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Tourists with cancelled flights or trips should be offered vouchers for MORE than the original value 

Travel agents and flight companies owing money to holidaymakers after their trips were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic should consider offering vouchers for MORE than the original cost, say European officials.

By the letter of the law, disappointed
travellers are entitled to their money back with speed but this is not
happening due to the dire financial circumstances businesses are finding
themselves in. Instead, many are being offered vouchers, which is legal, BUT
people have the right to refuse them.

The European Commission said yesterday that
holidaymakers understandably want their  money back because families are
suffering as much as tourist businesses and airlines. In addition, they were
right to be cautious about accepting vouchers as by time they were allowed to
travel again, the agents or airlines might have gone bust and cease to exist.

The EC says the offer of vouchers should be
made much more attractive in which case disappointed travellers might accept
them rather than cash. One way of doing this would be to enhance their value
and offer a higher amount than the money owed.

According to preliminary estimates of the
European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA), the COVID-19
pandemic may cause a loss of EUR 30 billion (minus 60%) in the first quarter of
2020 and EUR 46 billion (minus 90%) in the second quarter, compared to expected
turnover based on previous years.

The EC says cash flow is a problem for all,
with no indication yet as to when or if things will improve as more and more
countries introduce 14-day quarantine plans for international travellers.

Offering alternatives to people who have had
their holidays or flights cancelled is therefore not an option. Legislation
says the full cost of the ticket is due within seven days following the
passenger’s request in the cases of air, sea and inland waterways transport, 14
days after the offer has been made or the request has been received for bus and
coach transport and one month after the request in the case of rail transport. 

Today’s EC travel report says:  “Making
vouchers more attractive, as an alternative to reimbursement in money, would
increase their acceptance by passengers and travellers. This would help to ease
the liquidity problems of carriers and organisers and could ultimately lead to
better protection of the interests of passengers and travellers. To that end,
vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the carrier or of the
organiser. Such protection could be set up by the private or the public sector
and should be sufficiently effective and robust. “

Vouchers should last for a longer period than
the norm, suggested to be one year, and if not used, could still be cashed in.
Their use should also be made more flexible ie they could be used for other services
provided within the same group.

“In order to make vouchers more
attractive, organisers and carriers could consider issuing vouchers with a
higher value than the amount of any payments made for the

package travel or transport service originally
booked, for example through an additional lump sum or additional service
elements,” says the Commission.

The amount should also be protected by a new
guarantee scheme.