Two of the biggest Atol-holders are flying in the face of industry practice and Abta policy by refusing full refunds to customers who choose not to travel to Spain against Foreign Office advice.
Online travel agents On the Beach and Loveholidays are telling clients booked for Spain they won’t refund flights despite FCO advice against all but essential travel. Both are Abta members.
Abta insists: “In the event of the FCO advising not to travel . . . we expect members to offer clients due to travel imminently the correct options. If they can’t [offer an alternative holiday] . . . they must offer a full refund.”
On the Beach argues: “FCO advice against all but essential travel has previously meant there is a clear and present threat to life resulting in a total shutdown of that destination.”
But it says: “If this were the case currently, flights from the UK would not remain operational.”
An On the Beach spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented situation and not one the Package Travel Regulations was intended to cover. Even with the FCO advice in place, flights are operating, airports are open, hotels (or suitable alternatives) are available, so the circumstances do not significantly affect the carriage of passengers or the performance of the package.
“If customers choose to cancel their holidays, we’ll offer a full refund on accommodation and transfer costs and waive any administration fees, and we’ll refund the flight cost if the flight is cancelled and refunded by the airline.”
No one from Loveholidays was available to comment, but its website tells clients: “Mainland Spain and the Spanish islands are no longer on the UK’s list of ‘safe’ countries for travel. Airlines are currently not providing a cash refund if the flight is going ahead.”
An Abta spokesperson said: “Abta is aware some operators are not offering full refunds for package holidays despite the change in FCO advice to Spain and is carrying out preliminary investigations under its Code of Conduct.”
A leading industry lawyer noted: “Abta has always taken the view FCO advice against non-essential travel means members cancel holidays and pay refunds. A consumer would surely say Covid-19 in the destination gives an entitlement to cancel.”