/ Travel & Leisure

Consumers should not have to prop up the travel industry

We don’t want to see the travel industry suffer further as a result of the pandemic, but it cannot be on consumers to prop up airlines and travel firms. Here’s why.

Why have Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps remained silent over the scandal of travel firms denying refunds for coronavirus holiday and flight cancellations?

For nearly seven weeks since international travel was shut down, airlines and some tour operators have been hoarding billions of pounds in customer payments for holidays that are no longer happening – effectively interest free loans to get them through the crisis.

Most British holidaymakers are protected by legislation that entitles them to a refund within seven days for a flight or 14 days for a package holiday if their trip is cancelled.

Yet we found 20 of the biggest airlines and tour operators breaking the law by delaying or denying refunds. Many are doing it brazenly and in plain sight. And they’re getting away with it, with barely a peep of protest from the government or the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.

No-one wants to see these businesses collapse. Millions of us rely on them to help us get away for what might be the most enjoyable and relaxing week or two of our year.

But that does not mean it’s acceptable for millions of families and other travellers – who may be facing serious financial problems of their own due to coronavirus – to fund the travel industry through this crisis.

Your stories

We’ve heard from people out of pocket by more than £10,000 on a holiday of a lifetime and others who really need their £150 flight refund so they can pay this month’s bills. Many are understandably concerned about whether they will ever see their money again.

 
 

We’ve seen holiday companies wrongly telling customers that consumer protections have changed and they are no longer entitled to a refund. Some are forcefully pushing vouchers and credit notes on customers – even though these may prove worthless if the provider goes bust.

The major airlines have hardly covered themselves in glory. They are withholding money from their passengers, and also from holiday companies that need the cash to refund their customers.

British Airways passengers have been infuriated by the airline taking refunds offline and asking them to ring a phone number that plays a recorded message before hanging up on them. 

Ryanair customers have been bombarded with vouchers – even after making it crystal clear they are only interested in a refund. The airline has been through several iterations of its refund policy during the pandemic.

All of them have had one thing in common: no-one actually seems to get a refund.

People are also finding they are out of luck when they turn to their insurer or card provider in a last-ditch effort to get their money back. Insurers say the holiday firm or airline is responsible.

Some banks are rejecting debit or credit card dispute claims, leaving people wondering if anyone will help them.

In short, it is an unholy mess. And it’s not going to get better without urgent government intervention.

Support the industry, protect consumers

We’ve produced a 10-point plan for supporting the industry and protecting consumers – so that airlines and holiday firms can weather this storm without neglecting their legal obligations to customers.

We have shared it with the government and MPs on Parliament’s Transport Committee, who will be questioning industry representatives this morning.

The airlines hold the key to getting the system moving again and we believe ministers and the aviation regulator must start getting tough with carriers that are breaking the law or playing fast and loose with the rules.

Our proposals also include a temporary extension of the 14-day statutory refund period for package holidays to a maximum of a month, because we know operators face a challenge to process so many refunds with fewer staff available – but a cash refund must still be an option for those who want it.

The government must guarantee that the refund credit notes being offered instead of cash refunds are insolvency protected. But even with that reassurance, many will still want a refund and we have concerns that some firms are simply not in a position to honour their obligation to pay up.

That’s why we’re also calling for the creation of a temporary Government Travel Guarantee Fund, which would support holiday companies ordinarily in good health that are struggling to fulfil their legal responsibilities due to coronavirus cancellations.

The actions in our plan, taken together, are necessary to secure a return to a thriving UK travel sector as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted.

But unless action is taken now, there is a real risk of permanent damage to consumer trust and confidence in the travel industry. 

Comments

Malcolm I understand your concerns as I believe you are in closer proximity to HS2 than the rest of us here.

From an environmental point of view, if an estimated 10 high speed trains an hour can replace the same number of fuel laden polluting planes, and add to that x per day x per week x per month it has to be a worthwhile project.

I agree with your suggestion people should be encouraged to live closer to their places of work and many people already do, but this also has its drawbacks as they are more likely to use their cars the short distance to travel to work, causing congested roads at peak times with nose to tail queuing vehicles belching out CO2 in urban conurbations driven by weary and hungry drivers hoping to arrive home to see their children before they go to bed.

Commuter trains will always be necessary to travel into large towns for people who live in rural areas and particularly in the south east regions unto the capital, but business executives and sales representatives of large multinationals with regional branches dotted around the U.K are more likely to use air travel to attend conferences meetings and exhibitions.

