Coronavirus holiday cancellations: know your rights
As the UK continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and Brits adjust to a ‘new normal’ life as we know it has changed forever – especially when it comes to travel.
Since March, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on international travel, bringing thousands of trips abroad to a halt.
And while some have been lucky enough to jet off to tropical climes or enjoy a family seaside retreat since lockdown restrictions have eased slightly, the situation is in constant flux.
Government travel corridor restrictions are changing almost daily and sadly advice against travel to a growing number of countries – such as Portugal – set to be reinstated.
So, what does this mean if you have a trip booked in the near future and what rights do you have should you be unable to travel?
Here we answer the 10 most common coronavirus travel questions for those worried about their upcoming package holidays.
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My package holiday has been affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions; can I get a refund?
Unfortunately, this is a common concern for Brits hoping to go on holiday this year. If your trip is affected by coronavirus travel restrictions, package holiday providers are required to process refunds upon request. Some companies may offer an alternative such as rebooking your trip at a later date or may offer vouchers, however, must comply with refund requests.
How do I know if my booking is a package holiday?
The legal definition of a package holiday (booked after July 1, 2018) is set by The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. It states that to be deemed a package holiday:
- An inclusive total price must have been charged by the organiser.
- The duration of the trip must cover a minimum of 24-hours or spans a minimum one-night stay.
- The booking must combine two of the following: transport, accommodation, car rental or a tourist service.
What if a travel voucher is offered instead of a refund?
If this happens the first thing you should do is check if the voucher is ATOL protected. Vouchers may offer additional credit as an incentive against cancellation. However, it’s important to be aware that accepting a potentially unprotected voucher may harm your chances of getting a full refund.
Am I protected under EU261 rules?
If you are affected by an FCO travel ban, your travel insurer will deal with all losses suffered as a result. Losses include bookings such as hotel rooms or car hire. EU261 rules (eg. compensation for delayed flights) don’t cover extraordinary circumstances such as disease outbreaks.
Who will issue my refund?
You should get in touch with the company you booked with in the first instance regarding your refund. This then allows you to turn to your insurer later for additional pay outs not covered by the holiday provider. If you’re unsuccessful in claiming a refund from the company you booked with, you should send all correspondence to your insurer to manage the process.
Is there a time limit on refunds?
Yes, you must request a refund of your package holiday within 12 months of the booking date. This offers time to find out about the provider’s refund procedures and also allows you the chance to scope out the possibility of rebooking in the future or consider alternative offers such as vouchers.
Can I rebook a package holiday for a later departure date?
Generally, most travel providers should honour rebooking requests where the request is made outside one week of your departure date. This means as long as you request to rebook within one week of when you should leave then the company should accommodate the change, however, you should check with your operator.
What if the provider goes bust?
Package holidays are ATOL protected. This means that even if the departure date has passed or the travel company goes bust, your money is protected. However, it’s important to note that if for any reason you accept a voucher from your holiday provider this could invalidate your ATOL protection.
Is there a long wait for refunds?
All requests for refunds on package holidays should be processed within 12 days of a request. It’s worth keeping in mind that some companies are automatically issuing vouchers in place of full refunds, but this isn’t legally binding, and you can still request a refund.
What if I’m offering a partial refund?
Understandably there is a backlog of refunds at the moment as travel operators try to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Some companies are currently only offering partial refunds until money for flights and/or accommodation can be reclaimed from individual companies. Full refunds are expected to follow as soon as possible.
If you’ve been left out of pocket after losing out on a package holiday or are concerned about the impact the pandemic is having on your finances, talk to Creditfix for free debt advice.