Why your travel company won’t refund your holiday


No matter what you’ve been told by your travel agent or tour operator, if your holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’re legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days. No ifs, no buts.


The law has not been changed, as some travel companies are claiming, you do not have to accept a voucher instead, and if they point you towards ABTA’s new guidance that says it’s okay to receive a Refund Credit Note rather than cash, remember that you are entitled to refuse and insist on good old English pounds instead.


So why are hundreds of travel companies, including otherwise reputable outfits like TUI and many others, blatantly breaking the law and refusing to give us our money back within 14 days?


The simple answer is that many of them don’t actually have enough money to refund all the tens of thousands of cancelled holidays.


Why ever not?


For several reasons, actually.


First of all, some airlines are dragging their feet in refunding both tour operators and travel agents. Funnily enough, they’ve been much faster refunding customers who have booked direct than refunding their travel industry partners. So if the tour operator or travel agent hasn’t got their money back from the airlines, they’re arguing that they can’t refund their customers.


Unfortunately for tour operators, they are legally obliged, under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations, to refund their customers regardless of whether they’ve secured a refund from the airlines.



However, many travel companies, including some big household names, are genuinely fighting for their own survival right now. This is because typically a tour operator doesn’t make any money in the winter, in fact many of them make huge losses – and the bigger the company, the more money they lose. Even the most successful tour operators only make a profit in the summer, with July and August being by far the most profitable months.


Let’s look at TUI, Europe’s biggest holiday company, as an example. During the first three months of 2020 it made a whopping €78 million pre-tax loss. That doesn’t mean it’s a rubbish company because prior to the coronavirus it was on course to make an annual profit of €850 million to €1.05 billion, but this just goes to show how heavily dependent tour operators are on the summer season.


So no summer holidays = no profits for the majority of them.


As it’s looking highly likely that the entire summer season will be cancelled this year, some tour operators are unlikely to make it through to next year. They simply won’t be able to afford to pay their staff, rents and other fixed costs without the profits they expected to make in the summer. In other words, they need your money now to pay wages, rents and other fixed costs until the bookings start flooding back in.


Even those companies that can afford to give you your money back say they can’t do so immediately because of the sheer volume of refunds they’re having to process. Also bear in mind that many have staff working from home, which means communication is taking longer than usual. Many travel companies have taken advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and furloughed the majority of their staff so that 80% of their wages will be covered by the Treasury until the end of June. Under the terms of the scheme, staff aren’t allowed to work, even to process refunds.


Some companies are telling customers they can’t refund holidays because they’ve already used their money to pay for their hotel and flight, but this article shows that this might be a somewhat bogus argument.


Another reason travel companies aren’t issuing cash refunds, even when they might be in a position to do so, is that the travel trade association ABTA has more or less given them permission not to do so.


It’s issued new guidance to its members, which includes the vast majority of the biggest tour operators, telling them that it’s okay to issue Refund Credit Notes instead. These are a sort of IOU with a promise to pay any time up to March 2021.



ABTA still says that where customers insist on cash refunds these should be forthcoming, but instead many companies have taken the guidance as permission to avoid issuing any immediate refunds.


Does this mean that it’s okay for holiday companies to refuse refunds?


No, it doesn’t. ABTA is a trade association, not a governing body and travel companies still have to abide by the law, which hasn’t changed.


That said, you can’t get blood out of a stone and if the tour operator hasn’t got cash in the bank to refund you, well, they’re not going to refund you.


So what should you do if your holiday company is refusing to refund you?


Fortunately, you have several options and this article explains how to go about getting your money back, but before you do anything, it’s important to check exactly who has your money and who to pursue for a refund, as explained here.


It’s worth noting that not all travel companies are refusing refunds and the consumer champion Which? has found numerous examples of firms that are giving customers their money back.


Here’s a list of those that it’s been told of so far:


Adventure Creators (Pyrenees specialists)

Carrier Travel

Explore Worldwide

Ffestiniog Travel

Friendship Travel

Journey Latin America

Jules Verne


Llama Travel

Much Better Adventures

Mountain Kingdoms

Responsible Travel

Sona Tours


Vivid Travel


Have you been refused a cash refund by your holiday company, or do you want to give a shout out to a company that’s given good service? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!



Blog Comments

Skiworld Ltd – cannot get any acknowledgement for a refund

That’s so disappointing to hear because I went on holiday with them in January and I thought they were great. Have you tried to a S75 or chargeback?

Flixhotels.com a German travel agent from which I have booked a ‘free cancellation’ hotel on Iceland is refusing refunds claiming that German’s government is supporting it (it is still illegal!) they are giving non-working vouchers and inform customers that if they choose refunds they will get them AFTER 31.12.2021! Take a look at trustpilot reviews:

Travel Republic are saying that Covid-19 is not their fault so they don’t owe a refund.

I hope nobody else risks their money by booking with them!

Pillinger World Travel refusing to refund, will only offer part refund (£700 short of cost of holiday) or credit voucher.

They’re breaking the law, you’re entitled to a full refund

My TA refuses to return my holiday cash due to the covid issues and thus cancellation of the holidays.
We are out £5,500 and they said i should take a voucher or wait till end of the year for any cash back.
It was paid in total by my banks CC
What else can I do now?

You should call your bank (or card issuer) and raise a Section 75 claim

You should call your bank (or card issuer) and start a Section 75 claim

We have been waiting for a refund from Debbie’s Villas for Disney/universal tickets since the end of March. They have refunded the villa money but communication has dried up waiting for the rest of the refund.
We started with the holiday company who told us to go to our insurance who told us to go to the credit card company who wouldn’t pay out , so back to the insurance who told us to wait 25 working days to finally tell they won’t pay out because it was a package deal. So back to Debbie’s villas who said yes we will pay under the 2018 act. Why didn’t they own up initially. Still £2700 out of pocket.

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