The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is looking to extend ATOL protection for any new refund credit notes (RCNs) issued up until 31 March. It is also currently in discussion with the UK Government over extending the current deadline of 30 September 2021 for the expiry of RCNs.
The original deadline for providers to issue an RCN for cancelled ATOL trips was due to expire at the end of January 2021. However, as a result of the ongoing travel restrictions and Covid-19 cases, the CAA has decided to extend the amount of time providers have until the end of March.
The CAA said: “The Air Travel Trust recognises it is possible that some consumers may not be able to redeem their refund credit notes before this date and is engaging with the government to discuss this issue and how it might best be addressed.”
Traveller confidence to falter further
While this is good news for providers, as they will potentially have extra time to recoup revenue losses and gather funding to repay customers, it might not be so great for customers, who may have to wait a considerable amount of time before receiving their holiday refunds (especially if the deadline for the expiry of RCNs needs to be extended again in line with further travel restrictions).
And, while customers remain entitled to a cash refund if they do not want to accept an RCN, there have been numerous reports of companies failing to issue customers cash refunds over the last 12 months due to financial hardships (in December, Lastminute.com was among the companies ordered to pay a considerable amount in refunds to travellers after failing to issue refunds to customers within the assigned 14-day period). Delays in payment will only further damage people’s perception of the travel industry.
The impact on travel insurance claims
Customers may also not be aware that accepting an RCN will mean that they are no longer able to submit a holiday cancellation claim to their travel insurance provider later down the line. And so, trust in travel insurers, which is already at a considerable low, could also take a hit.