New Which? research shows that trust in the travel industry has dropped from a net score of 9 in February 2020 to -12 in May 2020 - a drop of 21 points, as many holiday companies and airlines continue to deny and delay refunds for coronavirus cancellations.
Eight weeks on since international travel halted, Which? surveyed more than 2,000 people about their level of trust in airlines and holiday operators. Just one in five (22%) said they trust these industries.
The majority (58%) of people told us they were still waiting for refunds for cancelled flights and holidays. Nearly half of those are owed at least £500, and nearly three in 10 are owed more than £1,000.
Net trust in airlines and holiday operators drops following the coronavirus crisis
Legally, consumers are entitled to a refund for cancelled package holidays within 14 days, under the Package Travel Regulations. Those with flight-only bookings are entitled to a full refund within seven days under the Denied Passenger Boarding Regulation. Despite this, millions have waited months for their money to be returned, or been told to accept a refund credit note or voucher instead. The industry's own estimate suggests that up to £7bn of travellers' money has been affected.
Tui and Virgin Holidays are just two companies that Which? has criticised for forcing credit notes onto customers, even after they've requested a cash refund. Both say that these credit notes can later be swapped for cash, if customers contact them.
Ryanair customers have been sent vouchers, despite making it clear - sometimes on several occasions - they want cash refunds. The airline says that customers can have a refund, but they will have to wait until the coronavirus crisis is over to cash in. KLM and Air France customers will also have to wait 12 months for their vouchers to expire before they can get a refund.
Those consumers who have secured refunds reported long phone calls and email conversations. Other frustrated passengers have turned to their card providers to claim back costs. There have been mixed reports on the success of these claims, but both Visa and Mastercard have told Which? that cardholders can claim if they don't wish to accept a voucher.
Which? understands the immense pressure the industry is under in the circumstances, but it doesn't believe that consumers should be footing the bill to support holiday companies. That's why we've launched a 10-point plan. It calls on the government to take urgent action to help both consumers gain refunds and prop up confidence in travel, to ensure the sector isn't permanently damaged.
Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,095 people between 13 and 15 May about their level of trust in airlines and holiday companies. Data is weighted to be nationally representative.
Net trust is calculated by subtracting the proportion of those who don't trust the industry from those who do. A score below zero indicates that a greater proportion don't trust the industry than do.