This is why some travel companies are leaving Abta - and what it means for refunds

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 3:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 4:23 pm
Two major travel companies have left Abta this week (Photo: Shutterstock)
Two major travel companies have left Abta this week (Photo: Shutterstock)

Leading travel agent Love Holidays has quit Abta, the travel association, following a dispute over refunds for customers whose travel plans have been impacted by government changes.

The travel firm says legislation which requires it to offer full refunds “was never designed to deal with” the level of disruption inflicted by the pandemic.

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Thousands of people have had holiday bookings cancelled, delayed and changed as a result of the pandemic, which has wrought chaos across the travel and tourism industry.

Why have Love Holidays left?

A spokesperson for Love Holidays said: “The current package travel legislation was never designed to deal with disruption on the scale we have seen since March 2020.

“Unfortunately, as a result of our divergent views on the legal position regarding cancellations and refunds, we have decided that it is no longer possible for Love Holidays to remain a member of Abta.

“We believe the priority for everyone in the travel industry should be to come up with a workable, fair solution to help holidaymakers get their money back as quickly as possible.

“Speeding up the refund process for airlines must be a key part of this solution, and we urge the entire industry to focus on working together to make this possible.”

What about other firms?

Love Holidays is not the first major firm to quit the association, with online travel retailer On The Beach announcing they’d also left earlier this week, taking their brand Sunshine.co.uk with them.

In both cases, the firms have taken issue with Abta’s continued insistence on full refunds for any package holidays booked to destinations which are placed on the government’s no-go list.

What about refunds?

A spokesperson for Love Holidays said: “We would like to reassure all our customers that package holidays booked with Love Holidays remain financially protected by the ‘gold standard’ Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol) scheme.”

Abta have stressed throughout the pandemic that they will continue to stipulate that full refunds be granted in the case of holidays booked to destinations which the Foreign Office later places on their no-travel list.

An Abta spokesperson said: “Love Holidays has chosen to resign from Abta membership following ongoing discussions about refunds due to customers when the Foreign Office advice changes to advise against all, or all but essential travel to a destination.

"Abta is firm in its position that the longstanding practice of offering a full refund when the Foreign Office advises against travel still stands.”

While customers who have purchased holidays through Abta members are able to claim refunds through the association for the whole holiday, they are not able to claim refunds through Abta for flights booked directly through an airline.

Customers unsure of whether the firm they booked with is a member of Abta can search the member list on Abta’s website.