A lack of trust in some holiday companies is the biggest barrier to rebooking with them after last year’s travel disruption, 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 2020 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 (70%) told Which? they were likely to book with the same company again in the future, but huge differences were evident between companies that had made an effort to treat customers well during the pandemic, and those that didn’t.
More than eight in 10 customers of Audley Travel, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays 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.
Overall, half of those surveyed (51%) 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 (23%) 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.
Only half of those who had package holidays that did not go ahead with Ryanair (50%), Teletext (51%) and Opodo (53%) said they’d be likely to book with the companies again, while only six in 10 Southall Travel (58%), Love Holidays (60%) and Expedia (62%) customers whose holiday did not go ahead said they would book with the same company again in the future.
Almost two thirds (63%) 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%) 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.
In contrast, a high percentage of customers from firms such as Hays Travel (85%), Audley Travel (82%), Jet2 (82%) Saga (82%), Tui (78%), Kuoni (77%) and Riviera Travel (77%) said they were likely to book with the same company again.
All of these companies have been rated as Green in the Which? Holiday Checker on account of their flexible booking policies. Green companies will offer refunds or amendment free changes if government advice or quarantine restrictions prevent someone from travelling.
Despite a lower percentage of customers reporting when surveyed earlier this year that they would book with Southall Travel again compared to other companies in the survey, the company is also rated Green in the tool. This is on account of the flexible booking terms it has introduced, which now offers commitments to customers over refunds and protection against disruption caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
A number of the companies with fewer people reporting that they would book with them again were rated Amber or Red, meaning holidaymakers using those companies could potentially be at financial risk if certain kinds of disruption prevented them from travelling.
Love Holidays, Ryanair and Teletext have all been rated as Red in Which?’s Holiday Checker, which lets travellers compare the booking policies of more than 70 UK package holiday providers.
Ryanair and Teletext are both red on account of not responding to Which?’s questions on their booking policies, given the importance of transparency at a time when disruption to travel is still likely, while Love Holidays was rated Red because it would not commit to offering refunds in the event of a national travel ban or lockdown.
Expedia is rated as Amber, as while it allows refunds in a number of scenarios, it would pass on unrecoverable costs if a customer wants to amend their holiday because their destination is moved to the UK government’s amber list after the booking is made, and they also have to quarantine at home on their return (unless the FCDO also advises against travel to the destination).
With travel rules and restrictions changing regularly, travellers could find themselves left out of pocket if their holiday company does not allow them to cancel for a full refund if they are no longer able to travel as planned.
Holidaymakers can compare the booking policies of different package holiday providers using the Which? Holiday Checker at which.co.uk/HolidayChecker.
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.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 4,177 adults in the UK who had a package holiday outside of the UK scheduled between March 2020 and February 2021 that they were unable to go on due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fieldwork was carried out online by Opinium between 18th of March and 22nd of April 2021.
- Opodo is not currently selling package holidays, and so is not included in the Which? Holiday Checker.
- Which? Holiday Checker
- Package holidays sold through Ryanair
Rights of replies:
A Love Holidays spokesperson said it had refunded £240 million to its customers during the pandemic and that it has since made new investments in customer service and technology. It also said: ‘We have met, and continue to meet, our obligations under the CMA undertakings. Our refund process has also become significantly more efficient which will continue to give our customers peace of mind long after the pandemic recedes.”
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “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.”
Teletext did not respond to a request for comment.