Whatever means of travel you use if HS2 can alleviate even a small portion of the pollution created both in the air and on the ground it will not only improve the country’s economy but peoples health as well.

Hello, Beryl. HS2 will impact in my area but I am not close enough to be very directly affected. My concern is, first, the huge environmental damage done to our countryside, partly because of the need for much straighter track to cope with ultra high speed. Many habitats will be destroyed.

But my real concern is the premise that, in the future, so many business people will need to travel regularly between major cities when we have successfully used (and had to use) other efficient means of communicating and staying in contact during lockdown. I think that enforced experience will have taught us a lot. It is not about substituting rail travel for air – agreed a much better option – but that we don’t take account of the need, and ability, to much reduce the need for such travel in the first place.

I assume the suggestion that we’ll all – from Scotland southwards – be able to get to our ski resorts and the Riviera more quickly was tongue in cheek. Only those with deep enough pockets to afford the rail fares will benefit. However I would contend that the other suggestion that it costs little more to provide HS2 than a conventional is suspect. HS2 cost per mile is substantially more than Crossrail, despite the latter’s Challenging civil engineering through (under) the capital. The problem is no one can place any reliance on HS2 costs as they are obscured by vested interests, but they are currently 3 times the estimate and the project has been barely started.

I’d suggest we could spend far less money far more wisely by improving rail connections between our northern and midlands conurbations, to the benefit of a more United Kingdom, along with moving business and administration (far) north and west of London.

Major transport infrastructure projects can only be mounted by governments; the days of the Victorian railway builders have passed, such are the enormous costs involved, so inevitably most of the decisions taken will be political. In fact, it’s vested interests inherent in much of the land proposed for use by the track that’s pushing up costs.

So why do we need HS2, 3 and so on?

I agree with attempting to ensure there’s far less commuting. We do need to cut down significantly on road traffic use and it may well need more than a simple swap to EVs to accomplish that. But how much would HS2 and so on be used for commuting? To me, it seems the very nature of the infrequent station stops preclude HS2 and its successors from being used for commuting.

But city to city travel is always going to be needed, and more so in the future, in all probability. My own experience on Eurostar suggests a couple of things: it’s infinitely preferable to air travel for a start, as most train travel is. But it always seemed to me that the majority on the Eurostar weren’t travelling for business. Judging by dress and luggage, they seemed fairly mixed.

So I suspect the HS rail argument is not about commuting at all; it is, as I said earlier, about eliminating the North / South divide by making it far easier for UK citizens to have rapid access around the UK without having to fly.

In that sentiment, incidentally, I believe the plan lacks ambition and scope. Ideally, the HS plan ought to have aimed to connect the cities of Paris and Amsterdam to Liverpool. Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. Air has gained supremacy because it’s cheap. But our own experience travelling to Europe via Eurostar suggests that prices are generally as cheap as or cheaper than by air.

We can’t afford to return to the massive pollution air travel inflicts on us but we will, if HS2 and its successors don’t start making progress.

Having travelled extensively around Japan and also on the Shinkansen, which consists of 70% mountains and only 30% liveable space, I was not aware of any shortage of wild life habitats. Friendly deer mixing with crowds will eat out of your hand and monkeys bathing in hot springs will happily de-flee you at no extra cost 🙂

High speed trains are now the norm in China, Japan. France, Germany, Spain Italy and now Turkey and there are plans to launch the Mag-lev into operation in Japan in 2025. Other countries such as Israel and the US are in the process of introducing high speed trains so I am at a loss to understand, apart from the obvious cost, why this country is holding up any future progress for the sake of a few protected crustaceans or suchlike, when most other developed countries are forging ahead with the future benefits of fast and efficient transport systems.

Lets hope the next few years won’t be wasted debating about what is more important, our future health and economy or a few protected wormlike creatures’ habitats.

Not just a few wormlike creatures habitats, Beryl 🙂 .

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/hs2-rail-link/

“While we are in favour of green transport and not against high speed rail projects in principle, we are strongly opposed to the HS2 route.

With at least 108 ancient woods being subject to damage and loss, we consider that the impact of the HS2 route on ancient woods and trees across the UK landscape is wholly unacceptable.

Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called ‘green’.”

