Abta has set out new guidance for travel firms and consumers on so-called "refund credit notes" (RCN) as the industry awaits further clarity on refunds from the government.
The association has reiterated in its new guidance how RCNs carry the same financial protection as the original booking, and can be exchanged for a refund at a future date.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer has accused the UK government of "dragging its feet" on the issue after several European countries acted on a European Commission concession tacitly relaxing the requirements of the EU Package Travel Directive, allowing them to amend their own interpretations of the directive allowing businesses to defer refunds and stave off mass travel sector failures.
In the UK, the 14-day refund rule is enshrined in the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs). While it is understood Abta and the CAA are aligned on the use of RCNs, no decision to formally relax the PTRs has been forthcoming from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Meanwhile, a further 55 travel companies have now pledged their logos to Abta’s Save Future Travel campaign, which has so far seen nearly 24,000 letters sent to MPs by travel professionals and supporters of the industry.
Abta is asking any replies from MPs to be sent to its public affairs team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"In the absence of any help or information from the government, Abta is continuing to provide guidance to help businesses affected by the pandemic who have not received money back from suppliers and who are not in a position to provide refunds in 14 days," said Tanzer.
"It is important that Abta members understand and adhere to the rules around RCNs, as this will really help to prevent confusion and provide reassurance to customers.
“Many other European countries have already taken action to help travel businesses while preserving consumer protection, while the UK Government continues to drag its feet."
Tanzer added: "It’s essential that as an industry we keep up the pressure on decision-makers in government to provide help. We’ve seen an overwhelming response to our Save Future Travel campaign. Thank you to those that have supported the campaign and if you have yet to visit the website please do.
"Dozens of firms have pledged their support and are listed on the website, which is vital for audiences to see – we must continue to stand together.”
Abta's new guidance on RCNs reads:
"Abta has published further guidance today [Thursday] for members and customers on holiday amendments and refunds, as the industry continues to wait for the government to provide clarity and support from its side.
"Abta has developed additional guidance for members on refund protection, including the use of refund credit notes. This guidance sets out standardised rules for refund credit notes to ensure that travellers are protected, particularly around insolvency.
"The guidance makes it clear what information should be included in a refund credit note. It also reiterates that refund credit notes are not the same as vouchers, which do not come with financial protection. The guidance is available on the member zone of Abta’s website, abta.com.
"Abta’s website now also includes updated information for customers on why delays to refunds for package holidays may be occurring, what we’re asking the government to do and what a refund credit note is.
"This includes clarifying that refund credit notes preserve a customer’s right to a refund for a package holiday and that they come with the same financial protection as the original booking.
"The information also makes it clear what should be included in a refund credit note, in line with Abta’s guidance to members. There is also a useful FAQ that is designed to answer the many questions that concerned customers may have, whose holidays have been affected because of this crisis.
"A refund credit note entitles customers to rebook a holiday at a future date or receive a cash refund at the expiry date of the note at the latest (if the original booking was for a package holiday).
"The expiry date is based on a travel company’s financial protection arrangements, which will vary by company. It also retains the financial protection that came with original booking."