Coronavirus Travel Rights
Holiday refunds, travel insurance cover and more
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has devastated travel around the globe, and brought overseas holidays to a halt. Earlier this summer, the Government did lift some travel restrictions, but sadly advice against travel to many countries has now been reinstated, while local restrictions are now also affecting holidays in the UK and those living in Wales can't go on holiday at all from Friday. To help, we've been working flat out to answer your questions on travel insurance, cancellations, refunds and more.
Important: This is a fast-changing situation. The info below is the best we have currently, but we'll be updating this guide daily. If you've a question that isn't covered below, please let us know at email@example.com (though unfortunately we can't respond to every email).
In this guide
- Travel restrictions are widespread – and being reimposed for many countries
- My holiday's been cancelled – can I get a refund?
- I've a future trip booked – what are my rights?
- New. UK holiday booked? Your rights as rules tighten
- I've already bought insurance – am I covered?
- Not got travel insurance? Most new policies won't now cover coronavirus cancellation
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues advice to UK nationals on where it's safe to travel abroad. As well as being a useful safety guide, this can sometimes determine whether or not you're able to get a refund or insurance payout if you're due to travel to specific locations.
When the coronavirus outbreak first spread, the FCO began gradually warning against travel to certain countries, and between March and July it advised against all but essential travel to ALL overseas destinations. Since 4 July 2020, that warning has been lifted for some countries – though as we explain below, for many countries, including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, restrictions have now been reinstated.
FCO advice isn't the only consideration when working out where you can go. Quarantine requirements for those returning to the UK are an important consideration – those arriving from many destinations must still self-isolate for two weeks, which may make travelling impractical. And it's also important to be aware of other countries' entry restrictions – for example, the FCO has no warning in place for Australia, yet Brits are still not allowed to enter the country.
New. From Friday, all travel from Wales is banned for two weeks
Local restrictions being introduced here in the UK could also affect whether you're able to go on holiday abroad. For example, as part of the Welsh "firebreak" lockdown which starts on Friday, those who live in Wales won't be allowed to go on holiday in Wales, in the rest of the UK or overseas until Monday 9 November.
For more, see UK holiday restrictions tighten below.
The three key considerations to check are:
To help, we've a separate Top 15+ holiday destinations – are there any travel restrictions? guide, which shows which popular destinations you can currently visit hassle-free.
- Is the FCO advising against travel? For help, see the latest FCO travel advice.
- Will you have to quarantine on return? See the latest advice for those returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Will the country you're going to let you in (or require you to quarantine)? For this you'll need to check with the country in question – its UK embassy website is often a good starting point.
Most airlines have now restarted some flights, and they've put in place new rules to protect passengers too – for example, all those we've heard from say you will be required to wear a face mask or covering while on board. Here's a rundown of what we've been told so far about how things will work – we'll continue to update this table as more info becomes available:
Airline When do flights restart? Face masks mandatory? New rules on going to the toilet? Seats left empty for social distancing? How will onboard services differ? British Airways Some already running Yes, must bring your own No, though queuing discouraged No, but you're asked to limit movement in cabin Multiple changes incl kids' meals not available (see full info) Easyjet Some already running Yes, must bring your own Cabin crew to manage use No, but space left between different parties where seats avail Food won't be sold & Boutique shop closed on flights initially Emirates Now flying to 60+ destinations Yes, masks provided No No Offering ltd menu (see full info) Jet2 "Most" flights now going ahead, though operating a reduced flying programme Yes, must bring your own Being decided currently Being decided currently Being decided currently KLM Now "gradually resuming" some flights Yes, must bring your own No No, but aims for 'max distance' between passengers Crew will "minimise passenger contact" when serving food Norwegian
Some already running. Long-haul flights planned to resume in Dec Yes, must bring your own
No No, but gaps left between groups where poss No food or drink service Qatar Airways Now flying to 70+ destinations Yes, must bring your own
Waiting for reply No, but gaps encouraged where possible on lighter-load flights Multiple changes incl pre-order meals suspended Ryanair Many routes now operating Yes, must bring your own Yes, you'll have to ask to go to the toilet. No queuing No, but social distancing encouraged when poss Ltd in-flight service of pre-packaged snacks and drinks, no cash sales Tui Flying to many destinations already Yes, must bring your own No No, but seats assigned apart where poss Pre-order & cashless payments only for food & drink Virgin Atlantic Some already running Yes, masks provided No Yes when poss – empty seats marked with pillows Will offer ltd hot food service Wizz Air Some already running Yes, must bring your own No, though queuing discouraged No, but cabin crew may reseat passengers apart if space Contactless payment encouraged
In early July it looked like travel was gradually opening up, yet as coronavirus cases have surged again across Europe, travel restrictions have been reimposed for a number of destinations, including Andorra, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Croatia, Curacao, the Czech Republic, France, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, mainland Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (though England and Scotland are allowing travellers from the Canaries from 4am on Sunday 25 October), Switzerland, Turkey and Trinidad & Tobago:
- The Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel to all these countries.
