ABTA has announced an extension to its current Refund Credit Note (RCN) regime, recognising the continuing impact of Covid-19 on the travel sector. The aim is to ensure that Members have the option of issuing further ABTA-protected RCNs at a time when significant travel restrictions are still in place and Member income is minimal.
As a reminder, ABTA-backed RCNs which have already been issued are valid only until the expiry date shown on them, which can be no later than 31 March 2021. The new RCNs will be valid up to and including 30 September 2021 at the latest. The deadline for issuing these RCNs is 31 March this year.
Refund Credit Notes work because customers are prepared to accept them as an alternative to an immediate refund and have confidence they will not ‘lose out’ in the long run. Maintaining the financial protection which backs RCNs is critical to keeping consumer confidence in them, and so that financial protection must be in place for the duration of an RCN’s validity.
The news will be welcomed by agents in Northern Ireland. Following a clamour by the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), the Irish government introduced a similar scheme for the Republic in June 2020 on a short-term emergency basis, originally for six months but then extended to nine months. Most of the credit notes were used in the latter half of 2020, to the tune of €17m. The ITAA have a scheduled meeting with the Department of Transport on Friday, January 29, to discuss the extension of the RCN regime further, amongst other things.