Travel companies that sell holidays to Latin America and the Caribbean are petitioning the Government to remove customers’ automatic right to a refund for holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) is asking for a suspension of aspects of the Package Travel Regulations (PTR), a move it says is necessary to help its 285 members survive Covid-19.
The PTRs state that customers must receive a refund, in cash, for cancelled holidays within 14 days. However, LATA claims that its members simply don’t have enough cash in the bank to cope with the deluge of cancellations caused by Covid-19, and they say that in many cases they aren’t able to refund customers because airlines and hotels aren’t refunding them.
LATA has launched a petition this week asking the Government to:
- remove the 14-day time limit for refund payments
- allow refund credits as an acceptable alternative to cash refunds, with all protections carried forward
and, perhaps more alarmingly
- remove the responsibility for travel companies to provide refunds if these costs are not covered by the suppliers (e.g. the hotel or airline)
If the petition attracts 10,000 signatures, the government must respond. If it attracts 100,000, it will be considered for debate in Parliament (which is currently suspended).
ABTA, the travel association, asked the Government more than three weeks ago to extend the deadline for refunds to July 31, with “refund credits” issued in the meantime, but ministers have so far refused to act.
LATA general manager Danny Callaghan said: “The travel industry is doing everything it can to help customers but these Package Travel Regulations were not intended for mass holiday cancelations caused by a global pandemic.
“The scale of this crisis on our industry is unimaginable and government needs to act now to help protect thousands of jobs.”
However, holidaymakers will be understandably alarmed at the suggestion that the law should be changed retrospectively to allow tour operators to deny them refunds altogether.
LATA’s membership includes many long-established and well-known tour operators including Abercrombie & Kent, Audley Latin America, Cox & Kings, Explore, Exodus, Journey Latin America and Rainbow Tours. Some might be refunding customers, but many of its members, along with other travel companies, are only giving customers the option to rebook – sometimes at a higher cost.