The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for the travel industry, with millions of holidays and travel bookings either unavailable or cancelled.
Yet how firms treat their customers as a result of the pandemic various enormously, according to a major new investigative survey. It asked 27,000 travel customers to rate firms according to how they’ve dealt with problems arising from coronavirus and filtered them into a 53-place ranking.
Travel Counsellors came top, followed by Hays Travel and Airbnb, with travel agent Travel Trolley at the very bottom, followed by TravelUp (52nd) and Teletext Holidays (51st) – and Ryanair in 47th place.
Travel Counsellors has been rated as the best firm in the UK for dealing with coronavirus-related travel issues
Travel Trolley was rated as the worst firm for dealing with coronavirus-related issues
Hays Travel came second in the poll, which was carried out by MoneySavingExpert.com
THE BEST AND WORST TRAVEL FIRMS FOR CORONAVIRUS CANCELLATION REFUNDS
1 Travel Counsellors
2 Hays Travel
4 Jet2 Holidays
6 British Airways Holidays
7 Center Parcs
8 Disney Holidays
14 Easyjet Holidays
15 British Airways
17 American Airlines
20 Qatar Airways
21 Travel Republic
24 P&O Cruises
26 Aer Lingus
30 Wizz Air
33 Brittany Ferries
34 Virgin Atlantic
36 First Choice
40 Love Holidays
41 Virgin Holidays
42 Air France
43 Secret Escapes
44 STA Travel
45 Sykes Cottages
50 Holiday Extras
51 Teletext Holidays
53 Travel Trolley
The table ranks firms by net score (number of ‘great’ votes minus the number of ‘poor’ votes – with ‘OK’ votes disregarded) and lists the number of responses for each. Only firms with more than 100 responses have been included.
Other big names that did well in the poll, which was carried out by MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE), were Jet2 Holidays (4th), Booking.com (13th) and BA Holidays (6th).
MSE said it will now be reporting these findings to the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as well as the Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority.
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: ‘This is a tough time for the travel industry. It’s one of the sectors worst hit by coronavirus, but it’s a tough time for the public too, many of whom are also in dire straits. And they’ve been strident in telling us that they’ll remember how firms dealt with them during this time – good and bad.
‘People aren’t just judging on whether firms failed to give a refund – though that plays a big part. Many poor ratings are also about difficulties in getting in touch, being given the runaround, and terrible management of expectations – such as Ryanair sending vouchers to those who’d specifically requested cash refunds.
‘People shouldn’t be annoyed with firms offering to move bookings or offering vouchers as refunds. Indeed I’d encourage those who don’t need the cash to take them, especially from firms with solid financials, as it’ll help keep the industry going and keep people in work.
Ryanair came 47th in the poll. Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: ‘This is a tough time for the travel industry. It’s one of the sectors worst hit by coronavirus, but it’s a tough time for the public too’
‘Yet when people are entitled to monetary refunds, to make them sit on phones on hold for hours, often getting cut off to get it, when vouchers are available at the click of a button leaves people feeling rightly riled.
‘Sadly, out of the 53 companies rated, only 17 were net positive. Yet that means they should get even louder plaudits for trying to do it right.
‘They’re struggling, but are protecting customers too, and the likelihood is when this is all over, they’ll come out stronger and with more brand loyalty because of it.’
MailOnline Travel asked Ryanair, TravelUp and Travel Trolley for a comment but did not receive a response.
Airbnb came third in the poll, which produced a ranking of firms each used by at least 100 respondents
FOUR QUICK TIPS TO GET YOUR MONEY BACK
The exact process to follow if your booking is cancelled and you want to get your money back will vary depending on the type of booking you have (flight, hotel, package holiday and so on).
Before asking for a cash refund, consider if you need one. At the moment, many firms are really struggling. This means it’s safer to demand a refund rather than settle for a voucher, in case the firm collapses before you can use it. But it’s also worth considering whether you’re in a position to show forbearance.
Having said that, if you’re sure that you do in your money back, here are a few brief tips to follow:
1. Speak to the firm first and use its refund system. Always start this way. Give it a chance, use its systems.
2. If that fails, warn it you’ll take it further. If you can speak to the firm and it isn’t helping, warn it you’ll speak to your card firm. This costs firms and it’s cheaper if they do it themselves, so give them the chance.
3. If the firm won’t give you money back, ask your card provider. Speak to your card provider and ask it to do a chargeback – where it asks the firm’s bank for the money.
4. If this doesn’t work, your final action would be to take the legal route, perhaps through a county court.
Wayne Perks, Managing Director of Teletext Holidays, said in response to the survey result: ‘Despite having to put the most of our UK team on furlough, and having halved the size of our operation in India, the remaining staff have been working non-stop with suppliers to cancel holidays and negotiate the waiving of any cancellation fees from them, as well as answering any communication we receive.
‘We had to switch our phone lines off because the Indian government enforced a very strict lockdown in the cities where both our sales centres are located and we were unable to get staff into these offices. I can now advise that the restrictions are being eased and our sales centres are once again able to take calls, albeit at a reduced rate whilst social distancing is maintained. ‘
He added: ‘When we book holidays for our customers, we immediately pay for the flights, and therefore do not retain any of this money within our business. In addition, Teletext Holidays often pays hotels in advance in order to get customers the best room rates.
‘Teletext Holidays, therefore, acts as an agent and we are experiencing long delays in receiving monies back from airlines, with some telling us that we will not receive customers money until “the virus has passed”.
‘We have put in place a two-stage refund process, offering customers Atol protected refund credit notes which they can use up to December 31, 2020, for holidays travelling up to December 31, 2021. If they do not decide to take this option, we are offering full refunds from July 31, 2020.’