The refund credit note scheme has been “a lifeline for many travel agents” but the government “could have acted quicker” in confirming they were protected, according to the boss of Jet2holidays.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, chief executive Steve Heapy said he felt ministers had generally “responded pretty much as well as they could in unprecedented times”, but said in-fighting between government departments and different sectors driving their own agendas had slowed decision-making.
“When you’re running a government, you’ve got some massive decisions to make. You’ve got some big departments that are fighting each other – the Home Office, the Foreign Office. And then you’ve got the travel sector and lots of other people, and they’re all fighting their own agendas,” he said.
“So when they make big decisions, it sometimes takes a bit of time to put the detail behind that and that’s been the frustrating thing. The time lapse between a big decision being made and then the detail coming out doesn’t reflect what the expectation was when the big decision was made.”
Heapy added: “I would have thought they could have acted quicker, certainly the refund credit note issue [confirmation of Atol protection] was one that could have been done a lot quicker. Other countries have done similar things. But that took a long time here and I know that that’s been a lifeline for so many travel agents and it would have been good to see that happen a lot sooner.”
Asked about Jet2holidays’ confidence in offering RCNs from the outset when questions remained about their protection, Heapy said: “We spoke to the CAA, the government, we spoke to our legal people to see whether they thought that these were something that we could do.”
He added: “The reason we did it was not necessarily to retain the cash in the business because we pretty much internally separate customers’ cash from our own. So we could refund all customers’ cash and still have our own cash in the bank.
“We did it to retain the bookings because if you give, in these circumstances, customers a reason to cancel the holiday then there’s a very good chance they will do. So we wanted to keep hold, and we wanted our travel agent partners to keep hold, of the bookings. And this seemed like a good way to do it.”
Heapy said: “[Head of sales] Alan Cross was working on this from the start and he was convinced that they [RCNs] were right. We spoke to various bodies and we got some positive noise from those, so we carried on with them.
“As things were firmed up as we went along, we changed the wording a little bit so we were absolutely compliant and the government’s finally come on board and agreed that these are acceptable.
“It’s been a lifeline to many travel agents. I know Alan had a lot of travel agents on the phone from very early on, thanking him for doing this and saying it was an absolute lifeline for them.”
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