However, apart from such avoidable damage to the environment I question the whole basis of an ultra high speed railway that will not materialise for many years when we have such advances in internet communication that will largely reduce the need for personal business travel – the apparent reason that would sort out the north-south divide. We should be addressing the means to reduce such travel, not promoting it. As for leisure travel, apart from the cost I don’t see a critical need to knock an hour of a journey for a group of well-heeled holiday makers.

What I do see is a case to provide extra capacity to transport goods around the country, and to make substantial improvements to rail lines between many towns and cities in the north and midlands.

We do seem to have departed from the Convo topic of refunding passengers for cancelled travel.

Whoops – referenced the wrong convo! Sorry. Although this one – consumers (aka taxpayers), should not have to prop up the travel industry – seems quite appropriate.

According to HS2 Ltd, “there are over 52,000 ancient woodland sites in England. Of these, 43 will be affected by the route between London and Crewe. We are working to ensure that over 80% of the total area of these 43 ancient woodlands will remain untouched by HS2. In addition, a £7 million HS2 Woodland Fund is available to help restore existing ancient woodlands and to create new native woodlands that connect or extend existing ancient woodlands”.

If the Woodland Trust’s figures are correct, and if they are talking about the entire route including Stage 2b [Birmingham to Leeds], then there would be a further 65 ancient woodland sites affected by HS2.

Parliament has approved Stages 1 and 2a [London-Birmingham + Birmingham-Crewe] and a Notice to Proceed has been issued with contractors now on site.

Unlike other capital projects, HS2 will pay for itself over time.

I don’t believe speed is the issue – perhaps it should never have been given the high speed name. It’s all about capacity and connectivity. There are also major de-carbonisation benefits achieved through using the additional capacity created on existing routes to carry more freight.

Any railway can be a high speed route if there are no intermediate stations every fifteen minutes and the traction is powerful enough. The higher the speed the straighter the alignment needs to be so half-mile radius curves will be the standard maximum. I am not sure that a straighter track necessarily gives rise to more environmental damage over the distance involved.

The need for a straighter track limits the path the route can take. Therefore it is hard to avoid trampling on anything many regard as a valuable asset that gets in its way.

Higher speed journeys can be made with intermediate stations (lacking on HS2 but, I believe, present in Japan?) by appropriate services simply not stopping.

Financial viability of HS2 – paying for itself – has not been demonstrated reliably. One study shows, if I remember correctly, a return of £1.50 for each £1 spent; another shows a return of 70p for every £1 spent. Or something like. An unredacted authoritative analysis has, as far as I know, never been made public for proper scrutiny.

The problem with HS2 justification (and otherwise) is a lack of reliable information, incompetent or deceptive costings and the misinformation and (lies) suspect data that are put forward.

Some time ago, I watched a TV programme about China that included high-speed rail. Instead of destroying everything in the path of the route, they built raised tracks that went over the countryside. Trouble is with this country, it would probably quadruple the cost.

This country is so densely occupied and with such a complex and varied landscape when you take into account archaeology, heritage, ecology, SSSI’s, habitats, and topography it’s amazing that anything can be built at all. I am as concerned about environmental harm as anybody but we cannot have it both ways – an expanding population and thriving economy without the provision of new road and rail facilities to ensure connectivity. While greater internet use for communication might relieve some of the pressure, family and leisure activities are some of the biggest users of the public transport system.

Without additional tracks, high speed trains catch up with slower, stopping, trains which is why the West Coast Main Line needs the additional capacity that HS2 is designed to provide by diverting the long-distance passenger traffic away from the existing route.

For the benefit of those who want to discuss obtaining refunds for cancelled flights and holidays I suggest we take this discussion to The Lobby.

Anyone who lives north, east or west of London will have to spend time making the journey in to the capital before they can take any advantage of a high speed service. It is a London-centric service at a time when we should be redistributing employment and population. I’d prefer to see resources devoted to improving and increasing rail connectivity between all those important towns and cities throughout the UK that are currently neglected.

Better to have a Convo devoted to the future of public transport perhaps.

The issue with HS2 and its like is simply that there are two viewpoints: those who want everything to stay as it is and dislike or even fear change. Curiously, the majority of those appear to be southern-based.

The other viewpoint is the one that says change is a way of life for any society, the long-term advantages of having new track and new trains are far, far greater than allowing the airline industry to return to dominance. Which we can be sure it will, and even more so if high speed rail isn’t built.

Those who want things to remain as they are also need to bear in mind that’s not what would happen. In fact, all that would happen is our environment, and the air we breathe, would continue to deteriorate, as the airline industry will leap into any perceived breach.

