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Bott and Co comment with regards to travel and the traffic light system

by maria

Package holidays can be cancelled by the customer and they can expect a refund (subject to a reasonable deduction) only if there are extraordinary circumstances.

It’s debateable whether the ongoing pandemic still counts as ‘extraordinary’ if a passenger wants to cancel now because they don’t want to quarantine.

In respect of flights, there’s no automatic entitlement to a refund if the passenger cancels the booking, so it’s down to the terms and conditions of the airline.

If there are extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination which affect the performance of the package and/or the carriage of the travellers to the destination, travellers are able to cancel the package before the start of it without paying a termination fee.

If the holiday provider is able to fly the travellers to the destination and provide a hotel, we don’t think the pandemic will constitute an extraordinary circumstance.

In the event that the pandemic is not seen as an extraordinary circumstance, the traveller will be subject to the termination fees, which are often a very high percentage of the package price.

Here are some answers to FAQ’s we’ve been getting in relation to the rights of holidaymakers and passengers:

My flight or holiday abroad has been cancelled – can I get a refund? 

In relation to flights, if it’s a flight that was due to depart from the UK and it’s cancelled by the airline then the passengers are entitled to a full refund for the cost of the flight. Alternately, the airline should pay for a replacement flight, if one is available.

In relation to holidays which are booked as a package, under the Package Travel Regulations (2018), there is a right to a full refund of a package holiday if it is cancelled by the tour operator. This is not subject to any restriction on reasons for the cancellation.

Last year my holiday was cancelled and it took me months to get a refund, what can I do to get my refund quicker if it has been cancelled due to COVID pandemic?

Under the Package Travel Regulations (2018) it is outlined that refunds should be processed without undue delay and no later than 14 days after the package has been terminated.

If travellers have not received a refund after this time, we would recommend initiating legal proceedings against the Tour Operator. The first step to do this is to send the Tour Operator a “Letter before Action”.

Travellers that paid for the holiday using a credit card can also look to make a Section 75 claim against the credit card company for the holiday amount.

If I do not have travel insurance and I cannot travel due to catching Coronavirus or not wanting to self-isolate upon return, will my travel agent refund me?

This would be classed as a cancellation and therefore subject to cancellation charges.

If one of my family such as my husband/wife or daughter cannot travel due to catching COVID19, will my travel insurance or travel company refund me?

This is dependent on the terms of the travel insurance taken out. The circumstances in which a refund is payable will be outlined in the terms and conditions of the insurance.

What happens if the Government offers advice not to travel to a certain country due to COVID19 or if a country is on the Amber list, but stop short of saying you cannot travel and I have a holiday booked in that country, can I ask my travel agent to refund me or will I lose my money?

If the package holiday/cruise was cancelled by the travellers and not the Tour Operator, this would be classed as a cancellation and therefore potentially subject to cancellation charges.

Unfortunately, cancellation charges can often be a high percentage, if not all of the cost of the holiday leaving travellers with no refund.

However, the Package Travel Regulation (2018) does state that travellers are able to terminate the package before the start of the holiday, without paying in any termination fees in certain extraordinary circumstances.

The traveller could contact the tour operator and see if they are able to change the dates as an alternative. There may be some administration charges associated with this.

I am nervous about travelling on holiday due to the rising cases that country has or the fact that the country is on the Amber list and therefore I am unable to go, but the travel agent has not cancelled the holiday, what are my rights?

This would be classed as a cancellation as above.


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