“Many companies” in travel have “not done themselves or the industry any favours” by making Covid-19 related refunds difficult for customers, says the boss of Jet2holidays.

Chief executive Steve Heapy said customers have “long memories” and will book in the future with companies that “looked after them”.

“People have paid for goods and services, the dates at which the goods and services should have been provided has passed, the goods and services have never been provided and yet people didn’t get their money back,” he said during Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Week.

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Heapy said customers have had to “virtually beg for their own money back” with some companies and believes they will “remember this”.

He also believes the whole industry will be hit by the poor customer service levels displayed by some companies.

“From an industry point of view, it’s quite worrying,” he said. “If we’re not careful the perception of people in travel is going to be that more like estate agents and bankers. And that’s not what this industry is about.”

Comparing the situation to buying fish and chips, Heapy said: “If you went to the chippy and they just through the bag at you, and the customer service is rubbish, and the fish was just batter… if you took it back and they didn’t give you your money back, you probably won’t go there again.”

He said that “in many cases” the people who “got stung” were “the ones that went for the lowest price”, adding that “very often things have the lowest price for a reason”.

Heapy acknowledged that “there’s no sign of the economy bouncing back soon”. And he noted that, across the economy, “the talk is that there will be quite a number of redundancies once support from the government”, such as furlough, ends.

Accepting that may impact people’s discretionary spending, he said: “If many people will have less income or no income it could affect their ability to go on holiday. But a holiday is seen very much as an essential purchase, rather than a discretionary purpose.”

“What we have to do, as an industry, is create trust, provide the best product possible at the best price possible.”

Heapy said he expects customers to be “a bit more choosy” about who they book with to ensure they had the best possible chance of getting a refund if their holiday doesn’t go ahead.

He added: “If you look after your customers, they should look after you in the future. You’ve got to treat customers almost like a little baby. You’ve got to look after them, nurture them, feed them with information etc. You don’t just get a baby, feed it, throw it aside for five hours and go to the pub. You have to devote a lot of time and energy to customers and you’ve really got to nurture them and look after them and cultivate them and excite them and inspire them. Customers are not a one-off thing, they should be for life.”

See the full line-up for the Future of Travel Week and register for early access to each day’s content.

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