Coronavirus advice for ABTOT Members’ customers

Travel update

On 17 March the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all non-essential travel for British nationals, initially for a 30-day period.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/travel-advice-foreign-secreatary-statement-17-march-2020

On 23 March the FCO advised all British travellers to return to the UK.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-advises-all-british-travellers-to-return-to-the-uk-now

On 26 March the UK Government advises against all non-essential travel in the UK

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-transport-and-travel-advice

On 4th April the FCO extended the do not travel notice indefinitely:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-office-steps-up-plans-to-bring-home-britons-stranded-overseas

ABTOT Member Customer advice as at 15 April

The Travel Industry is experiencing unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances at this time which has created a huge increase in operations and we are therefore asking customers to be patient with their enquiry. Members will contact them in due course.

We are also receiving an exceptional volume of Members’ customer enquiries, which we are responding to as quickly as we can. We are now unable to respond to all of these calls directly, so please check our advice below.

ABTOT Members are working hard to manage their customers’ travel arrangements and are processing them in departure date order. The Government is urgently reviewing options to introduce temporary changes to regulations that will create a longer window for repaying refunds without affecting the protection provided by ABTOT or ATOL.

Many customers have already postponed or rebooked their travel arrangements or have received either refund credit notes or cash refunds from their ABTOT Member. A very important thing to note is that your holiday booking or refund credit note is financially protected by ABTOT in the event the ABTOT Member fails. Please see our guide on your options below.

Many ABTOT Members are doing all they can to help their customers but they have not yet received refunds from their suppliers such as  airlines, ferries   and accommodation providers and without these they are simply not able to immediately provide customer refunds, particularly on such a large scale in such a short space of time.

We’d like to thank customers for their understanding.  By following the steps below it will help to ensure that when this crisis is over UK holidaymakers will be able to book and enjoy their holidays in the same way as they have done for many years.

We would recommend the following steps:

  1. If your trip has been cancelled because of the change in FCO and Government advice, talk in the first instance to your ABTOT Member to discuss options. 
  2. If possible, postpone your holiday or travel arrangements, don’t cancel – this will mean you have a holiday to look forward to in the future, and it will help your ABTOT Member maintain its cash flow through the short-term challenges.  Please be aware that the monies you have already paid are still covered by financial protection and as such you would be reimbursed if the ABTOT Member were to fail.
  3. If you are not able to postpone, your ABTOT Member may offer you a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund. This Refund Credit Note can be used to book another holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTOT/ ATOL if your original booking had that protection, so you would be reimbursed if the failed financially. Further details on this option are below:
    • This protection will last until 31 March 2021 at which point, if you have not used the Refund Credit Note to book another holiday, you will be entitled to a cash refund.
    • The value of the Refund Credit Note must be equal in value to the monies you have actually paid for the protected travel arrangements. 
    • The Refund Credit Note must not include any other amount offered as a rebooking incentive or other offer. 
    • Any such offers must be documented separately and are not covered by any scheme of financial protection.
    • The Refund Credit Note must expressly identify the original booking reference and where appropriate, the ATOL Certificate unique reference number.  You should keep hold of all your original travel information including proof of payment.
  4. If your ABTOT Member has said they will offer cash refund, please be patient with them as they process this: they are likely to be dealing with an exceptionally high volume of enquiries.
  5. If you have a travel booking for later in the year, please be patient. The situation is changing rapidly, and whilst travel restrictions are currently without an end date, only ‘imminent’ travel is affected.  You may incur cancellation charges or lose your deposit if you make a hasty decision.

Nobody knows for sure how long the current coronavirus pandemic will last, but we and other approved government bodies like ABTA, BCH and the CAA know that we will come out of the other side and we need to ensure that when we do, customers are still able to book and take their travel arrangements and that there is a healthy and competitive travel industry to support them.