What are my rights if I can’t go on holiday overseas in the light of the coronavirus pandemic?
As of 17 March 2020 Government advice is not to travel right now unless you really have to – you can read more about if you have to travel on GOV.UK.
If you really have to travel abroad you should check up-to-date travel guidance on GOV.UK. It’ll tell you which countries you shouldn’t go to because of coronavirus. You should also contact your insurer and make sure you’re covered to travel – get the details of your cover in writing.
If you already have a holiday booked or need to cancel your holiday because you’re ill or you’re following government advice, get in touch with your travel insurer to see if you’re covered for cancelling.
In the first instance you should check the terms and conditions of your booking or travel insurance to see if your situation is covered.
Airlines and organisers may offer other adjustments but your legal entitlements are:
If you have a package holiday booked and part or all of it is cancelled by the organiser/airline:
- You are entitled to a refund to be provided within 14 days. Some organisers are offering alternative holidays or allowing consumers to reschedule but this is not a legal remedy
If you booked flights only and they are cancelled by the airline:
Flights that depart from the United Kingdom, European Union, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland OR flights that arrive in these countries if you are flying on a UK/EU airline – You should be offered a choice from three alternatives:
- Replacement flight
- Re booking for a similar flight at the passenger’s convenience if available
- Non-EU flights – You will need to check the terms and conditions for the airline
If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues travel advice advising against all but essential travel:
- Anyone travelling to a country or region against government advice risks invalidating their travel insurance
- In this instance if the airline or travel agent cancels your trip they should, in most cases, offer a refund or replacement. Check what your terms and conditions say.
- If the airline or travel provider does not cancel your trip, you may be covered by your travel insurance
If there isn’t any FCO guidance and you decide to cancel your trip:
- If you have booked flights only, you should check with their provider what is being offered but there is no legal requirement for airlines to give a refund
- If you have booked a package deal, you have the right to cancel the package at any time before the package starts, however, the organiser can charge an appropriate and justifiable fee which should be outlined in the terms and conditions
Consumers are unlikely to be able to claim compensation for inconvenience or loss of enjoyment as the issue is due to circumstances beyond the control of the airline or holiday provider.
This will depend on what your terms and conditions are.
- If you booked a non-refundable room and choose to cancel your booking because you are worried, you are unlikely to be entitled to a refund from either the provider or your travel insurance
- But if the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to the location where your hotel is then you need to check your travel insurance and the terms and conditions of your accommodation
- If you have booked a refundable room and cancel according to the terms and conditions then you should get a refund from the provider
- If it is part of a package then you would need to check with the organiser
Unfortunately we’ve found that in these situations scammers prey on those who are affected. If you’re contacted by someone offering to act for you to recover your money make sure that you’re looking out for the signs of a potential scam..
If you think you have been scammed, you need to take steps to protect yourself. These could include calling the police if you feel threatened and contacting your bank to let it know what has happened. For more information see what to do if you think you’ve been scammed.
If you need more help, you can get advice from the consumer service. You can also get free confidential advice from Citizens Advice Cheshire West . Owing to the Coronavirus outbreak we are closing our offices to face to face services. We shall however provide advice through adviceline: 0344 5766111 Monday to Friday between 10am-12.30pm and 1pm – 4pm, and by email and webchat accessed through the Citizens Advice website. Please click on this link for up to date information on our services.
Copyright Citizens Advice. The information provided in this advice column was published on 17 March 2020. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit our Citizens Advice public site.
You can also read guidance on how the UK is affected by coronavirus on GOV.UK. This guidance from the government is updated every day.