Holidaymakers warned against booking with some providers over Covid refunds

4 August 2021, 06:40

Which? has issued warnings about travel providers
Which? has issued warnings about travel providers. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Holidaymakers have been advised against booking with 20 providers because of "shortcomings" with refunds for Covid-related disruption.

Consumer watchdog Which? said its own "red list" of companies could leave customers out of pocket if they cannot travel as planned.

Lastminute.com, Love Holidays, On The Beach and Teletext were among the providers.

Which? also red listed companies that did not provide clear information about their booking policies.

It said while the policies were not necessarily in breach of consumer law some have faced investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority in the past over failures to refund their customers, including Love Holidays and Teletext.

Which? has advised anyone looking to book a holiday to avoid doing so with a "red list" company and to check their provider offers a good flexible booking policy.

It took into account the companies' Covid-related disruption policies, including if customers would be refunded if a lockdown was imposed, if Foreign Office advice changed or if travellers needed to quarantine in a hotel when they return – for example, if their destination was put onto the UK's red list under the traffic light system.

Which? also asked if companies would provide full refunds if someone had to self-isolate before travelling and found just Exodus, Explore and Discover Egypt did this and every other scenario put to them.

Companies that offer refunds in most scenarios include British Airways Holidays, First Choice, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays, Trailfinders and Tui.

Which? said it will regularly update its list as it evaluates providers and its travel editor Rory Boland said: "Between changing travel restrictions, both in the UK and abroad, and the ongoing risk of being told to self-isolate, booking a foreign trip still comes with some uncertainty and things can go wrong if you've chosen the wrong provider.

"The best companies won't leave you high and dry though, so it's vital to do your research before booking.

"The difference between choosing a red company over a green company could be losing the entire cost of your holiday if circumstances change and you have to amend or cancel your plans."

On the Beach said: "If the FCDO advises against travel to a destination, our customers can change their holiday destination or dates free of charge, and we will waive any of our admin fees.

"If they wish to cancel their holiday, we will fully refund hotel and transfer costs, and our regulated, ring-fenced trust account means that we are able to do this quickly and always in cash rather than credit notes or vouchers.

"Our holidays include flights from multiple third party airlines and the decision on whether to operate those flights lies with each airline.

"If the airline cancels the flight, then we will, of course, pass the refund straight on to our customers in full.

"If a customer wishes to cancel their holiday due to FCDO advice, but the flight operates as planned, the airline retains the monies paid for the flight, and in those instances this leaves us unable to pass a refund on to our customers."