Two of the UK's largest online travel agents have quit their national association in a dispute over handling of refunds for thousands of canceled holidays, cutting their clients off from the association's arbitration process for resolving disputes.
On the Beach and Love Holidays, each licensed to book over a million passengers a year, refused refunds on holidays that had to be canceled when the British Foreign Office issued warnings about all but essential travel to Spain at the end of July. The refusal violated rules of the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta). Abta warned the companies that they must comply.
Particularly at issue are trips that were sold for destinations that were on the Foreign Office list as having 'unacceptably high risk' while they had infection rates lower than the UK. In the end, courts will likely have to resolve the issue.
The dispute is really not between the companies and Abta; the true dispute is between the companies, which have had heavy losses from cancellations and loss of new business and the UK government's Package Travel Regulations which are designed to protect consumers. PTR requires refunds within two weeks of a forced cancellation, but travel companies have asked for relief, saying the regulations were never intended to cover the kind of mass disruptions that Covid-19 has brought.