The CAA is poised to extend the deadline for issuing refund credit notes (RCNs) for Atol-protected holidays beyond the end of April after the government confirmed it will guarantee the Air Travel Trust fund to September 2022.

The regulator is also likely to push back the expiry date for newly issued RCNs from September 30 this year. Abta is likewise considering extending the issue of RCNs for non‑flight packages, which it guarantees, beyond April 30.

The association extended the expiry date of new RCNs from September 30 to January 31, 2022, last month (Travel Weekly, April 1).

Government confirmation of the Air Travel Trust (ATT) guarantee came in the Global Travel Taskforce report released on April 9 in which the government also promised a Covid-19 charter “setting out consumer rights” while restrictions remain.

It pledged to give the CAA stronger powers to tackle “airlines that breach consumer rights” to refunds, and a review of consumer protection that “will build on the Competition and Markets Authority [CMA] investigation on the practices of travel agents and airlines in issuing refunds during Covid-19”. The CMA has publicly warned several travel firms over delays in paying refunds.

The report pledges the government will “build consumer confidence in booking travel by putting further measures in place to ensure their money is safe in case bookings are cancelled”.

Reform of the CAA’s powers “will be detailed in the strategic framework for aviation to be published later this year”.

The government initially guaranteed the ATT in July last year to September 30 this year, with RCNs guaranteed at the same time.

Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “I fear we may require RCNs for some time. The downside is the CAA sees RCNs as a huge liability.”

However, he said: “I like the proposal to toughen the CAA’s powers and the Covid-19 charter for consumers.” The charter is promised by May 17.

A senior industry source told Travel Weekly: “The CAA is looking at both the deadlines for [RCN] issue and expiry. That is good news. Abta will also look at the issuing deadline again. But the issue of RCNs does need to draw to a close sooner rather than later.”