Concern over holiday firms issuing vouchers for coronavirus cancellations

The boss of a major online travel agency has condemned rival firms and airlines for offering vouchers instead of cash refunds for cancelled holidays

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 9:15 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 9:16 am
Holidaymakers in Barcelona (PIC: JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Simon Cooper, chief executive of On The Beach, said the issuing of vouchers is ‘a travesty’ as consumers face being ripped off when they re-book.

A number of travel companies and airlines are offering vouchers which can be exchanged for an alternative booking at a later date.

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But Mr Cooper said it was ‘a bad idea for everyone concerned’.

Tour operators issuing vouchers will be in ‘no better cash position’ in the coming months, he warned.

“The temptation then surely has to be that, as an operator, you're simply going to manipulate the price of your holidays.

“The only way that you can avoid bankruptcy is to massively increase the prices you charge to recoup the losses.

“The audience you're dealing with is a captive audience. They can't go anywhere else.”

UK consumers are meant to be protected by laws stating that cancellations should lead to refunds within seven days for flights and 14 days for package holidays.

Mr Cooper said On The Beach is offering cash refunds rather than vouchers, but it has been unable to return much of the money which went towards flights as many airlines are not handing it back promptly.

He described the behaviour of carriers as ‘an absolute joke’ and stated ‘the laws are not currently being applied’.

Mr Cooper has been lobbying organisations such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - which regulates UK airlines - to enforce refund rules.

“On a three-times-per-week basis, I phone or I email the top regulators and say 'I cannot understand how you can sit on your hands any longer'.”

The CAA said it ‘understands the acute impact that coronavirus is having on the industry, as well as those with upcoming travel plans’.

Its website advises passengers they ‘are entitled to a refund’ if their flight is cancelled, adding that they ‘may wish to open a complaint with the airline’ if it is refusing to pay out.