Only half of Ryanair and Teletext Holidays customers who booked flights and accommodation together said they were likely to book a holiday with those companies again, according to new Which? research .
Many Love Holidays customers also told us that failure to provide refunds on time and dismissive customer service meant that they no longer trusted the company. Only 60% said they’d book with the company again.
Earlier this year, Which? surveyed more than 4,000 people who had a package holiday that was unable to go ahead between March 2020 and February 2021, to establish whether they would book with the same company again in the future, and why.
There was a stark difference between customers’ experiences of Ryanair, Teletext Holidays and Love Holidays and those who booked with firms that have a good track record on refunds and customer service.
More than eight in 10 package holiday customers of Hays Travel (85%), Audley Travel (82%), Jet2 Holidays (82%) and Saga (82%) said they would be likely to book with the company again, despite not having been able to take their holiday during the pandemic.
Check your holiday provider before you book
With holiday travel about to restart, Which? has launched a new tool to check whether package holiday providers are likely to refund customers if cancellations happen again.
This is in response to billions of pounds that were illegally withheld in refunds during the pandemic.
Many package holiday customers didn’t receive the option of a refund that they were legally entitled to when their holidays were cancelled last year. They were only offered the option of rebooking for a later date, or accepting a voucher or a Refund Credit Note (RCN).
Others only received partial refunds, as some package holiday providers struggled to recoup the cost of flights from airlines.
Ryanair’s package holidays
While Which? Travel has previously reported on the struggle of Ryanair customers to get refunds for flights, this is the first time that we’ve heard from people who told us they booked a flight and a hotel together from the carrier.
Ryanair denies that these are package holidays, but Which? believes Ryanair is selling packages under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Regulations 2018.
The government defines a package holiday as ‘the combination of two or more different types of travel services which are combined for the purpose of the same trip’. Ryanair lets you choose your flight and then add a hotel or hire car to your booking before paying.
Package holiday customers have considerably more legal rights than those who only booked a flight, including refunds for the total amount of the holiday if the provider cancels the flight.
Customers no longer trust Love Holidays and Ryanair
More than three quarters of Love Holidays customers who said they wouldn’t book with it again said that it was because they no longer trust the company. Around two thirds (63%) of Ryanair’s package holiday customers said the same.
Respondents to the survey complained about not being able to get hold of the companies, rude service when they did get hold of them, and long waits to receive refunds.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has conducted investigations into Love Holidays and Teletext’s handling of refunds, with Teletext now facing court action if it fails to refund more than £7m in customer payments.
Holiday companies compared
Only half of those who had holidays that didn’t go ahead with Ryanair (50%) and Teletext (51%) said they’d be likely to book with those companies again. Only six in 10 Expedia (62%), Love Holidays (60%), and Southall Travel (58%) customers whose holiday didn’t go ahead said they would book with the same company again in the future.
Which?’s holiday checker tool
The findings correspond with Which?’s own assessment of different holiday provider booking policies for its Holiday Checker tool.
The extensive research considered each company’s policies on coronavirus-related disruption, including whether customers can claim a refund in the event of a lockdown, if FCDO advice changes, and if customers are forced to quarantine in a hotel on their return. Companies were then rated red, amber or green, based on the level of flexibility offered.
Audley Travel, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays and Saga are all rated green in the tool. And in our survey more than eight in 10 customers of all four companies who had a package holiday they were unable to go on said they would be likely to book with the company again.
Ryanair and Teletext Holidays are rated as red in the tool because they didn’t respond to multiple requests by Which? to answer questions about their booking policy at a time when transparency is key for customers. Love Holidays was rated red because it wouldn’t commit to offering refunds in the event of a national travel ban or lockdown.
Southall Travel was rated poorly by customers in our survey. Only 58% of customers whose holiday did not go ahead said they would book with the same company again in the future, when we asked them earlier this year. However, it’s rated green in the tool on account of the flexible booking terms it has introduced, which now offer commitments to customers over refunds and protection against disruption caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
The full list of red, amber and green companies can be found at which.co.uk/holidaychecker
How we carried out the survey
The results are based on an online survey of 4,177 members of the public who had a package holiday they couldn’t take between March 2020 and February 2021. The survey was conducted in March 2021.
Holiday companies respond
Love Holidays told us that it had refunded £240m to its customers during the pandemic and that it has since made new investments in customer service and technology. It also said: ‘We have met, and continue to meet, our obligations under the CMA undertakings. Our refund process has also become significantly more efficient which will continue to give our customers peace of mind long after the pandemic recedes.’
Teletext Holidays didn’t respond to a request for comment.