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US extends coronavirus travel ban to UK and Ireland

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The US government has extended its travel ban to include Britain and the Republic of Ireland. If you’ve booked a trip to the States, here are your refund and cancellation rights.

The American government has banned citizens from the UK and Ireland from entering the US adding to the list of European nationals already banned from entering the States.

The UK ban starts at 4am on Tuesday, and lasts until 11 April, Vice-President Mike Pence announced.

US citizens and immediate family members, as well as Green card holders, aren’t impacted by the travel ban. However, if they have travelled to China, Iran or the Schengen area within 14 days of planned travel to the US, they can only enter via one of nine US airports, and they may need to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Given the travel restrictions, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to the US.

This should mean holidaymakers are eligible for refunds and can postpone or cancel trips.

Impact of US travel ban

Following the US travel ban, airlines have updated their travel advice. Here’s what you need to know:

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) states that if your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you’re protected by a European regulation, referred to as EC261.

Under EC261, your airline has a duty of care if you were flying out of a UK airport or if you were flying back to a UK airport with a UK or EU airline. If you faced a delay of over two hours, you may be entitled to food and drink, as well as accommodation if a delay continues overnight.

If your flight has been cancelled, then your airline should offer you the choice of a full refund or alternative flights. However, under the current situation, alternative flights may not be possible, particularly where the government advises against travel. A refund may therefore be the only option available for you.

You won’t be entitled to any compensation, as the reason for the holiday not continuing (coronavirus) is outside the control of the tour operator.

If you booked individual services from different companies you should contact the travel companies concerned to see what alternatives or options they can offer. Otherwise, check your travel insurance policy to see whether you can claim for other costs incurred as a result.

British Airways said if your flight has been cancelled, you can request a refund by going to ‘manage my booking’ online. Alternatively, you can discuss rebooking options by calling 0800 727 800.

BA has a ‘book with confidence’ policy which means customers can change their destination, date of travel, or both for free, on all new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Sunday 31 May 2020, as well as any existing bookings that depart up to Sunday 31 May 2020.

However, availability of alternative flights is limited and it is experiencing extremely high call volumes. For those who booked via a travel agent, BA says to contact them directly.

Virgin Atlantic, which is likely to be severely impacted by the US travel ban, said passengers who will be denied travel to the United States will be able to rebook, free of charge. It said this will be subject to availability and any difference in fare on the new dates of travel.

Trips can also be refunded (full or part if you’ve already been on one leg of the journey, for instance), by going online to Virgin Atlantic and filling in the request a refund form. Those who booked through Virgin Holidays, a travel agent or third party, should contact them directly to rebook or arrange a refund.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “For anyone whose return flight to the UK is cancelled, it’s rarely a good idea to accept a refund as doing so ends the airline’s duty of care to you. Instead insist on the airline meeting its obligations to get you home on the earliest available alternative flight – with another carrier if necessary.

“The CAA must monitor the situation closely to ensure airlines are fulfilling all of their legal duty to passengers when flights are disrupted, so that we don’t see a repeat of the situation in Italy where passengers were left stranded.”

Any passengers who incur additional costs as a result of being rerouted home via an indirect route should retain all receipts to have these costs reimbursed by their airline, Which? added.