Ever-changing travel restrictions between countries, created to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought many holidays to a halt. However, travellers may be entitled to refunds, ticket transfers or vouchers depending on how the package was terminated.
Branch manager Stacey offers the following advice.
If you have a package holiday booking through a travel agent
Many travellers will have booked their arrangements through a travel agent. This agent will have made the holiday booking on the clients behalf with a third-party specialist – such as a tour operator or airline – and it is this third-party who the client has a contract with and who any refund will be due back from.
As a travel agent, we can offer our clients a bigger selection of holidays by working with hundreds of different tour operators rather than being limited to those offered by one. This means that when we collect money from our clients, it is paid straight to the tour operator they are travelling with. If the arrangements are cancelled, through pandemic or any other reason, as a travel agent we will pursue any due refunds on our client’s behalf and will forward it on to them as soon as the tour operator or airline sends it.
Do I need to pay the remaining balance for my upcoming holiday?
If you do not want to take your holiday due to the ongoing uncertainty you don’t have to pay the remaining balance. However, if left unpaid the company could cancel the holiday due to non-payment, which means they could keep your deposit or send you cancellation charges.
It is likely you will only be entitled to a full refund for your holiday if you have paid in full and if it is cancelled by the tour operator – either because the services cannot be provided, or because the government advises against travelling there at the time of your departure.
Each tour operator will have their own procedures for managing future departures or processing refunds. Usually, due to the volume of people they deal with, they will only contact those customers travelling imminently if a flight or trip is cancelled. If you have not booked through a travel agent, you will need to get hold of your tour operator or holiday provider directly to pay off any balance, thereby guaranteeing your refund if the trip is cancelled. If you are unable to get through to them to discuss, then email them and wait for their response. Some companies are experiencing operational delays as a result of their staff working remotely, being furloughed or made redundant.
As a travel agent, we will liaise between our clients and the tour operators and make this process as painless as possible.
During these uncertain times, with COVID-19 causing global disruption, many tour operators and airlines are offering far more options for flexible booking and have relaxed some payment policies. We would always recommend contacting your travel agent (ie, us) or the tour operator directly to find out what options are available to you and applicable to your booking.
Ticket Transfers and Refund Credit Notes (RCN)
An airline should offer you the chance to rebook for a later date – without any additional cost – if they cancelled your flight.
This means you can travel for up to the same, and sometimes greater, value of the original tickets, and often to a different destination if you choose. This may come in the form of credit notes or ticket transfers, which are usually redeemable up to 12 months after cancellation.
If you’re thinking about giving your tickets to someone else, remember that passenger information usually can’t be changed without incurring a fee, and some companies don’t allow it at all.
Airlines are not always members of ABTA, so you may not be protected in the same way that you would be with a package holiday. If you booked your flight directly with an airline, you will need to contact them if you are having any issues with receiving a refund. Remember, this process may currently take longer than you might normally expect.
Accommodation-only or flight-only bookings are not covered by the Package Travel Regulations. This may mean that you are not entitled to a refund. You should read the terms and conditions to establish your rights.
What is a Refund Credit Note? (RCN)
A Refund Credit Note (RCN) entitles you to rebook a holiday or receive a cash refund at a later date, up until the expiry date of the note. It also retains any financial protection that you may have had with your original booking.
If your original booking (for example, a package holiday with flights) came with ATOL financial protection, the RCN will still provide this protection. If your original booking came with ABTA financial protection (for example, a cruise holiday or other package holiday including rail or coach travel), the RCN will still provide this protection.
If I accept a Refund Credit Note, will I lose my right to a cash refund?
No. A Refund Credit Note preserves your right to a cash refund, which can be redeemed at the latest at the expiry date of the note.
Our team worked through the first lockdown, and we continue to work within this new one. We are always on hand to answer your questions or to direct them to a more appropriate person. We have helped and supported our clients throughout this turbulent year, and will continue to do so. If you wish to get in touch (or want to enquire about booking a 2021 or 2022 holiday!) you can find details here.