The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has extended the deadline for issuing refund credit notes (RCNs) for Atol-protected package holidays cancelled due to Covid-19 to the end of April.

The CAA has not changed the expiry date for newly-issued RCNs, which remains September 30. However, the authority said it “is working with government to finalise a further update”, suggesting the expiry date could be extended.

The move comes after Abta announced yesterday it had extended the deadline for issuing RCNs for non-flight packages to the end of April and also extended the deadline for expiry of newly-issued RCNs from September 30 to January 31 next year.

The deadline for issuing refund credit notes was due on March 31.

In a statement confirming the short-term extension, the CAA said: “This means that consumers whose package holiday bookings are cancelled continue to be able to safely accept a refund credit note where it is suitable for them.

“Consumers are entitled to a cash refund for a cancelled package holiday should they not wish to accept a refund credit note.

“The same conditions as previously advised to travel companies will apply to refund credit notes.

“They must be issued for a cancelled Atol protected booking. The booking must have been cancelled by the tour operator due to the coronavirus pandemic. The refund credit note must be able to be exchanged for cash at a later date.”

The CAA added:  “The ATT recognises in some circumstances it may not be possible for consumers to redeem their refund credit notes before this date and is working with government to finalise a further update, which is expected shortly, to help address this issue.”

CAA consumer director Paul Smith said: “Consumers are entitled to a full refund for cancelled package holidays.

“However, extending the deadline for issuing ATOL protected refund credit notes allows travel companies to offer this option, meaning consumers will not be at financial risk if they choose to accept a refund credit note.”

The CAA confirmed earlier this month that it was in discussions with the government on extending both the March 31 deadline for issuing RCNs and the September 30 expiry date.

CAA group director of consumers and markets Paul Smith told a Travel Weekly Future of Travel Forum: “Everybody is aware of the need to provide clarity to industry about what happens after the end of March.”

He said: “At the moment, the government letter covering RCNs in the Atol sense runs to the end of September.

“We’re conscious the dates need to work together. We don’t want to end up in a situation where we concertina the need to use the RCNs into a very short period. We’re keen to get a joined-up solution.”

Abta director of membership and financial services John de Vial told the same forum: “We’re looking to align dates.”