Though first and foremost the coronavirus pandemic has been a national health crisis, the reverberations of lockdowns were felt across countless areas. In particular, the ever-growing travel industry suddenly hit a roadblock as travel bans and “stay at home” orders saw flights suddenly grounded.
While this caused devastation for airlines, with countless jobs lost, as a result, Craig Ashford, director of marketing and communication at TravelUp, believes many in the industry are “guilty” when it comes to their handling of customer refunds.
Reflecting back on 2020, he says this could be better handled in future.
“Many airlines have been guilty of not refunding money quickly enough and some have completely disregarded current legislation,” he told Express.co.uk.
“Many passengers have experienced frustrating delays over the last few months trying to get their money back after flights were cancelled due to coronavirus.
“But if the flight is operating there won’t be any refunds.”
Yet, even when airlines were offering refunds, Mr Ashford points out many customers were left under “severe stress” trying to reclaim their money.
According to a BBC report in May, two months since lockdown measures first took hold, 84 percent of Ryanair customers, 63 percent of easyJet customers, 23 percent of British Airways customers and 19 percent of Jet2 customers were yet to receive refunds.
“TravelUp, which passes ticket payments straight on to airlines, therefore found itself having to battle to get money back on behalf of customers,” he continued.
“There has been severe stress placed on many of our customers in their pursuit of gaining refunds and as their agent, we have worked tirelessly to get their money back.”
With lockdowns resuming across Europe, TravelUp says it is “lobbying the Government for change”.
The travel firm is working directly “with the CAA” on the “concept of a trust fund” as a potential way to approach mass refunds in future.
“We have been proposing the CAA introduces a new system, in association with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), so money is only transferred to the relevant airline once the flight has departed,” explained Mr Ashford.
“This would enable funds to be returned quickly if the flight does not leave.
“This new system would replicate what happens in other areas of the industry.
“Similar schemes have been shown to work for travel consortia.
“Essentially we believe the Civil Aviation Authority needs to be much stricter and look at ways to ensure travellers are not at the mercy of the airlines.”
Yet, despite the problems which have arisen for both airlines and customers alike in 2020, Mr Ashford believes travel will resume, though the journey may be slow.
Mr Ashford suggests the successful resurgence of the travel sector may lie in the hands of the airlines themselves.
“Supply and demand will be very much in the control of the airlines,” he said.
“Inevitably big black holes need to be filled and prices for travel will rise in 2021.
“According to IATA capacity will not be back to pre-covid levels until 2025.”