Travel firms’ failure to issue holiday refunds is ‘like theft’, says airline boss

Jet2 boss Steve Heapy, who says delays in making payouts during the coronavirus pandemic has given a

Jet2 boss Steve Heapy, who says delays in making payouts during the coronavirus pandemic has given a very bad impression of the travel industry Picture: JET2/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

An airline boss whose company operates out of Stansted has blasted travel firms who have failed to cough up when holidays are cancelled.

Not issuing prompt refunds for cancelled holidays is “a bit like theft”, said Jet2 boss Steve Heapy.

Delays in making payouts during the coronavirus pandemic had given “a very bad impression” of the travel industry, he added.

Mr Heapy hopes his firm’s policy commitment to pay refunds in a timely manner will pay dividends with future bookings.

MORE — Hourly-paid Lidl staff celebrate £8m wage boostRecent analysis by consumer group Which? claimed more than £1bn is being withheld in partial or full refunds from package holiday customers.

In July, Civil Aviation Authority report said Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Ryanair and Tui were among the airlines which initially either did not offer cash refunds or had large backlogs of requests. They have since changed their practices.

Jet2 — an airline and tour operator — was found to be the only UK airline consistently processing cash refunds quickly from the outbreak of the virus.

“Some companies in the travel sector have not been refunding customers, which I think gives a very bad impression for the travel industry as a whole,” said Mr Heapy.

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“We’ve respected that it’s customers’ money at the end of the day, and they should have it back. That’s been our guiding principle.

“We have given our customers their refund as quickly as possible and I think they will remember that.

“Going forward, people may want to book with a company they know they’re going to get their money back from if there’s no holiday to be provided.

“We have no problem refunding our customers’ money. At the end of the day it’s theirs. Not refunding the money, well, it’s a bit like theft really.”

Mr Heapy — who has headed up Jet2 since 2013 — believes there is “a hell of a lot” of pent-up demand for overseas holidays.

“People want to get away and have their bit of sunshine,” he said.

“When destinations have been opened up, such as the Canaries a few weeks ago, we saw demand go through the roof.

“People just wanted to get away, get a bit of sun and have a change of scene.” The amount of flights operated by Jet2 this winter will be “significantly down on last year”, Mr Heapy said.

“We’ve just got to sit tight and hopefully wait for the lockdown to finish and people to be allowed to go away again.”

Mr Heapy said shorter quarantine periods would boost air travel, but the introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine will be “a silver bullet”.

“I’m not one of these people that subscribes to the new normal. I want the old normal back, there was nothing wrong with it.”