Can I get a holiday refund and what are my travel rights?

People have been advised against making any non-essential international travel, by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Written on April 6, 2020 by Xeinadin Group

Only a fraction of regular flights are still running - and those who do travel risk being stranded abroad.

So what does this mean for any holidays planned for this year? Learn more about your travel rights and refunds.

What are my travel rights?

In general, insurers and airlines take their cue from official UK foreign travel advice.

If you go against it, you risk invalidating your insurance policy.

If you currently have to make an essential trip, some insurers will still maintain cover.

Your rights can also depend on your choice of airline and the small print of your insurance policy - so do read it carefully.

Can I get a holiday refund?

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days.

However, many customers are reporting their airlines are offering a voucher for another flight instead of a refund.

And trade body Airlines UK told BBC News, in early April, vouchers were its preferred method of compensation in a "very grave" financial situation.

Budget airline Ryanair says customers who want a cash refund will receive it ''in due course'' as it is dealing with a much higher volume of requests than usual, with fewer staff.

If you are offered a voucher, or a free rebooking, you can accept or refuse it. But if the airline later folds, the voucher will probably become invalid.

And if you rebook but later decide against going on a flight that has not been cancelled, you will have lost your right to a refund and may not be covered by your travel insurance.

Meanwhile, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) told BBC News people whose package holidays had been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic "absolutely have the right to a refund".

"Abta's expectation is that its members will provide a refund as soon as possible," it said

But because so many holidays had been affected, travel agents and tour operators would need more than the legal requirement of 14 days to process requests.

What about other costs?

Even when travel tickets are refunded, there can be other costs, such as hotel rooms and car hire, which travel insurance may cover.

"People should keep all their travel invoices and receipts to help the claims process go smoothly," Laura Dawson, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), says.

But you might find insurers take a different view on when you can put in a claim.

Some will look at it within 28 days of your planned departure.

But others will ask you to wait until 48 hours before, just in case the FCO advice changes.

Should I book a summer holiday?

Booking summer travel probably isn't a good idea, because the current lockdown does not permit holidaying within the UK or overseas.

But as the outlook for the next few months is highly uncertain and many are struggling to obtain refunds on their existing bookings, it may be sound advice.

Many travel providers are offering additional protection and free cancellation for new bookings.

But insurers are telling customers they should ask their holiday provider or airline for existing refunds or rebookings first.

Have insurance companies changed cover?

Some insurers have limited or changed cover for claims relating to Covid-19.

The key is "disruption cover", which should pay out for costs such as unused hotel bookings or car hire.

And many policies - even if you have a valid annual travel insurance policy - no longer have this as standard.

Also, many insurers, including the Post Office, have simply suspended travel insurance sales completely.

The Association of British Insurers said travel insurance was for unforeseen circumstances and coronavirus no longer met that criteria.


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