Coronavirus: what to do if you have a summer holiday booked
Brits are entering their fourth week of lockdown with no signs of restrictions being eased any time soon. Last week, the government extended lockdown measures for “at least” another three weeks as it continues to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
While the picture may be clear for holidaymakers in the short term, there will be a lot of uncertainty over many people’s summer holiday plans.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised British people against all non-essential travel worldwide for an indefinite period.
So, what should you do if you’ve got a summer holiday booked?
Emma Coulthurst, from online travel price comparison site, TravelSupermarket, provides the following advice:
Whatever you do, don’t cancel
If you have a holiday booked for this summer, if you proactively cancel it, you will lose all of your money. Cancelling it yourself means that you have shown a “disinclination to travel” which invalidates your travel insurance.
Try not to panic and sit tight
There is no knowing when restrictions will be lifted. Airlines and travel companies are facing an unprecedented situation and are dealing with flights and holidays on a rolling basis.
I appreciate it is really unsettling not knowing if your package holiday is going ahead or not but your package holiday provider or travel agent should be in touch with you two to three weeks before the holiday is due to go ahead and the airline at least a week before to confirm whether your flight is cancelled.
Only proactively cancel your holiday at this point if you need to for medical reasons but speak to your travel insurer first
If you are one of the 1.5 or so million people who have been told to shield at home for 12 weeks and you have a holiday booked during that time, contact your holiday provider and your travel insurer to discuss rebooking or getting a refund due to not being able to travel due to medical reasons.
It’s probably worth paying your holiday balance if it is due
Since you don’t know at this point if the holiday is going ahead, you need to pay the balance if you want to retain your consumer rights. This is to ensure that you are protected under the ATOL scheme and the Package Travel Regulations.
If your holiday is then cancelled, you will have full rights. However, if you have decided that you definitely don’t want to travel, you could speak to your holiday provider and explain this and forgo further payments but be aware that you will lose your deposit if you do this.
If it is confirmed that your holiday or flight is cancelled, don’t instantly think a refund is your best option (unless you are absolutely sure)
If your holiday company contacts you to let you know that your package holiday isn’t going ahead (due to the FCO advice against non-essential travel indefinitely and/or because the country which you’re travelling to still has its borders closed to visitors), speak to your holiday company about any incentives they are offering for rebooking.
Jet2 Holidays, for example, is offering £100 off if you amend your booking to a new holiday departing before 31 March 2021 or £60 off if you amend your booking to a new holiday departing after 1 April 2021.
See whether you can book a holiday you’d like at a price you’re happy with for a different time when you may want to travel. Be safe in the knowledge that if the rebooked package holiday can’t go ahead, you are still fully protected under ATOL’s financial protection scheme if anything happens to the company you booked your holiday with and also under the Package Travel Regulations 2018 which entitles you to a full refund if the holiday is cancelled.
If you have a DIY holiday (i.e. you have booked a flight and accommodation separately rather than as a package), see what rebooking options the airline is offering; easyJet, for example is offering the opportunity to rebook on to any flight on any route and any date without paying a single penny extra. When it comes to your accommodation, see if you can get an incentive to rebook.
What about booking any future holidays?
Clearly, there is no knowing at this point when overseas holidays will be up and running again.
At the moment, countries such as Turkey and Greece are saying that they hope they will be able to see travellers back by July. But we really don’t know at this time.
What we do know though is that, when travel opportunities do return, there will be a desire to get out of the house and companies such as easyJet are already talking about social distancing measures which they will put in place on their planes to keep people safe.
My advice for any future bookings is to book a package holiday to ensure you have ATOL and also Package Travel Regs protection. A package holiday under ATOL is a flight plus something else e.g. accommodation bought as part of one transaction with the same company.
If you want to go DIY and book a flight, you’ll be covered under European Air Passenger Rights 261 if the flight wasn’t to go ahead for any reason. The government has previously said that this will apply even after we leave the EU. For accommodation, opt for free cancellation, if you can so you can cancel nearer the time and not lose any money.
Either way, pay on a credit card to ensure, if anything were to happen to the company, you can claim back under the Consumer Credit Act Section 75 if the booking is more than £100.