The government is working on a "tailored support package" for the travel sector, South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt has told constituent Gemma Antrobus, owner of Haslemere Travel.
Antrobus emailed her local MP Hunt as part of Abta’s Save Future Travel campaign, launched on Tuesday (7 April), which Abta said on Wednesday (8 April) reached 647 of the UK’s 650 MPs in just 24 hours and prompted supporters, both inside and outside the industry, to fire off in excess of 13,500 emails.
The campaign is calling on government to amend the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), in line with guidance from the European Commission, to allow travel companies to offer interim credit notes instead of refunds to preserve cash flow and prevent mass failures amid the coronavirus crisis.
Abta is leading calls and has updated its guidance to members to pursue this approach, calling for the 14-day refund window under the PTRs to be extended, initially, to 31 July. These credit notes would retain the same protection as the original booking, and would be able to be converted into a full cash refund at a later date.
Responding to Antrobus’s email, Hunt said he was aware of talks between Abta and the government about support for the sector, and said so far as he was aware, "those talks are still ongoing".
"My team and I have been in direct contact with the transport secretary [Grant Shapps], who is leading on this issue, in the past few days," said Hunt. "He reassured me he is keen to find a solution as quickly as possible.
"However, due to the complexity of the sector, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t seem to be appropriate and a more tailored support package is required.
"I will continue to push the transport secretary and his team to announce his measures as soon as possible."
Several countries have already responded to a European Commission concession on the PTRs and relaxed their own regimes in line with what Abta is demanding, but the UK government is yet to do the same.
While the CAA, the government body that oversees the Atol scheme, is understood to be aligned with Abta’s campaign objectives, the PTRs are the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Antrobus told TTG that while she was impressed by Hunt’s prompt and personal response, she feared the technicalities of Abta’s message around altering the PTRs may be getting lost amid the general clamour for supporting measures for the entire travel sector, such as calls for state aid from some airlines.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month said the government was working on a specific "transport support package" but no further details have yet emerged.
The aviation sector subsequently held talks with the government about support measures but again, no further details have materialised, besides easyJet securing £600 million from the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
TTG has approached the DfT for comment. Both the CAA and BEIS told TTG the discussions were a matter for the DfT.