Coronavirus: Abta speaks out on holiday refunds as families told to accept coupons

The UK's travel association has spoken out on holiday refunds, as thousands of passengers remain out of pocket over flights and hotels cancelled due to coronavirus. In a statement to the Mirror, Abta described the government's 14 day deadline for refunds as "impossible" due to the sheer volume of claims currently being processed on the back of the virus outbreak. It's now pushing for the 14 day timeframe to be extended to four months to give operators and agents enough time to claim back refunds from airlines and other third party companies.

Over the past week, Mirror Money has heard from dozens of holidaymakers who remain out of pocket due to coronavirus cancellations. They say they've waited weeks for refunds that were promised 'within 48 hours'. In some cases, families say they're no longer able to contact their travel agent, while others are being offered credit notes or vouchers instead - some to the value of just half the total amount paid.

So what are your rights under official guidelines?

If your holiday has been cancelled, you are entitled to a choice of either a full refund, a credit note or a change of date
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If your holiday has been cancelled, you are legally entitled to a choice of either a full cash refund, a credit note or a date change. However, many customers say they are being forced to accept vouchers because 'refunds are not an option'. This is illegal and you can dispute it.

If you do opt for a cash refund, be aware that the money could take weeks, or possibly months to arrive. "It is simply impossible at this time of crisis for many travel businesses to provide cash refunds in 14 days, as they are waiting for refunds themselves from airlines and hotels that have closed as a result of the pandemic," an Abta spokeswoman told Mirror Money "If possible, amend your holiday or travel arrangements to another date, don't cancel - this will mean you have a holiday to look forward to in the future, and it will help your travel provider maintain its cash flow through the short-term challenges.

"If you are not able to amend your holiday to another date, your travel provider may offer you a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund." Under Abta guidelines, these coupons can be exchanged for cash if you change your mind at a later date. "This Refund Credit Note can be used to rearrange a holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA/ ATOL if your original booking had that protection, so you would be reimbursed if the travel company failed financially.

"If your travel company is able to provide a cash refund, please be patient. They are dealing with a huge number of customers, and with offices closed and staff working from home, it's a real challenge. "ABTA will keep an eye on the situation and encourage ABTA Members to do all they can, but it's not unreasonable at the moment to expect the process to take upwards of a month."

Can my bank help?

If your provider is refusing to give you a refund, you might be able to get help from your bank or building society instead.

Consider using Section 75 or chargeback to get your money back. Section 75 is part of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This means your credit card provider is jointly responsible for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a retailer or trader.

It's valid on transactions between GBP100 and GBP10,000.

If you paid using a debit card, get in touch with your bank or building society and ask for a chargeback refund.

This is at their discretion, so the sooner you act, the better.

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