Grant Shapps tells radio listeners they SHOULD be refunded for amber holidays

By Linsey McNeill
21/05/2021
Home » Grant Shapps tells radio listeners they SHOULD be refunded for amber holidays

Grant Shapps says tour operators should refund holidaymakers who’ve booked to travel to amber-list destinations, which contradicts advice from ABTA and is likely to create more travel confusion.

The Transport Secretary told Times Radio that there was no ‘free and open travel’ to amber countries so the Government is asking tour operators to be flexible.

When asked by Times Radio presenter Aasmah Mir if people should be able to get their money back from travel companies if they want to cancel holidays to amber countries to comply with the Government’s instruction not to go, Mr Shapps replied: “The answer is yes.”

You can hear the radio clip below.

Clip from Times Radio

ABTA said last week that travel companies are not obliged to offer refunds unless the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advises against non-essential travel.

At the time, an ABTA spokesperson said: “The new traffic light system only deals with inbound travel and what a customer must do when they return home and does not constitute a significant change to a customer’s holiday itself.

“As such, there are no automatic rights to a refund due to a country’s green, amber or red status under the traffic light system.”

Rules for travel to green, amber and red list countries

Nevertheless, some tour operators, including TUI and easyJet, are allowing customers to rebook amber destinations, but they aren’t offering refunds.

Speaking on Times Radio, Mr Shapps said: “When and if you book, and right now we are only encouraging people to book for green list countries, but when and if you do please please do ensure that you can change that booking if you need to.

“We do ask travel companies to be flexible on all of this and you know an amber list country, where you have to come back and take all of those tests and you have to quarantine is clearly not free and open travel and in fact we ask people not to go to these places for holidays, so travel companies who stick to that and refuse to rebook I would suggest are not in the right place.”

Travel Gossip has asked the Department for Transport for clarification of Mr Shapps’ remarks, which are likely to have left consumers under the impression that they are entitled to cancel holidays to amber countries with a full refund. We have also invited ABTA to comment.

The confusion surrounding the rights of consumers with bookings to amber countries will intensify next week when Spain, also on the amber list, will reopen to British holidaymakers. Currently the FCDO is advising against leisure travel to mainland Spain and the Balearics so tour operators won’t be able to relaunch packages, but they could relaunch packages to the Canaries if the islands also reopen as expected on Monday.

In a statement, TUI told us: “We want to offer our customers flexibility and choice this summer, so where borders are open and FCDO advice allows travel, we will operate to those destinations.

“We constantly review our holiday programme and cancellations in line with the Government updates every three weeks, with the next update due in early June.

“We know some customers may be unsure about travelling this summer, so we’ve offered free changes 14 days before travel for anyone due to travel before the end of August.”

TUI has cancelled all travel to red and amber destinations where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel up to 6 June.

An easyJet holidays spokesperson said: “We want holidays to go ahead for as many of our customers as possible this summer, and we recognise that the discrepancy between countries on the ‘amber’ list and the FCDO’s ‘all but essential travel’ warnings are confusing for holidaymakers and the industry alike.

“We’re absolutely committed to safe and enjoyable holidays so we’re constantly keeping future holidays under review and we always follow FCDO advice. We won’t operate holidays to destinations on the ‘red’ list, or anywhere the FCDO advises against all but essential travel, or where, at the point of departure, there’s a known routine quarantine requirement in destination and providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test won’t allow our customers to miss this quarantine period.

“But we recognise that many our customers do still want their holidays to go ahead, so for ‘amber’ list destinations where holidays can be enjoyed safely and legally, which do not have ‘all but essential travel’ warnings and where there is no quarantine requirement in destination, we are providing flexibility and choice so customers can make up their own mind about their holiday. We’ve further enhanced our industry leading flexibility for travel this summer, meaning customers to these destinations have the option to go on holiday as planned, or make fee free changes up to 24 hours before departure, meaning they could book an alternative holiday for when the time is right.

“We want travel to many more countries to be permitted this summer so we urge the Government to review the traffic light system based on data and science, and to provide transparency on decision making and clarity on when we can expect travel to be permitted to more countries in Europe, so we can get our customers away on their well-deserved holidays once again.”

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