High speed rail might just possibly be one of the greatest innovations for this country, but only if the Airline travel industry has its wings clipped. Oh—and the motoring industry.

My view has nothing to do with a dislike or fear of change. I do not see this in other comments either. On the contrary I have supported new railways, if you read my comments.

My concerns are about the continuing necessity, some seem wedded to, for large numbers of people to travel long distances with, overall, relatively small time savings proportionally (and at considerable extra cost – are we promoting an elite travelling class?). At the cost and lack of visible justification. At the environmental impact that could be mitigated by a lower speed line. At the assumption that concentrating on connecting a very few cities will solve our disconnected kingdom, while starving far more towns and cities of decent rail services – electrification for example.

However, as in politics and many other topics there will be contrasting and opposing views, largely from non-experts that add to the appeal of Convos. Providing such views from all sides are listened to with due respect to such views.

A pity there is such a lack of real information from those directly involved. An increase of 3 times in the projected cost probably gives a hint as to why this might be.

As was suggested above this may not be the best Convo to host this topic. I suggest if we discuss public transport it might be better to have its own spot rather then The Lobby.

SHARON BRADY says:
14 May 2020

Yes, where’s that – we’ve been hijacked! :))

SHAZ says:
14 May 2020

Yes, where’s that – we’ve been hijacked! :))

There is always going to be opposition to any major disruption at national level and in any democracy everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint, especially people who are most likely to be affected by it.

You can go on discussing the pros and cons indefinitely but at some point decisions have to be made as to whether the project will ultimately benefit the whole nation or satisfy a few protesters if it fails to go ahead. That decision was made by PM Boris Johnson on 11th February 2020.

In retrospect the majority of similar cases have usually turned out for the better and people marvel at the outcome and often question how they managed before the changes.

To alleviate any concerns about the potential advantages and the efficacy of high speed travel take a peek at: japan-guide.com – Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)

Unless our current fiscal crisis intervenes it is likely that HS2 will continue to go ahead. I doubt it will be viable in its present form – no intermediate optional stops, no freight, lack of passenger numbers for example. I just hope enough flexibility will be incorporated to meet a changed future. The main issue I would like to see addressed is an integrated national rail freight policy to get heavily polluting lorries off the long distance routes and transfer goods for rail distribution to local hubs. I anticipate HS2 will have to form part of that to be economically useful.

I think Network Rail has developed a national railfreight policy but it requires much more investment if it is to bring about early results, although a number of small incremental gains might be available from improving a number of junctions to obviate conflict, creating loops where freight trains can be sidelined to allow faster traffic to pass, and upgrading loading gauges to allow high containers to travel. Electrification is the only realistic answer for heavy haulage – batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will not get a 3000 tonne train very far very fast.

Freight trains might use HS2 overnight but they would not be compatible with high speed passenger trains so the paths released on the conventional railway will benefit the freight industry; that is part of the payback.

I’ve had a call from a friend who has received a refund for a holiday in Switzerland, without applying pressure. I wonder how many companies are behaving responsibly. We (rightly) always hear about problems but knowing the overall situation would help put the problem in perspective.

It’s the same with coronavirus cases. Most of the news focuses on the number of deaths and new cases but not the number who have recovered.

Negativity seems to delight many people. I rarely listen to the news at the moment, other than headlines. The attitude of our so-called reporters seems to be aimed at focusing on the bad, continually criticising those dealing with the crisis, and usually employing their benefit of hindsight to interrupt and try to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the hapless victims.

Indeed. I’m not paying much attention to the news either.

I would be prepared to accept a voucher for a future holiday to help out travel companies in a very difficult situation. If the company did not survive it would be possible to make a Section 75 claim against my credit card company.

I am the same. Fed up with the repetitive news bulletins and slanted reporting. We only watch one news programme a day and often switch away early [which means we probably miss more interesting items in the “today’s other news” round up].

No. 10 Downing Street hosts a daily press conference by video link on the coronavirus emergency and extracts are frequently shown on the later news bulletins. On a BBC news programme only the questions put to the PM [or whoever] by the BBC’s reporter are broadcast and on the ITV news they only broadcast the question posed by their correspondent. The fact that the question put by a reporter from Sky News or from a newspaper might actually be more pertinent, and the answer more revealing, than the patsy handed in by a mainstream dumbo seems to elude the editorial judgments of the production team.

