/ Travel & Leisure

Coronavirus: your travel and consumer rights questions

The coronavirus outbreak is causing disruption to international travel. Has it affected your plans? We explain your rights.

Last updated: 3 April – 16:00 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.

Jump ahead to the questions

See all of Which?’s coverage in the Which? Coronavirus Hub

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.

Read more on what to do if you’re a UK passenger stranded abroad

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.

See all of our guidance for travellers during the Coronavirus pandemic

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.

Read more about what each airline is doing with flight cancellations

If my package holiday firm goes bust, will I get my money back?

If the firm is ATOL protected, yes. This government run scheme – operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – safeguards your money if your provider stops trading and your trip is unable to go ahead.

Almost all package holidays booked in the UK are Atol protected. To find out if you’re covered, check your trip paperwork for an Atol certificate and logo with a four or five-digit number.

You can verify this by going to the ‘Check an Atol’ section of the CAA’s website, caa.co.uk.  

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.

Read more about whether airlines are issuing refunds due to Coronavirus

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.

More details about what to do when your package holiday is cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak

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.

More advice on coronavirus and upcoming cruises in Summer 2020

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.

Find out more about your rights if an event is cancelled due to the outbreak.

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.

Find out more about when you can and cannot drive during the Coronavirus lockdown

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.

Read more on what may happen for future holidays

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.

Find out more on whether Coronavirus is covered by your travel insurance

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 on when you might be able to cancel a holiday

More advice from Which?

You’ll find more guidance from Which? around the website, including:

See all of our guidance of the Coronavirus pandemic in the Which? Coronavirus Hub

Which? members can also speak to a dedicated legal or money adviser with Which? Legal or Which? Money Helpline. Not a member? Join here.

When your package holiday was cancelled due to coronavirus, did you package provider offer you a refund?
Loading ... Loading ...

We’re here, and will be updating this discussion regularly as the situation evolves.

Comments
James says:
1 June 2020

June 8th the quarantine starts. Can/may I still fly to London from Amsterdam (e.g. on June 15th) to empty and clean my apartment, and fly back to Amsterdam the same day or the day after? Do the rules allow this?

My travel agent admits they are liable they cant afford to make refunds for approximately 15 months, when finances change. My travel Insurers will not pay because the agent is liable. What do I do/

Like other people I am owed a considerable amount of money for cancelled flights. Unfortunately the airlines and travel company will not talk to me and tell me that I have to go through my Travel Agent. He is trying but getting nowhere. One company actually issued a Credit Refund Notice that they had been told I did not want.The other airline just says that they are not in a position to process refunds at this time. I am owed nearly £8000.00 what can I do any ideas.

My villa rental company is refusing to refund the deposit on a cancelled holiday caused by flight cancellation Gov advice and Lockdown – flights supposedly will be refunded but how do I stand with the villa company who if they do that to everyone have made a total fortune ?.Would the small claims courts help ?

Im due to turkey with a package not heard owt but easyjet flights are. Going ahead and restrictions were u need a mask and keep your distance is in place will i be entitled to a refund we go on 1st july and still none wiser can u please help by advising me

Appreciate this is small compared to others problems, but as rail travel is severely restricted or a no no for the elderly, I think pressure should be put on the rail operating companies to place an extension of 6 months on expiring senior rail cards which cost £30 p.a. This represents no additional costs to the rail companies,and will generate goodwill. I understand MOT’s have been given a six month extension if required. Also applies to coach cards where there has been absolutely no service

William – I expect the reason that there has been no extension of senior [and other] railcards is that trains are still running, albeit to a reduced timetable, and although people are requested not to use them for non-essential journeys, travelling by train has not been prohibited, whereas motor repairs and coach services are generally unavailable. People who are self-isolating or shielding should not leave home so they cannot use a railcard; it might be worth finding out whether it can be returned for a pro rata refund [depending on its expiry date]. The senior railcard, giving 34% off train fares, can pay for itself with one long or just a few shorter journeys.

Glenis Keyworth says:
9 June 2020

Cruise booked for 4th August not heard from company, should I contact them or wait?

Glenis – Your cruise company probably need you more than you need them right now so you might as well wait to hear from them. It might be impossible to forecast at the moment when cruises will be able to resume.

Jet2 cancelled outbound flight for 5/7/20 but inbound flight 9/8/20 due to go ahead. Can I still use return leg if it is not cancelled and book an outbound flight with another company. I have checked Terms but can find nothing. I have also emailed them but only a generic reply, which I don’t think they will respond to again. Can someone help me with this

Simon says:
18 June 2020

Hi,

Having read your page and the Citizens Advice information i have a question as my situation falls into the grey area. The following steps are key.

