COVID-19: Your rights when it comes to holiday bookings

Booking a summer holiday gives us all something to look forward to. However, the coronavirus outbreak is causing major travel disruption around the globe and the government is advising against all non-essential travel indefinitely.

COVID-19 guidance for individuals
23rd July 2020

With recent news that some companies are blocking refunds, what can you do if you have booked a future trip and have seen your plans altered or cancelled all together? What can you expect regarding your holiday, or your bookings, in terms of a refund?

Ashlee Robinson, Associate, and Thomas Pertaia, Legal Adviser, explain what you need to know around your cancellation rights.

General holiday rights

I have booked a summer holiday. Should I cancel it?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals for the foreseeable future. However, the advice does not extend to some countries. The full list of exempt countries and territories can be viewed on GOV.UK.

If it is cancelled, can I get a full refund?

If the holiday you booked is cancelled you should be entitled to a refund. If you booked activities as part of the holiday and both the holiday and the activities are cancelled, you should also be entitled to a refund. Some firms may also offer a credit note, perhaps with an increased value, so it is worth discussing the options with your travel company. If refused, we would advise you to seek legal advice to discuss your particular circumstances.

Instead of giving me my money back, I have been offered holiday vouchers or Refund Credit Note. Is it legal for the firm to do so? Can I refuse and demand for a full (cash) refund?

If you booked a holiday and it is cancelled you may be offered a Refund Credit Note or a voucher. However you are not obliged to accept it and are entitled to receive a full refund should you choose to. The refund should be provided within 14 days but, under current circumstances, it may be reasonable to allow the operator slightly more time for processing the refund.

Businesses acting unlawfully during COVID 19 can also be reported to CMA through an online portal.

What if I haven’t paid for the holiday in full yet?

If the holiday is likely to be cancelled you should not be expected to make the full payment, only for you to be refunded shorty after. However, if the holiday is few months away and you have contractual commitments, you may be liable to pay. If so, it is advisable to speak with the firm to negotiate perhaps delaying the payment or seek legal advice on your specific situation. If you do decide to make a payment it would be advisable to pay by credit card to give you little bit more protection.

What if the travel or holiday company goes bust? What are my rights and what should I do about my holiday booking?

If you booked a holiday your money should be protected and details on making a claim should be laid out in the ATOL Certificate, which you would generally be provided with when you book your holiday. Also, if you paid by credit card and you holiday is more than £100 you may be able to make a claim against the credit card, commonly known as a s75 claim (Section 75 of  the Consumer Credit Act 1974).

Somewhat similar protection applies if you paid on debit card but, rather than this right being enshrined in law, it’s a voluntary scheme although most large banks have signed up to it. If the operator goes bust, contact your bank, unlike s75 there is no minimum spent on cashback claim. Also check if you have insurance in place that could perhaps assist.

I have purchased travel insurance for my summer holiday but it is now cancelled. Can I cancel my travel insurance and obtain a full refund?

In this instance you should check the policy documentation on cancellation rights. Most insurance policies have a minimum of 14 days cooling off period within which it can be cancelled free of charge provided you have not travelled and/or made a claim.

My flights have been cancelled. Can I get any compensation?

If an EU flight is cancelled due to Covid-19, there would be no right to compensation, as under EU rules Covid-19 would fall under extraordinary circumstances.  However, you would be entitled to a replacement flight or your money back. However, it is important that you establish the reason for the cancellation of your flight as, if it is not due to Covid-19 then and you may be entitled to compensation.

I have train tickets and some countries e.g. France haven’t closed their borders. Does this mean I can still travel?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals for the foreseeable future. However, the advice does not extend to some countries. The full list of exempt countries and territories can be viewed on GOV.UK.

Will my travel insurance still cover me?

This would largely depend on the terms of your insurance policy. It is best to check the terms and conditions of your policy cover.

Airbnb

Can I cancel my Airbnb reservation and get a full refund?

Airbnb is operating an “extenuating circumstances policy” which in certain circumstances allows customers to get a refund though the policy rather than the hosts’ own cancelation policy. If you do not qualify under the policy it is advisable to contact the host to discuss a refund or seek legal advice on your particular set of circumstances.

I still haven’t received a refund from a cancellation I made one month ago. How long does it take for me to get my money back?

According to Airbnb, most refunds are processed within ten days. If you still have not received a refund then you may wish to chase this up and seek legal advice.

As a customer, am I allowed to make an Airbnb booking?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals for the foreseeable future. However, the advice does not extend to some countries. The full list of exempt countries and territories can be viewed on GOV.UK. Restrictions have been relaxed for traveling within the UK, thus staycations are no longer against government advice.

I am an Airbnb host, can I keep letting out my second home as an Airbnb?

As per the latest government guidance self-contained holiday accommodations can be let out in all parts of the UK. However, the guidance is slightly different depending on where the property is located in the UK. It is advisable that you consult the relevant guidance documents relevant to the location of the property. Some useful information relating to the hospitality and tourism sector can be found at:

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

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