/ 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: 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.

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

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
Ian Gregorig says:
25 March 2020

I had planned a coach trip, leaving from England on 29 April, travelling by coach via Eurotunnel and visting Amsterdam, Antwerp and Calais. The organising coach company has decided to withdraw and has only offered a future holiday with them, at a 10% discount, or to hold on to our payment for a year to allow us to make a future booking. Neither is attractive. Can we claim a refund?

It will depend on the terms and conditions in your contract. The operator should be able to make substantial savings [e.g. fuel, Eurotunnel transit, accommodation, food, drink and other hospitality costs] so it would be worth submitting a claim even if the terms indicate otherwise, but a discounted future booking might count as an adequate remedy.

It really depends on the type of travel. If it is an ABTA-covered package holiday, you are entitled to your money back. If travel is separate from from other arrangements, the coach company can probably get away with it.

Quite right, Em – with most of the worries about air travel [protected by ATOL] I had overlooked the ABTA scheme, and it does seem to be a package holiday that Ian will be losing.

Jan says:
25 March 2020

Ive got a tui package holiday on 8 june . Im in 12 weeks shielding . Will i get refund ?

Joseph coggle says:
25 March 2020

Are there any flight restrictions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain ?

I had an easy jet flight cancelled due to the corona virus and while the message I received from easy jet says I can have refund, they seem to be intentionally making it impossible to claim a refund. If you go to ‘manage my booking’ as instructed, you can only change your flight and there is no option for claiming a refund. I then searched for refunds and was instructed to contact the customer team, but the on line chat and the telephone line are both closed. I managed to find the easy jet compensation claim form through a google search, but you can’t enter the flight number in the form and, as this information is required to submit the form, I was not able to submit the form. If anybody has successfully managed to claim a refund for a cancelled flight from easy jet recently, please let me know how you did it. Many thanks

Lindsey Thorpe says:
26 March 2020

Hi, a group of friends and I were due to drive to France for an Easter ski trip. SnowTrex, the travel company we booked the accommodation and ski passes through, have now cancelled the holiday. Initially they stated we would get a full refund which is the preference of the majority (some people are now not working due to the Coronavirus situation). Now, they have said the following:

“Governments in many countries have now acknowledged that, in the current situation, the use of many already implemented laws could lead to societal implications and economic emergencies. Therefore, emergency laws are being planned and implemented all over Europe, providing guidelines for action in the current crisis situation, including handling of refunds of client credits due to cancelled holidays. In several countries, laws have already been implemented, that confirm that the holiday price should be reimbursed in the form of a credit note, with a validity of one year, and with either the state, a fund or an insurance (insolvency insurance) providing security of its validity.”

SnowTrex is a German based business, but their website states them to be ABTA approved/regulated. Is their statement above (which infers countries can do this to protect their local economies) correct? Do we have any rights to insist on a refund? Thanks

They are being deliberately imprecise in order to deter claims. Although it has been reported that the refund rights will be suspended that hasn’t happened yet so you should pursue your claim for a full refund.

Lisa says:
Today 09:42

Hello, I also have a cancelled family ski trip with SnowTrex and received the same message. Have you had any luck in getting your refund yet or any further replies from the company?
Thank you
Lisa

kathryn dean says:
26 March 2020

tui are working to 16th april i am booked to go package holiday 17th april website says you can amend for free. tried numerous times to move to new date guess what it doesnt work ive spent 4 hours trying the tel no given. i need them to contact me

Munir Shafi says:
26 March 2020

I booked a travel package commencing 31st March – 25th April to Canada with a 5 day stay and then onwards to Orlando,both Countries not allowing travel due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
It was paid in full at the time of booking.
The travel was booked through ABTA/ATOL travel agent Southall Travel in the UK and it was booked as a ‘package holiday deal’
I did not take out travel insurance as we only do that a couple of days before travel.
American Airlines was the flight operator and they have since cancelled the flights on their website.
I have contacted them and they have told me that I am eligible for a full refund, however the Travel Agent (Southall Travel) keeps refusing phone contact but via e-mail keeps insisting that I’ll only get a credit note back from them, rather than a full cash refund.
Where do I stand ?

Karen says:
27 March 2020

I’ve booked a non flex eurotunnel ticket to France for a trip in may 2020 thats now been cancelled. Eurotunnel are saying I cant get a refund only to amend dates for later in the year, which will not be possible due to other commitments. I paid on my debut card, can I get a full refund?

Mrs S Brooke says:
28 March 2020

I was meant to travel to Eastbourne in 2 weeks the company said we need to cancel which i did now they won’t refund my money i paid by debit card they said i booked early which was Jan and i had a discount £16.00 to be precise which was given as i’m a keyworker i explained we did cancel out of choice but because government not allowing travel i paid £263.70 i worked hard for this money i’m so angry they are now saying they are open for keyworkers only but i was going for a few days break away surely i’m entitled to something back after all i didn’t choose not to cancel i’m abiding by law not to travel any help grateful it’s just to much money to loose out on trust me i won’t be staying there again they won’t even let me book anything in advance to compensate not going this time.

Coco says:
28 March 2020

I have booked July 2019 package holiday with Virgin. Balance due end of April 2019. I have changed the booking with Virgin to July 2020 due to virus. Virgin are still asking for balance end of April 2019. I don’t know what to do as the airline might be in trouble and I don’t want to lose £20,000 when I pay expected balance next month. I cancelled travel insurance and can’t take out another due to being too early.

