The coronavirus outbreak is causing disruption to international travel. Has it affected your plans? We explain your rights.
Last updated: 27 March – 14:00 GMT
Which? continues to cover what impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on travel, consumer rights, and other parts of consumers’ lives. We’re continuing to listen and respond to your questions below, and have updated our guidance below based on what you’re asking.
Previous update from 24 March
The UK Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel abroad as COVID-19 spreads across the world.
Flight, holiday and event cancellations are affecting travellers visiting outbreak hotspots and other popular tourist destinations.
We’ve been getting lots of questions about what this means for your travel plans, so we’ve put together this Q&A to respond to your concerns.
If you’re worried about whether you’re still safe to travel, you can check the UK Foreign office advice for the latest updates on the country you’re planning to visit.
Airlines including British Airways, Ryanair, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic, have cancelled many flights until further notice, and are refunding passengers.
Some airlines operating internally within Asia, Europe and the US are also running reduced services.
It’s worth checking your flight is still going ahead if you’re due to return home, fly internationally, or have a connecting flight.
Delays can be expected at airports as passengers are screened for the virus.
If you have any other questions, ask them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Your travel questions
I’m stuck abroad because my flights, and all other flights home, have been cancelled. What do I do?
The airline you booked with has a duty to rebook you on another flight or a ‘rescue’ flight, or help you organise travel home. But it doesn’t seem like many are sticking to this commitment.
If your airline is ignoring the rules, don’t claim a refund. Instead, come home on any airline you can as soon as possible and bill the original airline for the new ticket.
Pay with a credit card if you can.
If your airline just isn’t helping you, or you can’t get in touch with them, there are a few things you can also do:
- If you’re on a package holiday, or you booked through a travel agent, get in touch with them. They should be able to advise you further and possibly book alternative travel for you.
- Check to see if your travel insurance will cover alternative travel costs and any extra accommodation you might need.
You can also try and get in touch with the British consulate in the country you’re visiting for advice.
My connecting flight was cancelled due to the coronavirus, am I entitled to a refund?
If your flight starts or ends in the UK, or an EU country, your airline should reroute you or refund your full fare.
If your flight is outside of the UK or an EU country, it will depend on the airline’s policy, but you should be refunded if a flight has been cancelled.
Check the airline’s policy on how they deal with delays – not all of them have the same protections as flights departing or returning to the UK or EU.
My airline is offering a voucher for a cancelled flight, not a refund. Is that allowed?
No. If your flight is cancelled you’re due a refund. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.
Many people are telling us the airline website isn’t working for refunds. Wait a few days and it will become easier.
My airline says my flights aren’t cancelled and won’t refund me, despite the government travel warning. Can I get my money back?
Airlines are now routinely ignoring FCO warnings. Best practical advice is to rebook and rebook again until one of the rebookings get cancelled – which is likely, as airlines reduce schedules.
Your airline might not refund the cost of your fares if your flight is still going ahead as planned, despite the advice not to travel. In this case, you’d have to see if you can claim your money back from your travel insurance.
My package holiday has been cancelled, and my package provider is only offering a voucher or a chance to reschedule. Am I entitled to a refund?
If your flight or package holiday was scheduled before 16 April and it’s now cancelled, you don’t have to accept a voucher or credit note, nor do you have to rebook. You are legally entitled to a refund.
I’ve booked to go on a cruise, can I cancel and get a refund?
The government has advised to not go on a cruise if you’re aged 70 or over, or have an underlying health condition. If this applies to you, you should get a full refund from your travel company.
We’d recommend pushing for a refund rather than postponing or getting a credit note because of the current uncertainty.
Most of the major cruise companies are provisionally planning to restart sailing in either April or May. Keep your booking for now, but contact your provider to find out more about their cancellation and postponement policies.
An event I’ve bought tickets for has been postponed or cancelled because of the virus outbreak. Can I get my money back?
If you bought tickets directly from the event organiser or an official ticket seller, they should offer you a refund or hold your tickets if the event will be rescheduled.
If your event is rescheduled in the future, but you can’t make the new date, you can still ask for your money back.
If transport or hotel bookings are affected by your event being cancelled, get in touch with the companies you’ve booked with and explain the situation. They might be able to refund you or rebook your plans for a later date.
Your UK travel questions
What if my train, coach ferry or flight within the UK gets cancelled? Or if I choose not to travel?
It depends on what type of transport you’ve booked, and the type of ticket you have.
See our guide on whether you can get a refund if your UK travel is affected.
Can I still drive during the UK Lockdown?
The Government has said you can for specific, essential reasons:
- Medical reasons, to provide care, or to help vulnerable people
- Travelling to and from work (only when it is essential to do so and you cannot work from home
- To shop for basic necessities as food. The government advises to do this as infrequently as you can, and to use delivery services where possible.
Future travel plans
Will my Easter and Summer holidays go ahead?
Easter holidays are off, and it is too early to say whether summer holidays will still go ahead.
I’m due to go on holiday abroad after 14 April, but want to cancel now in case travel warnings are still in place. Am I entitled to a refund?
Unless the Foreign Office warns against travel closer to the time, you probably won’t be able to get a full refund if you decide to cancel now. You’ll probably have to pay a cancellation fee.
There’s no harm in contacting your airline or travel company to ask though – some are being more flexible at the moment.
If you decide to cancel your flights, you can claim back the Air Passenger Duty part of your fare from the airline. It’s usually £13 for flights to Europe, and £79 for long haul flights.
Take a look at our guide on when you can cancel your holiday.
Will I be able to claim back the cost of my bookings I made on my credit or debit card if I have to cancel my trip?
If any of your travel plans are cancelled by an airline or travel company due to the outbreak, you should be refunded directly by the company you paid.
But if you have problems getting a refund, and you paid using a credit or debit card, you could ask your card provider if you can make a claim.
When you pay by card, your bank is partly responsible for what you purchase. It should be able to refund your money if you didn’t get what you paid for.
However, if you decide to cancel your trip yourself, you won’t be able to claim for a refund using this protection.
I was hoping to book a trip soon. How can I protect my travel if the outbreak gets worse and I can’t go, or decide not to go?
Take out travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your trip, and check the policy will cover you if you decide to cancel due to the outbreak risk.
In response to the uncertainty around travel, some airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are now waiving cancellation fees on new bookings. If you decide to cancel, you’ll get a full refund without having to pay any fees.
Some travel agents, tour operators and cruise lines have also relaxed their cancellation policies. Check with the travel company before you book to find out how easily you’d be able to cancel.
If the FCO advises against travel to the country you’re planning to visit, you should be entitled to a refund from your airline, travel agent and/or tour operator.
More advice from Which?
You’ll find more guidance from Which? around the website, including:
- How you can protect yourself and others from catching Coronavirus
- Watch out for dodgy health advice and questionable ‘cures’ for the virus
- Practical guidance for older people on how to stay safe and avoid feeling isolated
- What you need to know if you have a relative in a care home
- Advice on what the pandemic means for mortgages, savings, and other investments, as well as income protection and private health insurance.
We’re here, and will be updating this discussion regularly as the situation evolves.