Coronavirus and travel cancellation
The devastating impact of the pandemic has left airlines and the travel industry in shock. Travel plans have been abandoned or postponed as the public have been urged to stay at home. The UK foreign office has advised against all non-essential travel to every country in the world, and even staycations are firmly forbidden until further instruction.
If you have a holiday booked in 2020, you might be wondering what you can do to recoup any money you’ve already spent or how to postpone your plans until things return to normal. Whether you were planning on jetting off on an exotic, far-flung adventure, a beach retreat with the family or a quick city escape, it’s time to have a rethink. Until further notice, we’re all in this for the long haul.
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I have an existing package holiday booking – what should I do?
Given that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s understandable to be concerned about travelling this summer. But if you have a holiday booked, it might be better for your finances not to cancel it just yet.
Rather than racking up cancellation fees, jeopardising the validity of any insurance claims and missing out on compensation for your trip, it may be wiser to hold off and let your travel provider cancel first – especially if your holiday’s coming up in the near future.
Depending on your provider’s cancellation policy, you could have your money refunded if travel still isn’t viable when it comes time for your trip.
Can I claim for coronavirus on my travel insurance?
Clear advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the FCO) was issued on 17 March 2020, stating that UK citizens were to avoid all but the most essential travel until further notice.
So, if you have a journey planned that falls after this date, and you had already taken out travel insurance to cover it, you may be able to make a claim – at least if it’s planned for over the next month or so.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t yet taken out cover for your trip, you won’t find any insurers that will take on the risk of covering it – at least until the COVID outbreak is over.
I don’t want to risk travelling any time soon. Can I postpone my holiday?
If you would rather avoid the stress of waiting for your travel plans to be cancelled, you could always postpone your trip. Many airlines and travel agents are offering the option to reschedule existing bookings free of charge. Here are some of the key players and their policies:
British Airways – If your flight has been cancelled, you can either rebook it for a future date or claim a voucher via their website. BA have also waived their change booking fee for any bookings made from 3 March to 31 May 2020.
Easyjet – All Easyjet flights have been grounded, and the company has promised that customers can switch to any other flight on their network, at any time. If you’re hesitant about committing to travel plans just now, they’re also offering vouchers to give flexibility on future flights.
First Choice – Any holidays booked for on or before 14 May 2020 will be cancelled. For those with holidays booked from before 17 March due to be taken up to 30 June 2020, customers will be given the option to amend their booking for free. For those with holidays booked after this date, for now at least, normal terms and conditions apply.
Ryanair – The airline is currently operating an extremely limited flight schedule, with over 99% of its scheduled flights grounded. If you book a flight any time between 13 March and 31 May, you can change this, free of fees, to any date up to the 31 August 2020.
Tui – If you arranged to travel on or before 14 May 2020, Tui will allow you to defer your holiday to a later date free of charge. This applies not just for package holidays, but also for separate flights and hotel stays booked with the provider.
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What do I do about my hotel or accommodation booking?
This will depend entirely on who you booked with when you booked, and the dates you’ve booked for. In most cases, your first port of call should be the booking site you used. If you’re not sure who this is, you can find out by checking your confirmation email.
Companies are handling accommodation bookings with flexibility and understanding, for the most part. Hotels.com, for instance, has promised refunds or vouchers on bookings due between 17 March and 30 April, advising “with the situation continuing to evolve, we will continue to work with travel partners as necessary to implement flexible policies.”
Similarly, Airbnb has advised that any guests who booked on or before 14 March and due to check in between that date and 31 May 2020 can cancel and have a full refund if they’ve been affected by the circumstances of COVID-19. They’ve also made a fund of $250 million dollars available “as a show of commitment” to their network of hosts, to support them through the crisis.
Closer to home, UK-based accommodation providers have been advised by the government to close, unless they’re being used to support key workers, or vulnerable groups, like the homeless – so domestic travel is out of the question.
One constant across most travel firms is that they are being inundated with enquiries at the moment and handling the most urgent enquiries first. With that in mind, it may be best to check their websites first for answers to frequently asked questions or hold off on making contact if you’re not due to travel for a while.
If, like many of us, you’ve been left out of pocket by the very difficult times we’re living in and are concerned about debt, you can contact the Creditfix team for free advice and support on 0808 253 3299.
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