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

COVID-19 guidance for individuals
29th April 2020

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.

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. The lack of clarity on the period of restriction is largely due to the unprecedented international border closures and various restrictions. You should speak with the travel agent to discuss your options.

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 be entitled to a refund. Some firms may also offer a credit note, perhaps with an increased value. 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.

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, including countries within the EU.

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 refund are processed within ten days. If you still have not received a refund then you may wish to chase this up.

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

Businesses providing holiday accommodation have been advised by the government to close for commercial use. There are few exceptions where holiday accommodation could still be provided; for example to key workers or vulnerable groups. In light of the government guidance, Airbnb has imposed temporary restriction on listings at least until 9 May, limiting reservations to key workers and other essential stays.

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

Following on from the government’s guidance on social distancing in relation to Covid-19, people are also advised to avoid travelling unless it is essential. If one is planning on booking a place on Airbnb for the purposes of self-isolation or holiday this would be against the government guidance. Thus most people should not place a booking on Airbnb unless the stay is essential; for example NHS worker having to stay at a different location due to work commitments.

In light of the government guidance, Airbnb has imposed temporary restriction on listings at least until 9 May, limiting reservations to key workers and other essential stays.

‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

More and more people in the UK are being told to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. What impact will this have on workers’ rights and pay?

February 2020 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

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

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

April 2020
Holiday disputes Compensation rules for delayed flights

If you’ve had your holiday tainted by a delayed flight, there is legislation which entitles you to reimbursement.

August 2019
Holiday disputes Compensation rules for lost or damaged luggage

If you have your luggage damaged or lost altogether, you may be able to claim compensation from the airline or through your travel insurance provider.

August 2019
Holiday disputes Taken ill on holiday? What to do if you have a genuine travel insurance claim

Nicole Rogers from DAS Law explains what you need to know about claiming on your insurance or taking legal action if you get sick on holiday.

July 2019
Holiday disputes , Family Term-time holidays: fines for taking children out of school go up 93%

The summer holidays are fast approaching and the allure of cheaper holidays during term time is rising. However, schools are taking a much harder line when it comes to issuing fines to parents who take children out of school early.

June 2019
Holiday disputes Know your rights before buying ‘bargain’ holidays

How can you avoid becoming a victim of a holiday scam? And what if unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel a holiday that has already been paid for in advance?

May 2019
Holiday disputes Package holiday regulations and compensation

Here’s what you can do if unforeseen problems spoil your package holiday.

April 2018