Hays Travel has “stood its ground” to tour operators not issuing customer refunds – opting to pay out to clients and then seek reimbursement from suppliers, according to boss John Hays.
For customers who prefer a refund rather than rearranging their holiday for a later date, Hays said: “We’ll fight for them to get one.”
“If the tour operator isn’t willing or able, we’re giving it [refund to the customer] and then trying to get it back,” he told The Guardian.
Hays said the coronavirus’s impact on the travel sector was of “a totally different magnitude to anything we’ve ever seen” during his 40-year travel career, predicting: “Sadly, many good viable businesses will go under.”
Speaking alongside co-owner Irene Hays, the pair promised to “do what we can to protect our staff, protect the business and protect our customers.”
When asked, the couple said they had “no regrets” over purchasing Thomas Cook’s 555 high street retail estate last October now faced with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yes, it’s unfortunate,” said John Hays. “Two months ago things were going fantastically but it’s not anybody’s fault and in these circumstances, all you can do is make the best of it.”
According to The Guardian, two-thirds of Hays Travel customers who have made a decision about holidays already booked have chosen to reschedule.
Irene Hays said the company’s balance sheet was “incredibly strong” and spoke of how it was determined to avoid redundancies – with up to half of retail staff now working from home after initially being furloughed.
“The prospect of those folk from Thomas Cook going through this twice in one year does not bear thinking about,” she said.
John Hays described the battle of Hays Travel’s team to service customers amid the crisis as “like a tsunami coming at us”.
“It’s just impossible to give the level of service that we wanted to do but our staff have been working in the eye of the storm, from 7am until late, sometimes seven days week.
“It makes you feel so humble. I’d walk through the floor and I just felt even more proud than I did before," he said.