The CAA is extending Atol financial protection for refund credit notes (RCNs) issued from 1 October until 31 December.
In July, the CAA confirmed RCNs for Atol-protected bookings cancelled owing to the coronavirus, which were issued between 10 March and 30 September 2020, would benefit from Atol protection until 30 September 2021.
But the industry has been nervously waiting for weeks to see if the CAA would extend this deadline giving Atol protection for RCNs issued from 1 October.
In a note sent to Atol holders, the CAA said: “The Air Travel Trust (ATT) have stated that, subject to the terms of the ATT Payment Policy, they will now consider claims for RCNs issued between 10 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 (inclusive).
“Any vouchers issued after 1 January 2021 will only be payable under the provisions of the ATT payment policy.”
The extension to Atol protection for RCNs was confirmed by the CAA in an announcement on Friday (23 October).
The CAA added: "After 30 September 2021, Atol protection will not apply to refund credit notes, so consumers holding valid refund credit notes should redeem them for a new booking or a refund by this date."
Paul Smith, consumer director at the CAA, said: “While consumers who have had their holidays cancelled are entitled to a full cash refund, some may choose to accept a refund credit note.
"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 in good faith to their customers.
“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.”
The CAA also stressed in its note to Atol holders that they must “provide consumers with a full refund within 14 days of a Package being cancelled”.
“It remains acceptable for a consumer to accept an RCN or an amendment to a booking as an alternative to a refund, but only if, at the same time, the consumer was also offered the opportunity of a full cash refund,” added the CAA.
“Any RCN issued should contain the information set out in the guidance on our website, and at the very least a statement to the effect 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.”
Abta said it was “pleased” by the CAA’s decision to extend the financial protection for RCNs as it would boost consumer confidence.
“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,” said an Abta spokesperson
“It is important to remember that 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.”
RCNs for Abta-protected holidays can be issued and remain valid until 31 March 2021.