in the offer clear information as to what protection, if any, applies.”

Consumers are referred to the CAA website.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer told Travel Weekly earlier this week: “We await clarification of the CAA position. But before the CAA came out and said they would back RCNs [in July], we believed they were covered in any case.”

The association welcomed the CAA’s confirmation.

An ABTA spokesperson said: “We’ve been in discussion with the CAA about extending the issuing of Atol-protected refund credit notes and are pleased to see they have acted upon this.

“Extending the issuing of refund credit notes will give customers the confidence that they can book a package holiday knowing their money is protected should their holiday be cancelled due to coronavirus.

“It also supports viable travel businesses who are struggling due to the pandemic.”

Abta noted: “It is important to remember refund credit notes are a temporary arrangement and only for refunds due for holidays cancelled because of coronavirus.

“Customers still have the right to request a cash refund, and we have always encouraged our members that refunds should be paid as soon as possible.”

The spokesperspon added: “Refund Credit Notes for Abta-protected holidays can be issued and are valid until 31 March 2021.”

Earlier, a senior industry source told Travel Weekly: “People are quite agitated, wondering what is happening, holding on in hope of a sensible extension.”