A director of homeworking agency Holidaysplease says the £600 million loan from the Treasury’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility should be used to refund customers.
EasyJet, which has also fully drawn down on its $500 million revolving credit facility, secured against aircraft assets, said it was continuing to “focus on maximising liquidity in the event of an extended grounding period”.
Holidaysplease co-director Richard Dixon was speaking during TTG’s second Agent Matters panel discussion yesterday (7 April).
The panel, moderated by TTG’s group editor Pippa Jacks and also featuring Katrina Smith from Travel Counsellors and Martin Owens from the Holiday Village Group, were discussing their experiences with suppliers of late.
They were sympathetic that suppliers are also facing very difficult challenges.
Owens said: “Everyone is in difficult times. Many [suppliers] have furloughed staff so are also adapting to totally different way of working.
“Two weeks ago you could get through, but now it’s two or three times harder.”
He added his view that the government should “allow furloughed staff to come back and help”.
Dixon agreed: “We have to have some sympathy that their resources are stretched and communications systems have been ripped apart.
“Some seem to be dealing with that better than others with that.”
He described his view of suppliers’ handling of trade relations as “a mixed bag”.
“It’s too early to say whether how tour operators are dealing with situations right now are impacting on future relationships.
“There are certainly tour operators that are being extremely supportive to both agents and consumers, and that will count for a lot going forward. Those that are a bit cold and selfish in their thinking – whatever their situation is – would be the ones we’ll be looking at when this settles down."
He continued: “We are a business that needs customers, and we have to understand our commitment to them first and foremost.
“I think if the law changes our customers will be more understanding and I think tour operators need to recognise that, particularly with chargebacks.”
Dixon said he’d read about an agent receiving their first chargeback, for £3,000.
“It is not fair for tour operators to shift the burden down to agents when the agent has paid the money to the tour operator, in the same way it’s not fair for the airlines to pass that down to the tour operators.
“For me, the airlines have been the biggest problem in this.
“I read about easyJet getting a massive bailout from the government. The first thing they should be doing is refunding customers with that money.”
An easyJet spokesperson said it was offering refunds.
“Customers on cancelled flights can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge or receive a voucher for the value of their booking online or claim a refund through our contact centre,” they said.
“Customers may also submit a claim in writing via a webform, online. Written claims are also managed by our call centres and our teams are working to process them as quickly as possible. We are experiencing higher than average wait times, so we would thank customers for their patience and assure them that these entitlements will be available long after their cancelled flight has flown.
“For customers whose flights are not cancelled but would like to move to a later date they can amend their flight online with no change fee, and we have brought forward our winter schedule on-sale so customers have more choice to move their flights, up to 28 February 2021.”