Has the spread of Coronavirus put paid to your travel plans? So much has happened in the space of just a few months. We’ve gone from watching from a safe, curious distance as China grinds to a halt to where we’re at now with the development of Coronavirus into an official pandemic and finding ourselves in a lockdown of our own. Where people stand in terms of travelling is a fast moving picture, just a blur with seemingly no definitive answers and airlines grounding their fleets one after another with the future of air travel in real jeopardy. However there are some FAQs regarding cancelled flights, hotels and your consumer rights, which are still being asked and can still be answered. I’ve teamed up with Scott Dixon aka The Grumpy Git to cover them for you.
What can I do if my plans have been affected by travel restrictions?
If your destination is on the FCO (Foreign Commonwealth Office) list as a country to avoid, your airline or provider will contact you with various options. The options available to you will depend on how you booked your travel arrangements, which Scott explains below.
I booked my flights and accommodation separately. My destination is on the FCO list to avoid for all but essential travel. What should I do?
If you have booked flights and accommodation separately, you will need to contact each provider to find out what options are available to you.
Flight refunds direct with airlines are rarely a problem, although accommodation is different and you will need to find out what the cancellation policy is.
Your travel insurance may cover you but you will need to check with your insurance provider as terms and conditions vary. Disruption cover can reimburse you for losses not covered by your airline, accommodation or travel agent but it is not always provided as standard.
Am I still able to take out insurance if I need it?
Some insurance providers are now excluding Coronavirus related claims and some companies are not providing cover to new customers but yes, cover is still available so if you are planning a trip, definitely take out insurance.
I booked my flights and accommodation as a package. My destination is on the FCO list to avoid for all but essential travel. What should I do?
You are covered by The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. Package holidays are covered by ATOL and / or ABTA and your travel provider will contact you to discuss your options.
I have changed my mind about going on holiday. Can I get a refund?
If your destination is on the FCO list as a country to avoid all but essential travel to, you are entitled to a refund.
If you have simply changed your mind because you don’t want to go away, you are not entitled to a refund and normal cancellation charges apply. Travel insurance doesn’t normally cover such eventualities.
Will my travel insurance cover me if I go against Government advice for all but essential travel?
If you choose to go on holiday against Government advice, your insurance will be invalidated because you have chosen to travel against Government advice knowing the risks involved.
Travel insurance covers unknown risks and eventualities and this is a known risk that you have chosen to take if you wish to proceed. A holiday is not considered as essential travel.
If you are unsure, contact your insurance provider.
I have had to go in to quarantine while I am on holiday? Will my insurance company cover me?
You should be covered as this was a risk that you were not aware of and you were simply caught up in ongoing events. Contact your insurance provider to clarify any questions, particularly around extending policies and additional expenses incurred.
My travel firm has offered me vouchers as a refund instead of cash for cancelled flights. Do I have to accept it?
No – this is completely unacceptable. You are entitled to a full refund in cash. Travel agents technically breaking the law by refusing or delaying cancelled holidays refunds. However ABTA state that customers may currently be offered a refund credit note instead of a cash refund but you do not need to accept this. You may have to wait longer than the standard 14 days for the refund. ABTA will also not support any complaints about travel companies offering vouchers instead of refunds. If you can wait for the refund and are willing to be flexible then please do so as mass requests for refunds could cause further damage to the travel industry if companies fold.
My flight back to the UK has been cancelled. Should I accept a refund?
No, as by doing so you have discharged the airline’s responsibility to get you home. Insist that the airline meets its obligations to get you home at the earliest opportunity. Rescue flights have been set up by airlines to repatriate any stranded customers.
I have an underlying health condition so as per government advice I should now limit social contact. It is therefore unadvisable to travel. Can I get a refund?
If you have insurance then your first port of call would be to contact your provider. If not then you should contact your airline, hotel or travel company to explain the situation and rebook or cancel if this is possible. You may need to provide medical evidence to support your claim.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website is the official Government source for advice on countries to avoid visiting apart from all but essential travel. If you are hoping to still go away over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on the FCO website for updates. One by one countries are closing their borders so more cancellations are yet to come. The latest government advice is that you should avoid all unnecessary travel indefinitely.
We are living in unprecedented times and travel and tourism will change forever as a result of this. Please do what you can to support the hospitality and travel industries at home and abroad. If travel is no longer an option, try and arrange alternative dates if necessary, so that eventually you can hopefully enjoy the break you were looking forward to and by doing so soften the impact on the company in question.
Thank you to Scott for helping me compile this summary of key questions. There are currently daily updates from Downing Street as the outbreak continues so if you have any new questions, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Scott or myself or pop any concerns in the comments below.
Recommended useful websites for further up to date information on your rights
Take care, stay safe and keep those questions coming everyone.