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Which? finds refund debacle could cause permanent reputational damage

Which? finds refund debacle could cause permanent reputational damage

A lack of trust in some holiday companies is the biggest barrier to rebooking with them after travel disruption last year, according to research from Which?.

Millions of people have had a package holiday cancelled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with billions of pounds having been illegally withheld in refunds for cancelled holidays over this time.

Most companies have since worked through their backlog of refunds, but trust in the industry and some holiday companies has still suffered.

Earlier this year, Which? surveyed more than 4,000 people who had a package holiday that was unable to go ahead between March last year and February 2021 to establish whether they would book with the same company again in the future and why.

Overall, seven in ten respondents in the survey told Which? they were likely to book with the same company again in the future, but huge differences were evident between companies that had tried to treat customers well during the pandemic, and those that didn’t.

More than eight in ten customers of Audley Travel, Hays Travel, Jet2 and Saga who had a package holiday they were unable to go on said they would be likely to book with the company again.

But at the other end of the spectrum, only half of Ryanair and Teletext Holidays customers surveyed said they were likely to book a package holiday with the same company again.

While Which? has previously reported on the struggle Ryanair customers have had to get refunds for flights, this is the first time it has reported complaints from customers who have booked a flight and a hotel together from the carrier.

Ryanair denies that these are package holidays, but Which? believes it is currently selling packages under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Regulations 2018.


Under the regulations, customers who have booked a package holiday have more rights than those who just booked a flight.

In a balanced response, Ryanair called respondents to the Which? survey “deluded”.

A statement added: “This is yet more ‘fake news’ from Which?.

“Ryanair does not market or sell package holidays and if misguided or mythical Which? survey participants claim that they will not book non-existent packages with us then this devastating news will not cost us a penny since we don’t sell any package holidays to Which?’s mythical or deluded survey participants.”

Ryanair is also at war with today

Overall, half of those surveyed who said they would not book with the same provider in the future said this was because they no longer trusted the company.

Almost a quarter of those who said they were unlikely to book a holiday with the same company in the future said it was because they were not satisfied with what they received in place of the holiday that did not go ahead.

Many package holiday customers did not receive the option of a refund that they were legally entitled to when their holidays were cancelled last year, and were instead only offered the option of rebooking for a later date, or accepting a voucher or a Refund Credit Note.

Others only received partial refunds, as package holiday providers struggled to recoup money for flights from airlines.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “With international travel still fraught with potential risks that could leave holidaymakers unable to travel as planned, trusting that a company will refund you if things go wrong will be vital to encouraging customers to book in the near future.

“A considerable number of companies do not seem to have learned lessons from last summer’s disruption though, and continue to offer holidaymakers limited financial protection if their holiday is disrupted by changing travel restrictions or being told to self-isolate.

“It’s important that travellers do their research before booking a holiday while coronavirus remains a risk, to check whether their holiday provider will leave them out of pocket if they cannot travel when the time comes.”

Only half of those who had package holidays that did not go ahead with Ryanair (50 per cent), Teletext (51 per cent) and Opodo (53 per cent) said they’d be likely to book with the companies again, while only six in ten Southall Travel (58 per cent), Love Holidays (60 per cent) and Expedia (62 per cent) customers whose holiday did not go ahead said they would book with the same company again in the future.

Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of Ryanair’s package holiday customers who said they wouldn’t book with the company again said that it was because they no longer trust the company, while more than three quarters of Love Holidays’ customers (77 per cent) said the same.

Many of the complaints about these two companies focused on problems with securing refunds, with customers complaining of long waits, partial refunds, and a lack of sympathy or understanding from the companies when trying to get their money back.