STA Travel, which offered package tours for backpackers and adventurous young people, has become the latest business to cease trading because of the coronavirus pandemic. The travel company employed around 500 staff in 50 high street branches across the UK and at its central London headquarters.
A statement posted on its Twitter account read: “To our valued customers, due to the recent announcement that STA Travel UK has ceased trading, unfortunately our team are unable to assist you at this time.
“Please be assured that if you had a previous booking with us, or hold a live booking, you will receive further communication in the coming days. We are sorry for the inconvenience and the limited information available to you at this time.”
The company, which went into administration on Thursday, was licensed to carry around 30,000 package holidaymakers a year under its Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol) bond.
A spokesperson for Abta, the trade association for the UK travel industry, said: “People will have used STA Travel to book package holidays as well as individual air tickets.
“The majority of holidays sold were flight-inclusive packages, which are protected by Atol, and scheduled airline tickets only, which should proceed as normal. Non-flight based packages will be protected by Abta.
“If customers booked a package holiday through STA Travel, and the holiday is provided by another tour operator, they will need to contact the tour operator, who should be able to confirm that their booking will go ahead as normal.
“STA Travel will be a name that is familiar to most people who will have used them to travel or been aware of their name on the high street, and this distressing news will sadly affect the livelihoods of hundreds of employees.”
STA Travel was founded by two Australian backpackers in Melbourne in 1979 and originally stood for Student Travel Australia. It was later rebranded to become Student Travel Association, and subsequently Start The Adventure.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told customers it was aware of a number of consumers whose bookings had been cancelled by STA Travel Ltd as a result of government advice or flight cancellations.
“Consumers who have accepted valid refund credit notes or are due refunds for the cancellation of their Atol-protected booking will be able to submit a claim to Atol through our online portal,” it said. “If consumers have a flight-only booking that was Atol-protected, they will only be able to make a claim if they are still due to travel and have not received a valid ticket.
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“Otherwise, consumers should speak to their airline, including if the flight has been cancelled or they have received a voucher for a cancelled flight.”
The company’s announcement comes after Qantas announced on Thursday that it would not operate intercontinental flights to and from Australia before the second half of 2021.
Earlier this month, Voyager Travel Direct, an online firm based in Sheffield, ceased trading. At that time, the CAA said, 16 Atol-protected companies had gone bust since March.
Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading – here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don’t go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn’t available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.
Video: Heathrow boss: ‘virus test passengers twice’ (Sky News)