With travel restrictions being lifted and the school summer holidays starting, many will be planning a foreign or UK-based holiday, but some consumers could find themselves losing out on money if their flights or accommodation are cancelled due to Coronavirus.
To help consumers decide whether to book a holiday this summer, we’ve looked at what consumer rights are in place if holidays are affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are now travel insurance policies that will cover consumers impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. For example, Rock Insurance, which owns a number of travel insurance brands including Insurefor.com, has launched Covid-19 travel insurance and cancellation products this month. These new products provide cover for travellers if they are affected by Coronavirus before their trip, if they are not allowed to board the flight due to showing symptoms, and if they are impacted by the virus during their holiday.
Before buying travel insurance, it is important to check the terms and conditions to ensure that it will provide cover if the holiday is impacted by Coronavirus and what is and is not included in the insurance.
If a flight is cancelled, consumers should be automatically be entitled to a refund of the cost of the tickets, or they may be offered vouchers or an alternative flight instead.
Those who cannot fly, for example they show Covid-19 symptoms at the airport and are not allowed to board the plane, may struggle to get their money back, especially if this is not covered by the travel insurance.
If a hotel, or other accommodation, cancels, consumers should be offered a full refund from the company or owner.
On the other hand, if the consumer cancels their hotel or accommodation, for example because they have symptoms and have to self-isolate at home, then it is normally up the company or owner’s individual cancellation policy as to whether they are offered a refund.
Holidaymakers who book their holiday through a tour operator as a package holiday are legally entitled to a refund if their holiday is cancelled under the Package Travel Regulations. Refunds should be given within 14 days of the holiday being cancelled. The tour operator may also offer holidaymakers the option of postponing their trip to a different date free of charge.
Those looking to go on holiday should be mindful that regional lockdowns can be introduced with very little warning, both in the UK and in foreign destinations. If an area goes into lockdown and the trip has been booked via a tour operator, the operator will cancel the holiday and consumers will then be entitled to a full refund or may be given the option to change the date or destination of the holiday.
Travellers who have booked their trip independently may find it more difficult to get their money back. Airlines may not cancel the flight, in which case travellers will not be automatically be entitled to a refund. As well as this, if the hotel, or other accommodation, is booked without a cancellation option, travellers may struggle to get their money back even if they did not stay at the accommodation. This includes accommodation booked in the UK and, as such, those looking to book a UK-based holiday should ensure that they get free cancellation before booking their accommodation.
At the moment, those who have travelled to counties within the European Union will get free hospital treatment if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but this is not guaranteed next year when the UK has fully left the European Union.
For those who show Covid-19 symptoms while on holiday, or come into contact with someone who does, and have to self-isolate as a result, the situation is a lot more complicated. For example, the length of time, or indeed the need to self-isolate, will depend on the rules of the specific region. As well as this, those who have booked via a tour operator may be provided with the necessary accommodation and return flights via the operators – but this is not guaranteed. Those who have booked their holiday independently could find themselves having to cover the costs of their extended stay and return flights themselves – although some travel insurance will cover this now.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.