Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
743. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to ongoing issues regarding school tours and parents being unable to claim refunds from travel agencies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7088/20]
I am aware of difficulties across the travel sector in relation to refunds to customers and that in some instances travel companies such as travel agents may be offering vouchers or similar in respect to refund claims from customers for travel services impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including school tours.
The EU law is clear relating to refunds for package holidays. Under the EU Package Travel Directive customers retain their right to a cash refund in circumstances where their holiday cannot proceed due to ‘unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances’, if they do not wish to reschedule for a later date or accept an alternative package. Travel agents and tour operators are required under the Directive to refund customer within 14 days of the customer requesting to cancel a package holiday.
At the same time, I am also aware that travel agents and tour operators are having difficulties themselves securing refunds from their suppliers, including airlines, and it is clear that the unprecedented scale of the impact of Covid-19 has affected the capacity of the sector to respond as it should. Whilst consumers are entitled to a cash refund, the Government has agreed to provide protection for credit notes or vouchers issued by travel agents and tour operators, if their customers agree to accept them. Under the scheme, for which legal provisions are being drafted, the State will guarantee the cash value of any such voucher - to be known as a Refund Credit Note - which can be used at a later date to rebook or can be redeemed for cash in 6 months. The idea is to give the sector some breathing space, subject on customer agreement, and it reflects recommendations made by the EU Commission. All parties - customers and travel agents - are feeling the financial impact of Covid, and the Government is trying to provide a way that gives everyone some assurance.