Coco – I presume you meant “April 2020” for payment of the balance.

The entire holiday trade is indeed in impending trouble and I would advise you not to pay the balance owing. That would probably lead to you being deemed to have cancelled your holiday and forfeiting your deposit but you don’t need to say farewell to the balance which is substantial. I think you are effectively obliged to cancel the holiday because to maintain the booking by paying the balance would put a very large sum at risk given the warnings that are being given about the future of travel companies. However, you don’t have to do anything immediately; you could wait for the end of April to come and go and let your booking lapse. There is a feint possibility that between now and then Virgin will realise the inevitable and cancel your holiday unilaterally in which case you would have refund rights for your deposit [although some companies are trying to renege on them].

In my opinion it is fairly unlikely that travel restrictions will be eased by July 2020, and, if it should happen that they are, then there are likely to be plenty of opportunities to book an alternative holiday.

It is difficult to put a value on a holiday which is why the travel industry takes what appears to be a cavalier attitude to cancellation and refund rights. The money allocated to holidays is discretionary and arguably not essential expenditure [and the government’s rulings confirm that]. After all, once you have had a holiday the money has gone and you have little to show for it, but companies should not exploit that and deny people their consumer rights. If the government changes the rules that would be a different matter.

Jenny says:
29 March 2020

Hi we where booked to come home from Durban on 23Feb,BA cancelled and we rebooked to return on Sunday29th and they cancelled our flight 2days before flying again we are now stranded and don’t know when there will be any Flights back Ffrom Furnan South Africa do you have any advice😬

Andrew Wallace says:
29 March 2020

A large group of us (5 families) had booked a holiday cottage for the week 3-10 April, which clearly falls within the period that we are all required to stay home. The holiday cottage company has offered the opportunity to re-book, so we asked for the same week next year, but they have offered that week to another group. The chosen week is the only week that would be a possibility for all five families given differing school holiday dates. The company’s position is that if we do not re-book to a different date then that will effectively be a cancellation on our part, they will not refund the price of the booking and we will have to claim on our travel insurance. The terms and conditions contain a widely worded force majeure clause. In the circumstances, ought we to be entitled to a full refund?

Since the company cannot let the holiday cottage to anyone else for the period you have booked it needs to be reasonable about how much it should charge you if you do not cancel the booking but fail to occupy it this year.

If all the company is providing is otherwise unlettable accommodation, and there will be no other servicing costs if you are absent, then their real and actual loss is possibly a very small percentage of the letting charge. I would suggest you seek to negotiate a settlement on that basis. The alternative is that they are profiting from the situation. If I were in their position I would not want that sort of suggestion to be exposed at the present time.

The force majeure clause may or may not be unfair or unreasonable so, if they ultimately rely on it, it might be worth taking legal advice.

Lorraine Dearing says:
29 March 2020

We have booked with tui to go to the Dominican Republic May 9th this year
We paid in full by debit card
I spent 2 hours getting thru to them by phone I asked for a refund they said we would lose 70% of the £2900 I explained my husband is self employed and no longer working and we really need the money to live on
This is not fair we aren’t choosing to cancel but there’s no way this world will be back to normal in 5 weeks time and we don’t want to change it to a later date as we do not know what state the holiday industry will be in later on. hotels Could go bust or the countries badly affected. I just want our money back

Clearly the company won’t cancel as it should given the situation with the result that you feel forced to cancel and forego a very high proportion of the money you have paid. Has the company given any explanation of how they have calculated the amount you will lose? A considerable amount of the holiday costs could be saved by the company.

If you wait and take no action the company will probably have to cancel your holiday anyway and, assuming it is a package holiday, you would then be legally entitled to a full refund.

If you do not want to wait it is possible that you might be covered on your travel insurance policy, and you could be able to arrange a chargeback to your debit card through your bank. I would not have high expectations of a good outcome to either approach so do contact them before taking any decisive action.

Albamohawk says:
29 March 2020

I have a booking with MacDonald hotels for a stay that has now been cancelled due to the Coronaviros crisis. It was booked directly through their website on a non-refundable deal. They are offering vouchers to change the date of the trip. Am I entitled to a refund or is this at the discretion of the hotel.

There is usually a price advantage in a non-refundable hotel booking. I think you will find that you have no right to a refund even though the hotel is cancelling the booking. You would not be able to travel and take up the booking in view of the emergency restrictions even if it had not been cancelled so vouchers for an alternative date seems not bad to me.

John whitson says:
Today 10:06

I had a holiday booked for July in St ives through booking .com I have checked regarding cancellation if I cancel now I will lose a third of the cost if I don’t cancel within fourteen days I lose the lot what do I do to get a refund if I can’t travel to holiday

Euan Martin says:
Today 10:20

I’ve booked a return trip Bucharest in Romania with Wizz Air travelling on the 9th April and returning on the 13th April. At present the flights haven’t been cancelled and there are still bout 7-8 flights a day flying out of Luton to Romina – the only country Wizz Air seem to be flying to. Almost all other carriers have grounded all of their flights. Advice from the UK government is obviously not to travel (or leave your house) at all unless it is absolutely unavoidable, and Romania is currently in a national state of emergency.

Do I have any rights, and is there any way I can get my money refunded?