TRAVEL firms First Choice and TUI have changed their holiday refunds process for customers.

The move comes as the TUI UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham admitted the business has taken a long time to find a system that works when it comes to processing the 'unprecedented volume' of refunds.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted more than 900,000 people who booked with First Choice (which is part of the TUI group) and TUI.

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The travel boss has also apologised to customers for the refund delays.

What is changing for First Choice and TUI customers?

Customers who have cancelled holidays before June 11 can now access a self-service section on the website to apply for a cash refund, removing the need for them to call customer services.

Other customers with holidays booked up until August 31 are now able to make free amendments to their bookings online until June 30.

All changes can be made by visiting tui.co.uk or firstchoice.co.uk.

What have TUI said?

In a lengthy statement, TUI UK & Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham said: “We know we haven’t got it right; we’re doing everything we can to make things better and we’re sorry for the frustration felt by our customers.

“Taking people on incredible holidays is what we do best, but we’ve struggled to get the right systems in place to support our customers now that we can’t take them on holiday, especially at the speed of change we’ve faced in recent weeks.

“We want to offer customers greater flexibility with their holiday bookings and simplify the process of requesting a refund. 

“This is why we’ve developed a new system to help customers with cash refund requests and have updated our amendment policies.

“We recognise the situation around travel this summer remains unclear and there’s still a lot of uncertainty around when we will all be able to travel again, and some customers may not wish to pay a final balance with so many unknowns.

“We are therefore allowing TUI customers with holidays before the end of August the opportunity to amend their holiday for free so they don’t have to pay until closer to their new departure date.

“Customers with a cancelled holiday will now be able to amend their holiday online and take advantage of the 20 per cent booking incentive, or they can keep their refund credit and booking incentive for a later date when they know when and where they would like to travel.

“And for those customers that would prefer a cash refund, they can now apply via an online form instead of calling our contact centre.

“Not only will this save our customers time, but it will also ease the pressure on our hard-working customer service staff who have been dealing with nearly one million calls every day whilst working from home, compared with 45,000 a day during usual times.

“We are also constantly growing our virtual homeworking team whilst stores remain closed, so retail customers can speak with advisors about current and future bookings

“We’d like to sincerely apologise to our customers impacted by delays to refunds and the length of time it’s taken.

“We really look forward to taking people on holiday again as soon as we’re able to do.

“We can already see that there is a real appetite for our customers to travel again, with many using our booking incentive for holidays later in the year and next summer.”