- Anyone arriving from these countries must self-isolate for 14 days. This includes returning UK holidaymakers.
- Brits currently overseas AREN'T being advised to return immediately. So you don't need to cut your holiday short.
Here's a summary of the key need-to-knows (they generally assume that both an FCO warning and quarantine rules have been put in place – if not, it gets trickier):
- If your flight or package holiday is cancelled by a travel firm, it has to refund you in full – by law. Flights are usually covered by EU flight delay rules, which entitle you to a refund within seven days. Package holidays come under the Package Travel Regulations, which entitle you to a refund within 14 days. Many firms are dragging their feet at the moment though – see full help below in Refunds for cancelled trips.
Hotel stays booked directly are unlikely to be cancelled. If they are, there's no specific regulation governing these like there is with package travel and flights. You'd likely be owed a refund, but it would technically depend on local law.
- If your trip ISN'T cancelled by the firm, your rights depend on what type of booking you have. With package holidays, under the Package Travel Regulations you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days even if the trip's not cancelled – see What if my package hol's not cancelled? below. Yet with other bookings, such as flights, these rules don't apply, so if your trip's still running you won't be due a refund from the travel firm.
In this situation you MAY be able to claim on travel insurance, but it'll depend on your policy, when you bought it and when you booked. Failing that, it's worth checking what your firm will offer you – many airlines will let you rebook or offer a refund credit note, which may be worth taking if it's your best option. In some cases, sadly it's possible that you may be left out of pocket. See What if my trip's still running? and Am I covered by travel insurance? below.
- If you've a trip booked but it's a way off, it's likely best to wait and see what happens. Don't cancel your trip yourself until the last minute if you can avoid it. Cancelling means you have no rights to a refund in most cases. It is far better for the airline or travel firm to cancel the trip – then you have more rights. As this is a fast-moving situation, it is possible that the FCO guidance and quarantine rules could change again, in which case your trip could be back on.
- It may still be possible to travel if you really want to – but be VERY wary of doing so. If your travel provider is still running trips, theoretically you can still travel. But most travel insurance won't cover you if you go when the FCO is advising against non-essential travel. That means if something goes wrong while you're away, even if it's unrelated to coronavirus, eg, you have an accident, you won't be protected.
Remember too that FCO travel warnings are issued with good reason – with these countries, due to rising coronavirus cases. We don't think it is advisable to travel when the FCO says you shouldn't.
However, some have said they are determined to travel anyway. If that's the case, at the very least make sure you take a valid EHIC and check you have travel insurance which will give you at least some protection. It may be safer to take out a policy with a specialist provider – one example we've seen is Battleface (though we've not looked at it in detail, so you'll need to check what's covered). You could also look for a specialist broker via the British Insurance Brokers' Association website – search for "Travel: High Risk Areas".
- On return to the UK you must self-isolate for 14 days – and if you fail to do so, you risk a £1,000 fine (or more for repeat offences). See full details on what you'll have to do if you need to quarantine below.
- If you can't work while self-isolating, speak to your employer – your rights aren't clear-cut. For many, being required to self-isolate for two weeks on return to the UK will be a huge issue – especially if you weren't warned of any quarantine when you first went on holiday. Unfortunately, your rights in this situation are not clear-cut.
The official line from the Government is that you aren't entitled to statutory sick pay if you have to quarantine after returning to the UK. So you may have to rely on the goodwill of your employer if you cannot work.
Speak to your employer as soon as you can to work out what's possible. If you can work from home, that may be one solution. Alternatively, you may be able to take extra holiday, or some employers may agree to pay you sick pay.
We asked the Government for exactly what your rights are in this situation, and a spokesperson said: "We urge employers to show flexibility to employees who will have to self-isolate due to the changes to quarantine rules. No employee should be penalised for following the rules and self-isolating."
- If there are quarantine requirements in place but there ISN'T an FCO warning, it's more complicated. In a few cases – for example, if you're in Scotland and have a trip booked to mainland Greece – then if you travel you may have to self-isolate for two weeks on your return, even though there's no FCO travel advisory in place.
This is a particularly awkward scenario – the lack of FCO advisory means that you'll be unlikely to demand a refund if you don't want to travel and, sadly, also means that insurance likely won't cover you as Government advisories against travel are the usual triggers for travel insurers to pay out.
If you don't want to travel, you'll probably need to work with your travel provider to see if it can offer you an alternative trip, or different travel dates – though this is far from guaranteed. See more on your rights if you don't want to travel due to UK quarantine rules below.
- If your flight or package holiday is cancelled by a travel firm, it has to refund you in full – by law. Flights are usually covered by EU flight delay rules, which entitle you to a refund within seven days. Package holidays come under the Package Travel Regulations, which entitle you to a refund within 14 days. Many firms are dragging their feet at the moment though – see full help below in Refunds for cancelled trips.
