OTAs ignore Abta’s refund policy Ian Taylor

Two of the biggest Atol-holders are flying in the face of industry practice and Abta policy by refusing full refunds to customers who choose not to travel to Spain against Foreign Office advice. On the Beach and Loveholidays

are telling clients booked for Spain they won’t refund flights despite FCO advice against all but essential travel. Both are Abta members. Abta insists: “In the event of the

FCO advising not to travel . . . we expect members to offer clients due to travel imminently the correct options. If they can’t [offer an alternative holiday] . . . they must offer a full refund.”

On the Beach argues: “FCO

advice against all but essential travel has previously meant there is a clear and present threat to life resulting in a total shutdown of that destination.” But it says: “If this were the case

currently, flights from the UK would not remain operational.” An On the Beach spokesperson

said: “This is an unprecedented situation and not one the Package Travel Regulations was intended to cover. Even with the FCO advice in place, flights are operating, airports are open, hotels (or suitable alternatives) are available, so the circumstances do not significantly affect the carriage of passengers or the performance of the package.

Operators report surge in demand for eastern Med

Lucy Huxley

Operators say demand for the eastern Mediterranean “went through the roof” after the government tightened restrictions on travel to Spain. Sunvil Holidays managing

director Chris Wright said the Greece specialist saw “a significant upswing propelled [by] the Spanish quarantine”. Speaking on a Travel Weekly

webcast, he said demand began on the Monday and “carried on through the week”, while last weekend was

6 6 AUGUST 2020

“really the first weekend we’ve filled the flights that we’ve got operating”. “Demand just went through the

roof,” he added. Wright said he was taking more

bookings than ever from people who had not been to Greece before. “They’re obviously Spanish

diehards, so the questions they’re asking are very different,” he said. “They’re trying to find comparable

places, which is good for the sales team because they’re having to think of different ways of selling.” Wright said Corfu had been

“very strong” for those moving their

holidays from Spain, and reported demand for Skiathos and Preveza. Jet2holidays head of trade Alan

Cross reported a spike in interest for Greece and Turkey “before we got the news about Spain”, and described subsequent demand as “a natural progression”. The operator announced last

week it was adding 30,000 seats to Greece and Turkey with extra flights and larger aircraft.

Rival Tui also ramped up capacity

for Greece and Turkey, adding seven flights across three days to meet “overwhelming demand” for holidays abroad this summer. Cross added: “We were already

looking at the opportunities for Turkey and Greece, like switching some aircraft out there, but [the] Spain [news] just propelled it on for

us to make the decision that way.” i Agent Diary, page 18 If customers opt to

cancel their trip, we’ll refund the flight [only] if it is cancelled and refunded by the airline

“If customers choose to cancel

their holidays, we’ll offer a full refund on accommodation and transfer costs and waive any administration fees, and we’ll refund the flight cost if the flight is cancelled and refunded by the airline.” No one from Loveholidays was

available to comment, but its website tells clients: “Mainland Spain and the

Spanish islands are no longer on the UK’s list of ‘safe’ countries for travel. Airlines are currently not providing a cash refund if the flight is going ahead.” An Abta spokesperson said:

“Abta is aware some operators are not offering full refunds for package holidays despite the change in FCO advice to Spain and is carrying out preliminary investigations under its Code of Conduct.” A leading industry lawyer noted:

“Abta has always taken the view FCO advice against non-essential travel means members cancel holidays and pay refunds. A consumer would surely say Covid-19 in the destination gives an entitlement to cancel.”


PICTURE: Shutterstock

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