Trust in travel sector drops to seven-year low, survey suggests

20 May 2020, 09:12

Trust in the travel sector has dropped to a seven-year low
Trust in the travel sector has dropped to a seven-year low. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Trust in the travel industry has dropped to a seven-year low due to delays in issuing refunds, according to a new survey.

Of the 2,095 people polled by consumer group Which? two out of ten respondents said they trust airlines and holiday companies, compared to three out of ten per cent who trusted them when asked the same question in February.

The new survey also showed that 34 per cent do not trust the industry, an increase on the 23 per cent who did not trust it three months ago.

These figures represent the worst score recorded since Which? began collecting the data seven years ago.

Seven out of 10 people surveyed who had a holiday booked before the coronavirus outbreak have had some or all of their plans cancelled, with three in five still waiting for a refund.

Nearly half of those who have not yet had their money back (47 per cent) are more than £500 out of pocket, while more than a quarter (27 per cent) are owed above £1,000.

Airline passengers should be refunded within seven days and package holiday customers should get their money back within 14 days, according to laws designed to protect consumers in the event of cancellations.

Many firms are offering vouchers or refund credit notes, which can be used to make a future booking, to ease the cashflow crisis they are suffering due to the collapse in demand for travel.

The Civil Aviation Authority has launched a review into how airlines are dealing with refund requests, while the Competition and Markets Authority is investigating holiday accommodation providers.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said the results of its survey are a "damning indictment" of the behaviour of many airlines and holiday companies in recent weeks.

He claimed that vouchers "may prove worthless if a company fails" and any further delay in paying refunds "risks permanent damage to trust in the travel industry.

He added: "The regulator must come down strongly on any airlines found to be systemically denying or delaying refunds for cancelled flights and holidays, and the government must urgently set out how it will support the industry and restore trust in the sector."

A spokesman for trade body Airlines UK said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been "severe" and carriers continue to receive "a far higher volume of refund claims than normal."

He insisted refunds are being paid but it is taking longer than normal due to the "sheer volume" and restrictions on working arrangements.

"Airlines are doing everything they can to work through the backlog as quickly as possible," he added.

Travel trade organisation Abta said in a statement that many of its members have a "loyal customer base" who are being "incredibly supportive" by re-booking cancelled holidays or accepting a refund credit note.

It added that it is "virtually impossible" for refunds to be paid within 14 days in the current circumstances, but accepted that, if requested, firms should make payouts "as quickly as they are able to."

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify