In a bid to stem the increase in coronavirus outbreaks due to the new variant, we have now been placed into our third national lockdown, which could last until March. This means that you must stay at home as per the Government directive. How does this affect your holiday plans? What are your lockdown travel rights?
In a nutshell, overnight stays and holidays are not essential and are therefore not considered a permitted reason to travel.
What are my travel rights in the third lockdown?
It is not the fault of the airline, travel provider or agency if you cannot travel due to a local or national lockdown. If the product or service is not affected and still available to be enjoyed at your destination then they may be within their rights to charge cancellation or booking amendment rates accordingly and not obliged to offer a refund. Please check T’s and C’s carefully for any clauses or disclaimers relating to government action due to coronavirus and the policies of the provider in question for Covid-19 related cancellations.
However the Competition and Market Authority’s view remains that ‘A consumer will generally be entitled to a refund when they have paid money in advance for services or goods that cannot be provided because of the coronavirus pandemic.’
If you booked a package holiday then you are entitled to a refund within 14 days under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 as government advice is against all non-essential travel. DIY holidays with separate components are not covered in the same way.
What options do I have if I cannot travel due to the third lockdown?
There are three avenues you could explore if you are unable to travel due to the lockdown restrictions:
Contact the hotel/airline or travel/package holiday provider and try to negotiate the postponement or cancellation of your holiday/flight/trip. If the product or service is no longer available the provider in question should be in touch to discuss options. You may be offered vouchers or credit notes as opposed to refunds if they are not applicable.
Check the T’s and C’s of your original booking as your success in obtaining any kind of refund or being able to amend your trip could depend on them. Companies are being encouraged to be as flexible as possible in this respect but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of and subject to the policies and flexibility of the provider you are dealing with.
Check the wording of your travel insurance policy. If Coronavirus is not excluded then you may have grounds for a claim but this is doubtful. It is not advisable to travel without travel insurance so doing so against government advice will invalidate your policy should issues arise during the trip.
I am entitled to a refund but I’m still waiting even though the deadline for payment has expired. What are my options?
You can report any company behaving unfairly during the coronavirus outbreak to the CMA via the official gov.uk website.
If you have waited beyond the set time frames for flight and package holiday refunds then send a letter before action requesting that the refund is issued within 7 days or you will seek to recoup the refund via alternate means such as Chargeback/ Section 75 or a Small Claims Court claim via Money Claim Online.
Let’s hope that this third lockdown is the last bitter pill to swallow.
Take care and stay safe.