1) I have paid for a trip to Morocco which was postponed from April to September
2) When it was postponed, they asked on email if we could “indicate availability” for the new dates
3) I confirmed yes that the dates worked for me – i wasn’t aware this was a new contract commitment
4) At no point did the ATOL protected agent tell me that a refund was a potential option
5) I later found out that other people who said they were not available for the new dates have been offered refunds
6) I subsequently went back and asked for a refund or deferral by a year as i didn’t want to do the trip (dates are now very hard but not impossible for me to do). i reckon 20% chance i can attend.
7) They have said no one is being offered refunds (i know this is a lie).
8) They are saying my place was reconfirmed in “good faith” for September

Please could you help me in understanding whether I am in the wrong because i had “indicated availability”?

Please could you help me understand if the ATOL protected agent were obliged to offer me a refund when they suggested the postponed dates.

Would they be still be required to do so even after I had indicated my availability.

For the record, in all the Ts&Cs they clearly say no refunds are available for things outside of their control. Which i’m not sure is legally enforceable under all the consumer protection, nor given the fact that they have offered refunds to some.

It just seems like there has been very little transparency/treating customers fairly.

Thanks

James

Em says:
18 June 2020

Hi Simon / James,

There is a lot of information here, clearly laid out. What is key to establish is that this is an ATOL-protected package holiday. You refer to an “ATOL protected agent”, but if your holiday is covered by the scheme, you should have been issued at the time of booking with an ATOL certificate. Make sure you have that.

Not withstanding anything you were subsequently told by the agent – it would appear from what you say that they did not inform you of your rights – or you agreed with the agent, is relevant. You are entitled to full a refund according to The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.

Your specific circumstances are anticipated in Section 30, as follows:

(2) A traveller may not waive any right granted to the traveller by these Regulations.

(3) Any contractual arrangement or any statement by the traveller which—

(a) directly or indirectly waives or restricts the rights conferred on travellers pursuant to these Regulations, or

(b) aims to circumvent the application of these Regulations, is not binding on the traveller.

In other words, you cannot knowingly or unknowingly opt out of your rights to a refund, if that is what you want. Maybe worth checking with Which? Legal, but that is my understanding.

James says:
20 June 2020

Hi Em,

Thanks so much for replying. My efforts to remain anonymous didn’t last longer than my own efforts… its James.

You are correct, i meant an ATOL protected package, and yes i do have an ATOL certificate which is good news.

That information is useful. What is still a little unclear to me is whether the agent was legally obliged to tell me my rights or if i needed to work them out for myself. i.e when i said i was available for the new dates did i implicity say i knew i could have a refund and chose the new dates over it. Because it couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Unfortunately their contract said the package was “non-refundable” under pretty much every circumstance include “things outside their control etc”. Having spent a lot of time looking into consumer protection legislation/ATOL/Travel Package Directive i am now aware that there is no legal standing where they could get away with this….

Simultaneously my insurance policy doesn’t cover pandemics which was a shame but i understood.

So i was resigned to either losing all my money or just saying ok to new dates and thinking maybe i’ll go if i can. But if i had known the potential of a refund then i would 100% have gone for that.

I’ve also found this article on a lawyer’s website post the CMAs review into refund/voucher policies and it sounds like they should have offered up the opportunity of a refund rather than hide it. The key summary point is this….

“Vouchers and postponement
Businesses should not put pressure on consumers to accept vouchers instead of cash refunds, or force them to postpone the service by rescheduling to a later date. Refunds should be as easily available to consumers as any other options, and not be indicated as a ‘last resort’. ”

https://brodies.com/blog/ip-technology/covid-19-and-the-refusal-of-consumer-refunds-how-the-cma-is-acting/

Thanks
James

Ana says:
28 July 2020

I was due to travel to Qatar but due to coronavirus Qatar announced that they were not allowing anyone into the country other than those transferring or Qatari citizens, neither applied to me so i could not fly. BA are refusing to offer a refund on the grounds my flight was not technically cancelled and insisted a voucher is my only right. Disgusting practice from such a big airline.

”The past week has seen utter confusion for holidaymakers. The government needs to work more closely with the travel industry so that tour operators and airlines can better manage these changing requirements, and holidaymakers aren’t caught between following government advice or potentially losing the money for their holiday.”
https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-response-as-jet2-customers-are-told-to-return-home-early-from-spain/

Much has been said about the speed with which restrictions have been changed, and the effect on travel companies, foreign tourism and holidaymakers. But our priority should be on protecting the UK from unnecessary risk and potentially saving lives. Far mor important than protecting the travel and tourism industries. As for tourists, the government warned in May that travel restrictions could change quickly as changing COVID data was received. Those choosing to go abroad took the risk and need to accept the consequences.

