Coronavirus - Your Travel Rights (Flight and Holiday Cancellations)

Coronavirus – Your Travel Rights

Worldwide travel severely impacted

In the UK the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have advised against all but essential travel while anyone returning to the UK are required to quarantine for two weeks. Many countries across the world have effectively closed their borders. Summer travel plans lay ruined for millions of people who had booked a holiday before the Coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on worldwide travel with most travel providers now cancelling all holidays with departure dates up to mid July.

If your holiday has been cancelled you are entitled to a refund, but you’ll need to be patient

Tour Operators and airlines have cancelled thousands of flights and holidays up to mid July but are failing to process refunds in the timeframe legally required of them due to the very high volumes involved.

Most are offering a credit note in the first instance with some offering a supplementary discount if you make a new booking for a later date. Even when a refund has been requested a credit note is being issued first. Credit notes may not be ATOL protected which leaves money at risk for longer. These are incredibly difficult times for the travel industry, as well as their customers, so they are simply unable to refund as quickly as they usually would.

If you choose to cancel your holiday you do not have an automatic right to a refund

It’s understandable that many are concerned about their travel plans where the departure date is after mid July but it’s simply too early to tell what will happen with later bookings. If the FCO still advise against all but essential travel then the package would be cancelled and a full refund offered. If you don’t want to wait and see its worth contacting your travel provider as many are offering the option to postpone or change your booking with no amendment fees. Note, the difference between your existing and new bookings may still be payable to change.

The balance of my holiday is due, do I still have to pay it?

If the balance of your holiday is due and you want to still travel, or to preserve your right to a refund, then you should pay the balance when it becomes payable. If you don’t pay the balance then in effect, you are choosing to cancel the holiday and may forfeit the deposit or full cancellation fee. It may be frustrating to pay for a holiday you’re not sure you’ll be able to go on but if the FCO advice still advises against travel you will then be able to cancel with a full refund later. If the advice has ben lifted then you may still be able to go and enjoy your holiday. There may be the option of postponing or amending the booking, as mentioned above.

Claiming reimbursement for cancelled holidays via Chargeback or Section 75

Rather than waiting for a refund from the travel provider, some people have successfully reclaimed the cost via their credit or debit cards using the chargeback process or rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (1974). Chargebacks are at the discretion of card issuers however Section 75 provides a legal right to recover your money and applies to credit card purchases. Its been reported that more are now seeing rejected claims. They’re being rejected because claimants are not unable to get their money back, travel providers are offering assurances that, in time, refunds will be issued to all who request them.

Claiming for cancelled travel bookings on travel insurance

 Travel insurance might cover anything you can’t get refunded, such as additional hotel accommodation or care hire etc. However, only if you bought the policy before the crisis. It is always advisable to buy travel insurance as soon as you book to ensure you have cancellation cover, not just cover for while you are on holiday. Keep all receipts and invoices to hand to help ensure a smooth claim. Some insurers will require you to wait until 28 days before your intended departure date to claim so you might need to wait to start the process.

Considering making a new travel booking now

From an insurance perspective, if you make a new booking now, you will not be covered for any Coronavirus related claims. Most insurers stopped selling new policies and existing policies are unlikely to cover any reservations made after the crisis hit. Insurance is typically to cover unforseen circumstances and Coronavirus’ impact on travel cannot now be considered unforseen.

To combat this some travel agencies, airlines and tour operators are offering their own additional protections and free cancellation guarantees if you book with them now. So shop around and you might find something to look forward to later. The industry is understandably keen to ensure new bookings continue. It will be vital to ensure the safe future of many travel brands so its worth having a look around to see what’s available.


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