I 100% agree with that malcolm. If I watch the news, I mostly watch one of the English-speaking foreign news channels on Sky who report rather than sensationalise and generally give a more balanced view of the virus and treat interviewees with respect. Yes politicians need to be held to account, but I absolutely hate the excruciating way UK journalists interrogate them revelling in their discomfort. Did the UK news report that the EU gave Italy and Spain no help with PPE although they were apparently stockpiling or many EU countries including Germany had put back their borders? No, they harp on about a missed email.

There is no doubt mistakes have been made but I do believe the government have tried in what are extraordinary circumstances. They are only human after all.

Wavechange – It would be interesting to have a legal opinion on whether a S.75 claim against the credit card issuer would still be viable in the event that its merchant had gone into liquidation. I had always assumed that credit card companies recovered any outlays from S.75 claims by deduction from the nett receipts transferred from sales executed via credit cards.

It might disappoint some that S.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply to a holiday costing under £100.

From information coming into Which? Conversation from people seeking refunds it seems that the S.75 protection is not all that people expect of it. Credit card issuers have stalled on giving refunds and for people booking through certain intermediaries have denied liability on the grounds that there was no commercial relationship between the card issuer and the holiday operator.

We have heard a great deal about PPE shortages in hospitals but this varies according to location. Four members of my family work in the NHS and last time I discussed this they were not having a problem.

John – That would be an interesting question for the Which? lawyers. My understanding is that credit card companies will try to recover what they pay out in Section 75 cases but this might not be possible. I suspect that we might learn the answer to this question before long.

If anyone from Which? Legal is reading this discussion it would be good to have some advice.

Adequate PPE in (many or few?) health care institutions. And has this been reported? It’s not newsworthy.

I also dislike news reporters interviewing some junior member of the NHS who bemoans the situation at length, as if they are are privy to all the information necessary to present a considered view on behalf of all their colleagues and of the national situation. The aim seems to be to foment dissatisfaction. Fortunately I believe most people – except those putting news reports on the screen – see through this and ignore it.

Just as when a political leader quotes Gladys from Ramsbottom with a view that they seem to think should be used to change national policy.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-responds-to-caa-announcing-its-review-of-airline-refunds/

“To restore trust in the travel industry, the government must step in with support for airlines and holiday firms that may struggle to meet their legal obligations to their customers due to the coronavirus crisis.”

Presumably this expects the government (actually, the taxpayer – you and me) to, effectively, provide refunds if holiday companies could not – through going bankrupt, liquidating, ceasing trading. This seems a very selective proposal. Does this mean that whenever any company might go into liquidation through being forced to meet its legal obligations – which it may be unable to currently fulfil entirely – we’ll expect the taxpayer to recompense all those owed money? Seems a case of the law of unintended consequences.

If, by paying some refunds before then running out of money, a company then fails then it will put its employees out of work and damage their suppliers to whom they owe money. A difficult situation, but is it better to try to keep the company afloat until better times by asking for temporary relief from its customers (and suppliers) or to let it descend into inevitable closure? And should the taxpayer then fund those people who have lost money?

I think these sorts of demands need for more thinking through.

Travel companies must be presumed to know the law and obligations affecting their business and should, as other businesses have to do, be taking prudent action to make provision for potential calls for refunds.

Nobody saw this particular crisis emerging so it is arguable that it would have been unreasonable for companies to have built up reserves against something that is so unusual but so substantial that it effectively shuts down a whole industry for months thus eliminating all cashflow. I think it is incumbent on governments to support the customers of companies in this position but not necessarily to save the companies themselves from collapse if they have not acted prudently nor taken any steps to mitigate the risks.

Some companies are able to weather the storm and have worked out a way to trade after it has passed because they have been more conservative with funds and retained more profit as reserves to sustain the business. Others appear to have fallen flat on their face and rejected claims in a way that is suspiciously like an orchestrated response. For those I would suggest the government provides such cover as will refund passengers in accordance with the legal requirements but does not allow the company to bounce back as though nothing had happened. It would not have been difficult for the government to have extended the refund obligation by a month or two until cashflow was restored but it decided not to. Perhaps it would have had to act in line with other European states and there was a lack of consensus.

There is a particular aggravating feature of this emergency affecting refunds. While many people cannot justifiably claim that they need the money back [because if they really had needed it they would not have been able to spend it on a holiday], during the progress of this emergency the financial situation and prospects for a large number of people has changed beyond any sensible degree of anticipation so they really do need their refund, and I think that provides grounds for government intervention focused on preventing hardship for customers but not providing comfort for airlines and travel companies.

