Many Britons this year were looking forward to summer holidays abroad. But the coronavirus pandemic has since meant that most people’s holidays have either been put on hold or cancelled. The pandemic, which has sadly claimed the lives of almost 400,000 worldwide, has put huge financial strain on the travel and tourism sector.
Many countries around the world have been forced to close their borders, restrict travel and put quarantine rules in place for incoming visitors.
Consequently, holiday companies and airlines have begun issuing refunds to customers whose summer holidays were cancelled.
But despite holiday companies and airlines’ obligations to provide customers with refunds in 14 days, many Britons are still waiting for refunds after months of waiting.
At yesterday’s Downing Street press conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps responded to a question about people getting their money back from travel firms.
Holidays 2020: ‘They should not be hanging onto money!’ – Travel companies slammed by Shapps
Holidays 2020: Many Britons this year were looking forward to summer holidays abroad
A member of the public, Charlotte from Coventry asked, “what’s the government doing to ensure that people can get their money back?”
Mr Shapps explained to the public that legally travel firms can offer customers vouchers but that customers can insist on a cash refund.
“Ultimately they have to offer the money back if that is what you prefer,” he said.
“It’s very important travel companies do treat their customers properly, and I’ll be doing everything I can to encourage them to make sure they pay back or offer a voucher if that’s what the individual consumer wants.
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“We can’t have a situation where they’re just hanging on to money.”
Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has stated that trips abroad are prohibited unless it’s for an essential purpose.
The comment from Mr Shapps has both reassured the public and outraged the travel sector.
Twitter users took to the social media site to express their thoughts on Mr Shapp’s comments.
Holidays 2020: “We can’t have a situation where they’re just hanging on to money”
One user tweeted one airline and said: “Grant Shapps at yesterday’s COVID briefing said that passengers were entitled to receive REFUNDS NOT VOUCHERS!!!
“It’s not that you ‘can’t’ issue a refund once a voucher has been issued, it just that you ‘WON’T’.
“Your ‘customer service’ STINKS.”
Another user tweeted another company: “We can’t have a situation where they’re just hanging onto money.
“Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, today enforced your legal obligations to us.
“He is talking about you, holding onto our money. It’s illegal.
“No discussion needed, refund us as legally obliged.”
International travel post-lockdown
Co-owner of Kicheche Camps in Kenya, Paul Goldstein, told travel expert Simon Calder in The Independent: “For the transport secretary to accuse impoverished tour operators of hanging on to clients’ money is an insult to an already beleaguered industry.
“Many clients have been very loyal in letting operators keep deposits for the future and this has supported their cash flow.
“But right now financially the whole industry is teetering with many job losses. It is a disgrace from a government making their policies up as they go along.”
A spokesperson for ABTA, the travel association, said: “Members should refund customers as soon as they are able to and without undue delay.
“Companies will have varying timings they are working to to process refunds for any number of reasons including fewer working staff or having not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers affected by the crisis.
“However, if your travel provider has said they will offer a cash refund, they should let you know how long this will take.”