All package travel holidays, with or without flights are covered by the Package Travel And Linked Travel Regulations 2018 as long the package holiday was either sold or offered for sale in the UK.

Under the Regulations if your holiday is cancelled you are entitled to a cash refund not later than 14 days from termination of the holiday.

What if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator is insolvent (goes bust)
If the package holiday doesn’t include a flight (or you booked the flights separately at a different time) then if your Travel Agent/Tour Operator is a member of ABTA (or similar) you are covered if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator becomes insolvent.
If the package holiday does include a flight and your Travel Agent/Tour Operator is a member of ATOL (or similar) then you are covered if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator becomes insolvent

What happens if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator offers me a future credit or future cruise credit voucher for say 125% of the holiday value instead of a cash refund.
Be very careful in these uncertain times. If you accept a future credit or future cruise credit voucher and use it to book another holiday (or don’t) then if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator becomes insolvent (goes bust) it is unlikely to have ABTA or ATOL protection and you will lose the monies paid.

I am being offered a Refund Credit Note – should I accept it ?
Refund Credit Notes have been dreamed up by ABTA to try and get customers to forgo their legal right to a refund within 14 days of cancellation.
ABTA says that “Refund Credit Notes preserve a customer’s right to a refund for a package holiday and that they come with the same financial protection as the original booking”.
For Refund Credit Notes to be valid they must be issued within 14 days of the cancellation and include the option of a delayed refund. The Refund Credit Notes must also include the following information:
  1. The amount paid by the customer for the original cancelled holiday, or if a part refund has already been paid to the customer, for the amount remaining due.
  2. Identify the original booking reference and, if a flight is included in the package holiday, the ATOL certificate number.
  3. Any incentive offered to the customer to rebook a later holiday, such as a 25% credit voucher must be documented separately from the Refund Credit Note and the consumer informed that the separate financial incentive is not covered by financial protection with ABTA and ATOL.
  4. Provide an expiry date. The customer must be notified that the Refund Credit Note can be used to either make alternative travel arrangements or request a cash refund by the expiry date.
  5. Ensure the customer is told they must retain all their booking documentation and any proofs of payment.
ABTA financial protection is backed by a bond taken out by the Travel Agent/Tour Operator and renewed annually. Should a bond expire, the ABTA protection ceases. The expiry date on the Refund Credit Note is based on the bond financial protection renewal dates for each ABTA member so:
  1. Renewal due in March the expiry date for the Refund credit Note is 31 July 2020
  2. Bonds renewed in September the expiry date for the Refund credit Note is 31 January 2021
  3. Bonds renewed in March the expiry date for the Refund credit Note is 31 March 2021
If you have a package holiday without flights, then the Refund Credit Notes will be honoured by ABTA. However, if your package travel holiday includes flights ATOL have not so far confirmed they will honour the Refund Credit Notes

I want a cash Refund by the Travel Agent/Tour Operator is refusing – What can I do?
  1. Use the template letter (see below links) to request the cash refund you are lawfully entitled to within 14 days. You should complete the parts in bold, which will allow the operator to identify you and your booking and then you should print the template and post it to your Travel Agent / Tour Operators head office address.
  2. If you get no joy or the Travel Agent/Tour Operator doesn’t respond to your letter and provide the refund of monies paid, then there are legal options available including issuing a court claim on MoneyClaim Online. There is a court fee payable, but the court process itself has inbuilt delays so this isn’t the quickest option at all. It takes 5 days from issue for the claim form to be deemed served and the Travel Agent/Tour Operator (Defendant) then has 14 days to acknowledge service and a further 14 days to file a defence. If neither option is taken by the (Defendant), then you can apply for default judgment, including 8% statutory interest on the monies claimed.

    However due to the current Covid-19 situation, the court process is severely disrupted, and the court is likely to agree to an application from the Defendant for extension of time to respond or a stay of proceedings, which means that the case does not proceed any further for a set of period of time, say 56 days, which can be further renewed after that.

    It is for the above reasons that we do not recommend you issue a standard claim for a refund and instead, consider option 3 below if the Travel Agent/Tour Operator does not respond to your letter.
  3. We have what we call ‘our nuclear option’ and if you are unsuccessful after sending the template letter or you do not get a response then please get in touch with us and we’ll help you to get a refund. At this stage and due to the sensitivity of the process, we cannot publish what our nuclear option is but suffice to say it is much faster than a normal claim process and likely to be much more successful.

You can access the TUI Specific Template Letter Here or You can access the Generic Template Letter Here

The advice above was provided by Joanna Connolly Solicitors for AAD Consumer Forum (All About Debt Limited) and must not be reproduced, copied or used without express permission from either of the Copyright holders mentioned. Public sharing of the whole content with the original author details intact is allowed and encouraged.