Flights resumed but FCO travel restrictions remain: Your rights
British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair have announced plans to resume a large part of their flight network in the summer months.
While this may be good news for lockdown Brits, and a sign that things are getting back to a ‘new normal’, for others, this may leave them in a predicament and with questions relating to refund and cancellation rights.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is still advising Brits against all but essential international travel. And, what makes this trickier is that there’s no end date to this guidance, according to consumer rights lawyer, Dean Dunham. We simply don’t know how long this advice will be in place though the FCO does state it is “under constant review”.
Aman Johal, lawyer and director of Your Lawyers, added that this advice could change closer to a flight’s departure date. But for customers who bought travel insurance when they bought their flight, the insurance company could be within its rights to refuse to pay out if the terms state it will only pay out if the flight is cancelled.
“Customers should check the terms and conditions to see if they can claim money back. There are differing levels of insurance that consumers can take out and it will usually depend on exactly what it is that they are being covered for,” he said.
Holidaymakers should also check their travel policies for cancellation if the FCO warns against travel to a particular destination at the time you’re due to depart to see if you can claim.
Emma Coulthurst, travel expert at TravelSupermarket, said: “If you think there is more likelihood of being able to travel – for example, Portugal says it is working with the UK government to try and establish a quarantine free air corridor from July if possible – then you may want to wait and see.
“If the flight is cancelled, you are entitled under EU law to a refund within seven days. Look for free cancellation options for accommodation so you can cancel it if you decide not to travel or if it looks unlikely that restrictions will not allow you to.”
Adam Ewart, CEO and founder of international luggage delivery service, Send My Bag, said British tourists are generally advised against travel to countries where death tolls are high or on the rise, such as USA and Russia, and may find challenging border crossings there.
He said: “Recently, we have seen Central America and South America become the new epicentre of the virus. Countries in these regions may see travel restrictions last longest. In particular, the Brazilian government has banned entry to all foreign visitors and the Mexican government has extended its land border with the US until 22 June.”
Overseas accommodation cancelled
For some Brits, the biggest worry is that their overseas accommodation has been cancelled. While flights are scheduled to go, realistically without anywhere to stay, they can’t visit. Here, holidaymakers may be forced to book pricier alternative accommodation or cancel their flight which would ultimately mean they lose their money.
And for others, they may have reservations about taking a holiday amid the coronavirus pandemic. Johal said: “Most travellers will have bought tickets before lockdown was announced, so it makes sense that there may be many people who would prefer to cancel their holidays due to the continued risk involved.
“Unfortunately, customers are bound to the terms and conditions applicable for when they purchased their tickets. Many airlines are offering vouchers to customers who would prefer to not travel until 2021/22, but cancelling may not oblige the airline to issue a full refund.”
Another cause for concern is that Brits may need to self-isolate upon reaching their international destination as the UK itself is due to bring in quarantine plans for anyone coming into the country from 8 June.
A ‘holiday’ stuck inside four walls where you can only leave for very specific situations for fear of getting a fine doesn’t sound like much fun.
Again, cancelling a flight because you’re disinclined to travel would mean you lose your money.
But Scandinavian countries and Germany lifted quarantine measures for EU arrivals on 15 May, Ewart said.
He added that consumers need to consider future travel destinations carefully.
“Choosing the right location, as well as the right accommodation provider, may reduce the chances of any nasty surprise cancellations and improve the likelihood your holiday will go ahead.”
But booking a package holiday deal is perhaps the best form of protection for travellers. Dunham explained: “If the flight is able to go ahead, the passenger has no rights to a refund if they cancel.
“If it was a packaged deal, the position would be different as the protections under the package travel regulations would apply.”
Johal added: “Package holiday companies may have stated in the terms that refunds will only be given for part of a cancelled package. If the hotel can no longer accommodate the customers, but the flight is still running, a customer may only be entitled to a partial refund.”