Abta and CAA strive for agreement on refunds

Ian Taylor

Abta was locked in talks with the CAA on immediate financial relief for firms on Tuesday as the government unveiled unprecedented measures to support business but advised against overseas travel. Te talks focused on relaxing requirements to refund

customers within 14 days of cancellation, which threaten to put many firms out of business. Te aim is to replace cash refunds with credit notes. But confirmation of the switch was not expected

until later this week with protection of consumers’ cash if companies still go bust proving a sticking point, heightening concern across the sector. Leading accountant Chris Photi of White Hart

Associates said: “Te law says you need to refund consumers within 14 days, but half of Europe has tweaked the law so companies don’t repay but give a voucher. “It’s about cash conservation. If firms don’t have

to repay cash, they won’t have to put themselves into insolvency. Tey need this now.” Te Foreign Office advised against all non-essential

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travel on Tuesday, initially for 30 days, while the government guaranteed £330 billion in loans “to businesses small and large”. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also extended the Business Interruption Loan Scheme for smaller businesses announced last week and said Bank of England funds would be available to large businesses, pledging: “Both will be up and running by the start of next week.” Te business rates holiday will also be extended. Alistair Rowland of Te Midcounties Co-operative

Saturday, March 14 O

All remaining Clia cruise lines suspend sailings

O O O suspends flights to Spain, including islands

G Adventures, APT, Kosmar and Intrepid Travel suspend all tours

The US travel ban is extended to the UK and Ireland

Sunday, March 15 O

FCO advises against all but essential travel to UK’s largest outbound destination, Spain, which declares state of emergency and follows up with warnings against travel to raft of destinations including the US

O suspends flights to France O

Europe’s biggest travel firm, Tui, suspends ‘majority of travel operations’ (page 47)

Ryanair warns it could ground all flights; easyJet calls for government support for aviation industry. O IAG cuts flying by 75%; airlines seek state aid

Monday, March 16 O


Virgin Atlantic plans to cut capacity by 80%, Norwegian and Air New Zealand by 85%

Abta warns ‘tens of thousands’ of jobs in travel could be lost

O EU bans non-essential foreign arrivals O

Prime minister Boris Johnson tells public to avoid all non-essential travel and mass gatherings

If firms don’t have to repay cash,

they won’t have to put themselves into insolvency. They need this now

said: “We now know anything in the next 30 days will be cancelled. We need to know about refunds because no one is geting money from anyone.” He added: “Te notion of a credit note is a good one.” Alan Bowen, advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, stressed the urgency saying: “Tere will be failures very quickly.” Abta laid out the action it’s seeking on Monday, urging

“the 14-day window for refund payments be removed” and “refund credits” be allowed as an alternative to cash refunds. Te CAA was poised to confirm a postponement of the

March Atol-renewal deadline. CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty acknowledged: “Te threat to the survival of businesses is real. We’re doing all we can to help…as well as being clear about expectations on consumer rights.” A senior industry source confirmed: “Te Treasury and

Departments of Business (BEIS), Transport (DfT) and Culture (DCMS) are involved in talks. Te Treasury is leading [on support for business] but BEIS and DCMS are our way into that discussion.” Te source identified two other areas of talks with

ministers, saying: “We need insurers to come back in [with cover] for people rebooking beyond the crisis window, and Foreign Office advice [to] get to something more nuanced.” Aito chairman Derek Moore highlighted the uncertainty, saying: “A lot of small businesses don’t know where to turn.”

Tuesday, March 17 O

Aito and ITT urge shake-up of package travel regulations to save businesses from going under


The Airport Operators Association warns that UK airports could shut down “within weeks”


Some high street agencies shut doors to public

UK government advises citizens against all but essential travel abroad

19 MARCH 2020


PICTURES: Shutterstock

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