New Government advice against all non-essential travel worldwide will help to give consumers and the industry some clarity about where they now stand, according to experts.
While individual circumstances will vary, here is a look at how people could be affected:
– What has been announced?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all non-essential foreign travel for an initial period of 30 days. With the Easter holidays on the horizon, this will mean many families will have to ditch or rearrange their plans.
– What if I need to change or cancel my travel plans?
The FCO says you should contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers, get in touch with your insurance provider and continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance.
– I’m due to go on holiday abroad in the next 30 days. Will I get a refund?
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “This shift from the Government to advising against non-essential travel means anyone with upcoming travel plans should be able to claim a refund or re-book for a later date with their package provider, or claim on their insurance for holiday plans that have fallen through.
“This is likely to place unprecedented financial pressure on travel providers, so the Government must consider all options to support the industry through this difficult period.”
A spokesman for UK travel trade association Abta said people should speak to their airline and their accommodation providers, which may offer the option of re-booking or getting a refund.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said the move provides some “welcome clarity” for customers and the industry.
This is because, generally, insurance cancellation or travel disruption cover will relate to FCO advice.
The ABI spokesman said: “This decision will therefore allow policyholders with cancellation or travel disruption cover in place to claim for cancelled trips that were already booked and cannot now go ahead.”
– Is disruption cover standard in all travel policies?
No, it will not be included in all policies, so check the small print. Some policies have travel disruption cover as an optional add-on.
– What if I have a holiday booked further in the future than the initial 30-day period but I’m not sure whether to cancel?
The Abta spokesman said that normal booking conditions would still apply, but he added: “Bear in mind that travel providers are doing their best to be flexible.”
He also said people should consider that phone lines are likely to be busy as providers deal with calls from those who have holidays booked in the very near future.
Generally speaking, at times when there is no Government advice against travel to a destination, there is no obligation on a holiday company to give a refund if you decide not to go.
– Could there be other ways to claim a refund if something does not go ahead?
People who have paid by credit card may be covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This allows people to hold credit card companies jointly liable with traders for goods and services bought on plastic – potentially meaning customers can put in a claim to the card firm if they do not receive what they paid for.
The goods or service you bought must have cost over £100 but not more than £30,000.
– What if my travel is essential?
The FCO has a checklist on its website for those whose travel is essential – www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus.
The FCO says you should make sure you can access money to cover emergencies and unexpected delays and consider taking more than one form of payment.
Be prepared to follow the advice of another country when you are abroad, to comply with its isolation or quarantine requirements – and to rely on its local health system.
– What if I’m already abroad?
The Foreign Office is not currently advising British people to immediately return to the UK if they are overseas, except from a few specific countries detailed in travel advice.
It says that if you wish to leave the country you are in, contact your airline or travel company and your insurance provider as soon as you can. The department will only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.
– How easy is it to find travel insurance now?
Many insurers have restricted or paused their sales of travel insurance for new customers in recent days.
So it is worth shopping around and reading the small print carefully to see what you will or will not be covered for.