“Like the Wild West” was how leading Irish travel chiefs described attempting to wrangle for refunds for customers amid the coronavirus crisis.
Many in the Republic of Ireland, whose travel industry appears to have started feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis earlier than the UK, described to TTG their difficulties in securing refunds for customers, with some airlines issuing vouchers instead of cash.
On 19 March, the European Commission relaxed regulations around claims refunds, encouraging customers to accept credit notes – so long as they can ask for a full refund if it is not used towards a new booking.
But under EU regulation 261 refunds must still be issued should clients wish not to take up the offer or change booking.
Mary McKenna, managing director of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, said this was the biggest issue facing the Irish trade, with a number of carriers “refusing” to refund.
“I want my customer for life and want to do right by them,” she said. “It makes me sick to my stomach that this is happening.”
Dominic Burke, managing director of consortium Travel Centres, said suppliers “seem to be making up their reservation policies as they go along”.
“Airlines are not refunding money to the agents so they can refund the customer and that is creating big problems.”
Tom Britton, managing director of Marble City Travel in Kilkenny, said he believed the situation had gone “beyond the Wild West”.
“At least in the Wild West you knew who the cowboys were – now you just have to take your chances supplier to supplier. Some have been challenging while others have forged new bonds of support with us,” he added.
McKenna warned the Irish trade “would see the consequences” and customer backlash if clients were not given refunds.