Ian Lowe says:
17 May 2020

I was actually on a CMV cruise ship which was due to depart on 12th March. After a day in Poole harbour we were told the cruise was cancelled and we subsequently disembarked. After 2 months and several emails to CMV and the travel company I purchased the cruise through, I finally was told that “…your refund will be processed as soon as possible but no later than 31st July 2020, in line with our obligations as a member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents).”
I did not think that their obligations were relaxed to 41/2 months?

Ian – No, you’re right. The obligations have not been relaxed but ABTA, as a trade body representing its members, issued guidance to them supporting the deferral of refunds. The chairman has publicly stated that the association will not support members that refuse to provide refunds and has confirmed that refunds remain an available remedy.

Obviously, with a view to sustaining its membership base, ABTA has been pushing alternatives like –
(a) credit notes [which can be redeemed for cash refunds within a set period but usually not for some months],
(b) vouchers [which can be used to buy another holiday through the same company, albeit not necessarily to the same value as the cancelled holiday as it will depend on what happens with prices], or
(c) rescheduling [postponement of the same holiday to a later date but not guaranteed to be at the same price].

In all those cases the money will be retained by the company [unless in the case of refund credit notes it is converted into a cash refund in due course]. While ABTA has claimed that the refund credit notes are financially protected by ATOL, the CAA [the government agency that runs the ATOL scheme] has not confirmed to Which? that vouchers and credit notes were financially protected, meaning that customers who accepted one from their holiday provider might not get their money back if the company subsequently went bust.

Unless the company holding the funds puts them into a bonded or protected ‘client’ account, or takes out insurance cover [probably not realistic after a risk has materialised], customers would get no recompense in the event of liquidation in one form or another. Against this must be balanced the risk that if a run on the company’s funds for refunds drives it into liquidation there will be little remaining with which to pay out creditors and there could be a long wait.

So there is a case for extending the refund payment deadline beyond 14 days from cancellation date and for the the government to support companies in some way that ensures customers will get refunds for cancelled bookings. I believe that represents Which?’s current position.

I agree with most of what you say, John, except about the taxpayer making refunds to customers if a company collapses. Many people lose money in normal times when companies fail and are not entitled to taxpayer-funded refunds. It would set a precedent that I do not think is justified, particularly when some risks can be insured by travel insurance.

Perhaps we need a more extensive, or compulsory, 3rd party deposit (and full payment) protection scheme funded by customer levy.

Maybe deposits could be held in client accounts that could not be touched by the travel company; this may well push up the cost of holidays as the travel companies themselves will have to find separate finance to secure their bookings.

There is also a danger that if (smaller) companies know customers will be reimbursed by the government they might take advantage by misusing funds for personal advantage, as happened in energy supply.

We are in a wholly extraordinary situation thst I hope we will not meet again. However it will no doubt give everyone a lot of food for thought about how similar situations might be best dealt with in the future.

Malcolm – What I was trying to suggest was that the government should enable the travel firms to meet their statutory obligations, not that the government should pay refunds directly. The government could make secured loans, or extended credit, available to travel companies so that the government becomes a preferential creditor in the event of liquidation. At present, if a company goes down, all the people with refund credit notes or vouchers are unlikely to see any repayment, or such pittances that they are of little worth.

Given that the government’s legislation is what has caused the cancellation of flights and package holidays, many people think the government should accept responsibility for all its consequences. I don’t think that would be just. People have to take some risk on their own backs. I should be surprised if much is being paid out in lost holiday compensation by insurance companies whose carefully crafted policy conditions rule out events such as this.

The government might consider that because holidays are non-essential their loss without recompense causes no financial hardship, but that overlooks the loss of income or job that many people have experienced because of the lockdown. This epidemic has created exceptional conditions for which temporary emergency measures might be appropriate without becoming a general precedent. I have personal reservations over this question, though, because an indiscriminate refund policy would return the most money to those who could afford the most expensive travel and holidays. Those hardest hit by coronavirus, either medically or economically, are generally the least well-off in society and it would be inequitable if government support that was not repaid over time was expended to assist the better off.

I endorse your other suggestions. I think we are getting close to the time when we need to have a Conversation topic on What Happens Next because there will be a need for many changes in the consumer landscape and lifestyles and there is an opportunity to review and recast many existing policies and laws.