The government appeared to act very quickly as soon as the rise in infections in Spain reached the point of concern. I can imagine that if, then, they had to enter into “discussions” with the travel industry valuable time would be lost while arguments from vested interests ensued. It is goverment’s responsibility to act decisively and speedily.

We should be encouraging people to take holidays in the UK rather than adopting a somewhat carping attitude towards government. They have been criticised in the past for their slow action. They really cannot win.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Wales for a week at the seaside. Even going there, I’ve got to figure out the rules that are common to both countries and those that differ.

Looking further forward, to the 2021 summer season, some agencies seem to have substantially increased their prices for holiday lets then.

By 0930 this morning it was 80F here, Derek, and I suspect the beaches will be heaving. Generally speaking, this thing that’s exercising the locals most is absurdly bad parking around Snowdon itself and poor social distancing in the towns.

And the coastguard are employing a drone for air/sea rescues.

I take it you’ll be in the Bangor area?

I’m sure George will give you my email address if you’d like any more local info.

Actually I’m staying at Fairbourne but will want to make a few trips across to Barmouth.

I’ve also seen press accounts of Barmouth struggling under tourist invasions, so I’m not 100% looking forward to that.

Obviously, as we won’t be allowed to travel as tourists on Network Rail, we will have to use the car a bit more than I would have liked.

But our rented bungalow in Fairbourne is a very short walk from the beach, so I won’t have to play chauffeur on our trips there.

A few years ago when staying in west Wales we took the train from Machynlleth to Pwllheli (return), and what a lovely scenic journey. A map came with the tickets showing what to look out for as we trundled along the coast. We didn’t stop in Pwllheli except to visit a deli to get bread and cheese for lunch on the return trip.

Derek – There are no longer any limitations on the purposes of journeys by rail. Having managed to frighten everyone away from using the trains, the government realised that it was unwise to persist with that policy. Whether that applies in the Principality I don’t know, but our local rail company is urging visitors and tourists to use the railways to explore East Anglia so long as they use off-peak services and comply with social distancing rules.

The main concern is capacity but the train company say their timetable is now running at 83% of the pre-Covid level and will increase further in the coming weeks as more staff return from isolation. They are operating longer trains as well in order to provide more space.

Nevertheless, I am not thinking of making any train journeys in the foreseeable future as wearing a face mask for long periods is not particularly enjoyable and the same sun shines in our garden as it does on the beach, and I can get a cool drink or snack whenever I want one; in fact sometimes I don’t even have to get up – my every desire is anticipated and delicious treats and beverages are brought to my side at sensible intervals.

Thanks John, but at least as of late last night, Railtrack Journey Planner was flagging up an “essential use only” warning to travel on 3rd August in Wales.

I aslo believe that, in shops, face coverings are compulsory in England and Scotland but not in Wales. I wonder if the local Welsh breeds of coronavirus are less robust than there English and Scottish counterparts.

Meanwhile, from the mad scientists’ channel on YouTube, here is a visual demonstration of the efficacy of face masks, see:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6cTDGqcUpA

Well said, Malcolm.

I am getting increasingly fed up with the special pleadings of the airlines and the travel trade. Thousands of businesses in the UK have been hit very hard by the consequences of coronavirus and I feel the priority should be to help them get back on their feet and boost the homeland hospitality industry rather then supporting foreign travel which not only takes money out of our economy but can bring health risks back in.

I am not too worried if a few travel firms go out of business, although I have sympathy for their staff but there is no special reason why that sector should be spared. As soon as going abroad is safe again and affordable then there will be planes to take people on holiday. Airlines and tour operators exist because people can travel; people don’t travel because there are airlines and tour operators.

Bunny R says:
3 August 2020

Another small issue in the grand scheme of things but, I have a Hoseasons booking commencing in 11 days and bearing in mind the recent comments on Trip Advisor about the lack of cleaning and maintenance at the lodge I have booked, I’m extremely nervous about taking my family there in the current climate!! I have tried repeatedly over the last two weeks to contact Hoseasons by telephone, email, instagram and Twitter, all to no avail. Any advice on how I can get in touch with them or what, if anything I can do next?! Thank you!

Do you have contact details for the company providing your holiday, Bunny? If you can speak to them they might provide you with reassurance.

Bunny – As a backstop I think you should take your bucket, cloths and wipes with you and give the place a once-over before you settle in.

I could see no reference to hygiene precautions at Lodges in the Covid-19 Update on the Hoseasons website so it’s best to be prepared and go equipped. It takes self-catering to a new level.