Agents are calling for a fixed time frame for refund payments, as frustration grows around a lack of clarity on the issue.
Confusion comes as package travel faces renewed scrutiny after the sector was unexpectedly included in a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation.
Agents told TTG Abta’s current guidance that refunds should be made “as soon as they are able to and without undue delay” meant some operators were refusing to offer refunds until 2021.
Lee Hunt, owner of Deben Travel, said: “Some operators have told us they’re not going to refund until 31 December or 31 March 2021.
“What we really need are two emails: one from the CAA saying RCNs [refund credit notes] are financially protected and a second from Abta saying all refunds should be made within a certain date of cancellation – maybe 90 days.”
Lee Harrison, owner of Malvern World Travel, agreed: “A working time frame definitely has to be established for a cash refund,” he said.
“If that can’t be 14 days, under these circumstances, perhaps 30, 60 or 90 days maximum should be the guidance. Most customers would then be more understanding.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, added: “We are having an open conversation with our suppliers to ensure refunds are being processed in the most timely manner possible.”
Abta has also been criticised for failing “to get a clear message” across to consumers on refund policies.
Graeme Brett, from Westoe Travel, said: “We, as a travel industry, have got an image problem – Abta has not been getting the basic message across.”
Abta stressed there was not a “one size fits all” time frame for refunds because operators faced different issues around staffing and getting money back from suppliers.
“It is vital companies communicate the time frames they are working to with their customers,” added Abta.