CAA extends RCNs to end of April Ian Taylor

The CAA has extended the deadline for issuing refund credit notes (RCNs) for Atol-protected holidays to the end of April and promised “a further update” on the current RCN expiry date of September 30. Without the extension, new RCNs

could not have been issued beyond Wednesday of this week (March 31). Confirmation came on March 26,

a day after Abta extended the deadline for issuing RCNs for non- flight packages to April 30 and also extended the deadline for expiry of newly-issued RCNs from the end of September to January 31, 2022.

A change to the expiry date of

Atol-protected RCNs seems likely, but it’s unclear whether this would tally with the Abta deadline. In a statement, the CAA said:

“The Air Travel Trust recognises it may not be possible for consumers to redeem their refund credit notes before this date [September 30] and is working with government to finalise a further update, expected shortly, to help address this issue.” A senior industry source said Abta

opted for expiry on January 31 “to give a bridge through to what is likely to be the key rebooking period”, adding: “Abta wants people to be able to carry forward bookings.” The source noted extension of the

Midcounties aims to open all shops ‘in some format’

Samantha Mayling

The Midcounties Co-operative hopes to reopen all its 78 branches “in some format” when Covid-19 rules allow non-essential retailers to welcome back customers on April 12. In addition to its Co-operative

Travel shops, the group includes websites, the Co-op Holidays tour operation, 165 Personal Travel Agents homeworkers and more than 140 members of the Co-operative Travel Consortium. While the shops have been closed, agents have been working from home

4 1 APRIL 2021

as a virtual contact centre, including taking phone calls, video calls and web chat enquiries. Sara Dunham, recently-appointed

chief officer of travel and leisure services, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “We’re working through scenarios at the moment. Our aspiration is that as soon as non-essential retail can open, we’ll open all branches in some format. We’re just working through the details.” She said the virtual contact

centres would remain as part of the group’s “omnichannel plan”. Phil Ponsonby, group chief

executive, said more than 90% of

One of Co-operative Travel’s 78 stores; inset, Sara Dunham

calls to the virtual contact centre were from people with existing bookings, and that 99% of calls were answered first time. Last year, some travel staff

switched to other divisions in the Midcounties group, such as food retailing, while others were furloughed. Most of those who shifted to other divisions have now returned to travel as they gear up for the reopening of shops. “It was great to see the willingness

of some of our travel colleagues to turn their hand to food retailing and

other activities,” Ponsonby said. “In the future, maybe we’ll have

a more flexible approach to our people overall.” Dunham said there was “definitely

a desire” among agents to return to work but added that there was “some cautiousness” about what the experience will be like. “Some of our retail colleagues

have been off for a year,” she said. “So from a wellbeing point of

view, we’re doing a lot of work to think about how we support them coming back into the business.” Extending the

deadline for issuing Atol-protected RCNs means consumers will not be at financial risk

deadline for issuing RCNs to the end of April “gives people the freedom to deal with May-June bookings depending on the [government] taskforce and how things develop”. The extension came as the CAA

prepares to sign off on the March 31 Atol renewals. The CAA noted: “The same

conditions as previously will apply. Consumers are entitled to a cash

refund for a cancelled package holiday should they not wish to accept a refund credit note.” CAA consumer director Paul

Smith said: “Extending the deadline for issuing Atol-protected RCNs allows travel companies to offer this option, meaning consumers will not be at financial risk.” Smith told a Travel Weekly Future

of Travel forum last month: “We’re conscious the [issuing deadline and expiry] dates need to work together. We don’t want to concertina the need to use the RCNs into a very short time.” Two leading Atol-holders, On the

Beach and Trailfinders, called on the CAA not to extend the issue of RCNs last week (Travel Weekly, March 25).

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