Shearings customers who accepted refund credit notes (RCNs) after their package bookings were cancelled owing to coronavirus will be able to claim a cash refund, the brand’s administrators have confirmed.
"All customers with cancelled package holiday bookings, which include organised travel, are expected to have financial protection," read a statement issued via the SLG website after the firm collapsed into administration on Friday (22 May).
"Customers with holiday credit notes, issued for package holidays cancelled since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, may have the same financial protection as under their original booking."
When pressed on the ambiguity of this statement, a spokesperson for SLG administrator EY formally confirmed to TTG on Wednesday (27 May) that any RCNs issued due to coronavirus would carry the same protection as the original booking.
"Customers with holiday credit notes for cancelled holidays, that were originally protected under the Bonded Coach Holidays scheme, will have the same financial protection as the original booking," EY has confirmed.
"The Bonded Coach Holidays scheme provides financial protection to customers with package holidays or tours which include travel by rail or coach, and include overnight accommodation.
"Customers with Atol-protected package holidays will be contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority. Customers with other cancelled bookings are expected to have the same financial protection as under the original booking."
Abta said on Friday it was confident the "vast majority" of SLG’s 64,000 bookings held by Shearings, National Holidays and its other brands would be financially protected under various protection schemes.
Most outstanding SLG bookings were for coach, rail and river packages, which are protected by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) through the Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH) scheme.
Its website says RCNs issued by BCH members are protected by its financial guarantee in the event of a member’s financial failure, adding that protected RCNs "are recognised by both the government and trading standards".
A small number of flight-inclusive packages are set to be covered by the Atol scheme, which is administered by the CAA. While the CAA is yet to explicitly confirm whether RCNs will carry protection in the event of a failure, Abta insists provision for this protection carrying over to the RCN is set out in the terms of the Air Travel Trust payment policy.
The BCH has issued customers and agents claims forms, while the CAA has said it will email claim forms directly to passengers with Atol-protected bookings or their booking agent.
Self-drive holidays, and any accommodation-only or activity-only bookings – booked without financial protection in the first instance – will not be protected.
The collapse on Friday (22 May) of Shearings parent Specialist Leisure Group (SLG) provided the first major test of how existing financial protection structures in travel would stand up in the event of a significant failure amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and whether refund credit notes (RCNs) – issued according to detailed Abta guidance – would carry the same protection as the original booking.
TTG has approached the CAA for explicit clarity on whether RCNs for Atol-protected packages sold by SLG brands are protected.