On the Beach and Love Holidays’ split from travel agents’ association angers customers trying to get money back for cancelled holidays
Two of the UK’s largest online travel agents, On the Beach and Love Holidays, have left the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), following disputes over customer refunds.
The move means thousands of customers who had complained to Abta no longer have access to support through its arbitration scheme.
Both companies refused to refund customers’ flights after holidays were cancelled when the UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Spain at the end of July. The refusal to comply with Abta’s rules prompted the association to issue a statement in mid-August confirming that companies were obliged to issue refunds when the FCO warns against travel, despite the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.
On the Beach and Love Holidays – which are licensed to carry 1.2 million and 1.1 million passengers a year respectively – had agreed to refund accommodation and transfer costs but refused to accept responsibility for flights that continued to operate despite the FCO advice.
In a statement about its decision to quit the association, On the Beach said it was “unable to align with Abta’s position on blanket full refunds in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic”. It added: “We have a process in place to assess all cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis to establish to what extent their holiday is impacted by FCO advice, with refunds processed accordingly.”
LoveHolidays said the Package Holiday Regulations (PTR), which obliged companies to issue a refund within 14 days, were not fit for the current crisis: “The current package travel legislation was never designed to deal with disruption on the scale we have seen since March 2020.”
Membership of Abta is not mandatory for UK travel firms, and businesses can choose to leave at any time. But a spokesperson for Abta said being part of the association was “a way of showing customers you are