Due to the Coronavirus pandemic many people are now discovering that their long-awaited holiday will not be going ahead. We are currently in uncharted territory with many countries under lockdown and rolling out nationwide travel bans. The next few months are incredibly uncertain as governments try to tackle this pandemic, but where does that leave those who have holidays booked? In this article, the team at My Baggage outlines your options and rights.
Some of these answers are specifically for UK residents, but many answers apply to everyone worldwide.
Current government travel advice
On the 17th of March the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK announced that they advised against all non-essential travel for British nationals for the next 30 days. This means that anyone who decides to travel during this time must only be doing so if it is absolutely essential. If you decide to travel for essential purposes (which wouldn’t include a holiday), you must be aware of the risk involved, including the threat of being unable to get home, being stuck under another country’s travel ban or being held in mandatory quarantine in your destination.
What happens if I decide to travel during the non-essential travel recommendations?
If you decide to travel during these recommendations from the FCO you must be aware of the risk of being unable to get home or being trapped in another country. You also need to be aware of the quarantine procedures your destination will put on you and your home country will put on you. One of the most important things to be aware of is that if you travel against FCO recommendations your travel insurance will not be valid and you will not be able to use it to help you get home or claim against any lost expenses.
What about holidays booked in late April or May?
The 30 days the FCO has advised against travelling is an initial 30 day period that is likely to be extended. With heavier sanctions being brought in daily and cases in the UK rising it is likely that even if you have a holiday booked in late April or May that travel will still not be recommended. However, it is important to remember that if you cancel your holiday without FCO warnings in place then you will be unlikely to get a refund and may be held liable for cancellation fees. Get in touch with your airline or tour operator to see what options they have available and if you could reschedule for a later date.
What if I want to reschedule my holiday?
Due to the extraordinary circumstances many tour operators and airlines are offering customers more flexibility and allowing them to change their holiday dates. If you wish to do this but haven’t been contacted yet, get in touch with your airline or travel operator to see if this is an option for you, as in certain circumstances this might not be possible.
I booked with a tour operator, what are my options?
If you have booked with a tour operator you are entitled to a full refund or to reschedule your holiday for a later date. Package holidays and cruises are being cancelled with big brands postponing all trips. Package holiday company TUI are contacting their customers directly to offer them an alternative date or a refund. If you have booked a holiday with them before June 2020, you can still amend your trip with them free of charge. It’s important to note that every company has their own policy, so it is best to contact your tour operator directly, call centres are currently inundated so be patient and be prepared to wait to speak to an operator. You could look to alternative contact methods like live chat or email in order to save you from a long telephone wait.
I booked independently, what are my options?
Many airlines are showing more flexibility allowing customers to reschedule or cancel their flights without fees, contact your airline to see what options are available for you. Regarding private accommodation, websites such as AirBnB and Booking.com are allowing customers free cancellation on accommodation. Expedia is allowing customers to reschedule and cancel their accomodation without paying a fee and Hotels.com are allowing free cancellation depending on the country you are travelling from and to. Some hotel chains such as Premier Inn and the Hitlon are also allowing customers to cancel or reschedule their reservations without a fee.
I have travel insurance, will that cover my losses?
Unfortunately, a lot of travel insurance companies have changed their policies so that they do not cover the impact of the virus. It will depend on when you purchased your travel insurance. Many companies have stopped selling travel insurance altogether or are selling policies that will not have “disruption” cover, so if your journey is disrupted by the virus you will not be able to make a claim. If you are unsure about your policy or whether your insurer will cover you it’s recommended to get in touch with them for confirmation.
What if my holiday accommodation or flights are cancelled?
If you discover that your holiday accommodation or flights have been cancelled and if it’s in relation to the FCO recommendations then you are likely to receive a full refund. Under EU law, which is still applicable to UK residents in 2020, you are entitled to either a refund for your cancelled flight or alternative flights. If you are flying outside of the EU, your rights will be based on the country you are flying to, laws regarding refunds will vary depending on the country.
What about holidays booked in the UK?
Popular holiday parks in the UK like Butlins and Center Parcs have closed due to the outbreak. Both of these companies are offering customers either a full refund or the option to rebook at a later date, with a discount. Contact the accommodation you have booked with and inquire about their current policy. The government has recommended against all but essential travel, so they should be able to offer you an alternative.