‘Don’t expect big changes to safe list’

Ian Taylor

The industry should expect few additions to the list of countries open to travel without quarantine restrictions following the government review due on Monday. Sources leading the

engagement with ministers warn “it would be wishful thinking” to expect many changes “at this stage”. At the same time, they caution

ters back RCNs The government

says RCNs are valid documents. It’s a pity it took such a long time

consumers have accepted an RCN, APC will be payable for any new bookings.” There was disagreement on

the implications of CAA guidance that RCNs “will benefit from Atol protection up until September 30, 2021, if they have been issued between March 10 and September 30, 2020”. This extends RCN issuance to the next Atol renewal date and protection another 12 months. Kane Pirie, managing director

of VIVID Travel and founder of the Right to Refund campaign, issued a statement arguing: “If customers accept RCNs after September 30 they will not be Atol-protected.” However, the CAA guidance states Atol protection “currently

will not apply” to RCNs issued after September 30. The senior industry source noted: “The CAA is not saying RCNs will fall away from October 1. This allows companies to continue to issue RCNs and gives a year’s expiry. We should probably assume it will have to be reviewed again.” The source added: “Nobody

wants to go on issuing RCNs, but we’re not out of the woods. At some point we do have to put a box around this, but when that happens is another matter.” Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer

said the government assurance would “enable consumers to hold refund credit notes with confidence”. He said: “I regret we had to take a

stand. We would like customers to get their money back, but circumstances prohibited it. What we came up with was the right thing for the industry and for customers.” Abta will issue updated guidance

on RCNs within days. i Business, page 38

23 JULY 2020 5

things could go backwards, with an airline source warning: “The government won’t hesitate to pull it all back if we get an outbreak. At any moment, a market could be cut off.” The source ruled out “large-

scale changes” on July 27 and said: “There will be tweaks. We don’t foresee swathes of countries being added. Obviously, we would like Portugal brought back. We hope they will add countries as they’re able to.” A second source agreed: “We

don’t have much hope for the review. We’ve not heard of any countries being added.” The airline source added:

“There is no detail on how they will conduct the review. The decisions are made behind closed

Albufeira, Portugal

doors. A lot of countries are trying to get to grips with what is required. We would like more detail.” Airlines are lobbying for the

government to ‘open’ hub airports such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The current guidance means travellers spending any time at a hub have to quarantine upon UK arrival. The source said: “There

are hubs where, if transit traffic remains segregated, it could be separated from the situation in the country. We hope that is under consideration.” But hopes of Covid-tests on

passengers leading to a relaxation appear stalled despite a trial at Heathrow and other airports. An aviation source said:

“Optimism about testing has waned. There are problems making it work [given] the accuracy of picking up passengers with asymptomatic infections. The success is in single digits, which means looking to do a second test. There is not much hope of clarity any time soon.” The airline source agreed:

“We’re stuck to four-week cycles. The government has said, ‘The review period will be the review period’. But we hope if a major market [can be brought back], they would announce it and not wait.”

PICTURES: Shutterstock; Richard Townshend

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