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

Comments

Which? comments on the impact of latest restrictions on group gatherings on UK holidays
10 September 2020
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

”“The government’s new ‘rule of six’ for social gatherings, while understandable as a measure to protect public health, will likely disrupt many holidays in England that have already been paid for, leaving people with questions over whether they will be able to get their money back.

Given the time of year I wonder just how many holidays might be affected and could not be adapted to the new rules?

Many people have had to cancel staycations as a result of the new ‘rule of six’, but
@WhichUK says you should be entitled to a refund in this scenario.

@gmartin, George, could Which?, say Rory Boland, tell us just what evidence they have to support this – how many is “many” – and just what types of staycations are involved?

https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-response-to-portugal-going-back-on-englands-quarantine-list/

….A major reassessment of the UK government’s approach is needed to ensure holidaymakers don’t continue to lose money, and tour operators and airlines have a better opportunity to get back on their feet financially.“.
In my opinion this Which? attitude is quite irrational.

The only way in which tour operators and airlines can be supported if people are not travelling is through the use of taxpayers’ money or, worse, abandoning quarantine. I don’t see why, when so much is being spent already on essential economic support and special measures are required at home to reduce the risk of infection, large sums and special arrangements should be used to prop up what are mainly foreign companies and international operations. It won’t add anything to keeping the population safe in the UK but it would significantly increase the risks inland if quarantine and other conditions are relaxed [which is what I presume Which? is proposing]. It will also take UK money out of the country at a time when we can least afford to.

I am sure that when it becomes safe to travel abroad again tour operators will be offering holidays and airlines will be operating again. Things might be different but demand will deliver supply.

Richard says:
10 September 2020

KLM canceled our flights to Cape Town twice, I had to rebook via our travel agent . I was informed today that my flights will only be rebooked if I pay a surcharge.

A bit peeved that I have to pay a surcharge when KLM canceled our flights. Has anyone had a similar experience.
Richard

I am disappointed that Which? finds it proper to spend so much time agonising over how a privileged sector of the population is being inconvenienced while we are in the grip of a raging epidemic.

So, . . . some people cannot travel, theatres are dark, night clubs and music venues are closed, sports events are held in empty stadia, and people must not socialise in large numbers. “When will it all get back to normal?” the media moan.

Well, for a sizeable percentage of the UK population this is normal and it will be for the rest of their lives; for a number of reasons to do with money, health, disability, work or unemployment, family responsibilities and so on, they cannot enjoy the pleasures that many take for granted, and get peeved over if they are deprived of them. Many have also lost their loved ones and the last thing on their mind will be the plight of an airline or a tour operator or a lost holiday opportunity.

I should like to see more social conscience from Which? at this particular time, please.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/09/where-can-i-go-on-holiday-this-summer-how-the-traffic-light-system-works-qa/

Which? continues to provide information for people to take holidays abroad. Fair enough, but I would prefer to see it discouraging them.They do not know the precautions all other countries take when a mixture of foreigners intermingle with the possibility of picking up COVID, spreading it inadvertently to others on their way home and to family, friends and contacts when they are not isolated. We have seen how returning holidaymakers have caused spikes in their areas, a risk we should not be taking.

Which? is funded by its members and no doubt many are interested in holidays and related topics. I’m also concerned about air travel (work and pleasure) being responsible for the spread of coronavirus, but is it not the responsibility of the government rather than Which? to discourage or restrict air travel?

It is the responsibility of all of us to make informed decisions and sensible guidance to help us do that is what I believe Which? should provide, particularly useful to those who need reminding, in this case, that their actions affect others as well as themselves. Which? (Travel) have repeatedly complained about how holidaymakers have suffered financially and been inconvenienced when taking a risk that had been well publicised, instead of suggesting the best way to have a break was in the UK.

If we all listened to information about COVID and processed it intelligently we may not need so much government regulation.

I see no reason why Which?’s guidance has to be binary. It can advise people of the risks of undertaking certain consumer ventures while at the same time offering help for those who acted misguidedly. Getting the tone right on each side of the line is critical.

While Wavechange is right to acknowledge that Which? ultimately needs to give its subscribers what they want, that can be balanced by a more responsible line as is usually evident with other products. Having a dedicated holiday and travel magazine does tend to skew attitudes somewhat because, by the nature of things, it is likely that all subscribers to that segment will be looking for Which? to defend their right to go abroad during a pandemic and not wanting to read counter arguments.

I would guess that a fair proportion of subscribers to Which?, and who only take the general monthly magazine, are happy to fund it because they support its responsible stance on most consumer issues and are prepared to accept – or are even pleased to read – advice that might seem opposed to their general outlook if it is seriously and objectively presented.

With the population effectively confined to barracks for the foreseeable future, there are bound to be existential concerns over the role of Which? Travel. It might not have occurred to Which? that some of its recent pronouncements might have upset some of its more grounded members.

These are exceptional times. We can normally consider, in a balanced way, the factors involved in holidaying abroad; for example the effect of air travel on the environment, effect on our economy. But now we must consider the effect on the nation’s health. There are many cases published where travellers returning from abroad have created a local increase in infections that we can do without. It is not the immediate effects on the traveller that concerns me but what they pass on to other innocent parties.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-responds-to-latest-quarantine-list-changes/
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said:

“Yet another week of intense speculation about which countries will be removed from the travel corridor list has ended with the government making an unexpected announcement and not removing any countries.

“This approach is confusing and costly, with speculation that their destination may be added to the quarantine list causing some travellers to needlessly cancel their trip, therefore losing their right to a refund. It is also making it impossible for the travel industry to operate.

“The government knows this and yet it continues to offer no clarity around how these decisions are made. If the government is serious about letting international travel resume while prioritising public health, a major reassessment of its approach is needed.”

Statement: Rory Boland, Travel

Surely everyone should know by now that travelling abroad is risky. The government has said its advice and self-isolating restrictions can quickly change. Any traveller can put themselves, their family, and other contacts at risk by coming into contact with others when travelling and at their venue; they do not know the infection status of such people.

So is it not time for Which? Travel to stop moaning about travellers being inconvenienced and think about the need to contain the virus in the UK? People can return to enjoying foreign holidays when it is safe to do so. Meanwhile, take a break at a suitable UK location and support our economy and the health of the rest of us.

Patricia Mann says:
13 October 2020

I booked flight only with Last min.com in May, they cancelled in Aug, trying to get money back but they kept £46.01. Not in tx anymore so cant prove anything an cant contact them. Help