Coronavirus has resulted in millions of cancelled holidays – and airlines and travel firms are still cancelling many trips, even though some travel restrictions have been lifted.
In this situation, your first step should be to try and get a full refund from the travel firm – though that is proving tough for some in practice.
If you're struggling, you can also try to get money back from your card firm, if you booked with a debit or credit card, or your travel insurer. We've full help on what to try below.
As a general rule, if you've paid for a trip and then the travel firm cancels, you should be due a refund. Yet that hasn't always proved easy with cancellations due to the pandemic. While coronavirus has been devastating across the travel industry, firms have been treating customers in very different ways – as shown by a major MoneySavingExpert.com survey.
A poll we ran between 30 June and 6 July 2020 asked travel firms' customers about their 'refund experience', asking them to rate it as 'great', 'OK' or 'poor' (plus say if they actually got one) – we had 77,101 individual responses.
Three big names did particularly poorly. Ryanair was worst-rated of the major brands with a net score of -89% (worked out as the 1% who rated it 'great' minus the 90% who deemed it 'poor'), while Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays were on -88% and Loveholidays on -81%. Yet others did much better, with Jet2, Airbnb and Hays Travel among the best-rated major brands. For full details, see our 70 best and worst firms for travel refunds.
Even if some firms are being slow to refund customers though, your right to a refund is clear:
- With most cancelled flights, you're due a full refund within seven days. Most cancelled flights will fall under EU flight delay rules (which still apply this year despite Brexit, and cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline). These state you're entitled to choose between:
- EITHER a refund for the flight that was cancelled.
- OR an alternative flight (airlines call this re-routing) to your destination.
We've seen some airlines pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead, but you are absolutely entitled to a refund in this situation. In theory and according to the law this should also be paid in seven days, though aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority has acknowledged current circumstances are making it "very challenging" for airlines to sort it that quickly – and in practice, it's likely to take longer right now.
- With cancelled package holidays, you're due a full refund with 14 days. Package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are also entitled to all their money back under the Package Travel Regulations.
Technically you're due this refund within two weeks, but in practice at the moment it's likely to take longer – and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute has told us insisting on a 14-day turnaround may be tricky at the moment, given the volume of refunds travel firms are grappling with at the moment. So it may be advisable to show forbearance and not push the law as far as it can technically go on the timescale. But the important thing is that you are due a refund.
With other travel bookings (hotels, car hire etc), the rules are less specific but you SHOULD still get a refund. While flight refunds are covered by EU rules and package holidays by the Package Travel Regulations, there aren't such specific rules with such clear timescales for other travel bookings, such as car hire or hotels.
Generally speaking, if the service you have booked isn't provided, you should be refunded – and that's a principle the competition watchdog has clearly supported. Enforcing it may be tricky though, especially if the firm is abroad where local laws may be different to those in the UK – so there are no guarantees.
The Government announced on 18 July 2020 that it is protecting refund credit notes issued for ATOL-protected bookings that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning those who accept them will get their money back if the travel firm goes bust.
The Government said it would protect refund credit notes issued between 10 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 for ATOL-protected bookings, so if you accept one at the moment it won't be covered by ATOL. There are ongoing discussions and this may change in the future.
If you did opt for a refund credit note, you can choose at any point up to 30 September 2021 to cash it in for a refund instead.
See our Government to protect refund credit notes MSE News story for full info, including how to check if your refund credit note is protected.
Those who receive holiday refunds get it returned to the payment method used. This can often mean being £1,000s in credit on credit cards. And many have contacted us worried that they'll pay the usual 3%-ish fee to pay this into their bank account – yet those are money transfer fees, for shifting debt.
If you're significantly in credit, you should be able to ask your provider to transfer the credit back into your bank account free of charge. You can do this by getting in touch with your provider directly – online or via its app if you can, as phone lines are likely to have long waits – and requesting a "refund of credit balance".
All the providers we spoke to, including major names such as Barclaycard, HSBC and Lloyds, told us they offer this service to customers.
But if your provider refuses to transfer your credit back to you for free for some reason, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman – and do so on the grounds that it's not following standard industry practice. There's full info on how to do this in our Financial Ombudsman guide.
This is becoming an increasingly common problem, especially for those whose flights straddle the likely period when travel abroad from the UK is being unlocked. Of course, a return flight is pretty pointless if you aren't out there in the first place.
The standard flight cancellation rules state that if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to choose between a full refund or an alternative flight. If you've booked a specific return deal with the same airline and one leg is cancelled, you would expect a refund for both parts – under both EU rules and general contract law.
However some say they're struggling to get refunds, and it may be because some budget airlines don't consider it a return flight but two individual flights.
There's no easy answer here, and we need to be straight – we're still in the early stages of our research, and building case studies on this (please do feedback your experiences). So this is our provisional list of what to try – we hope to add more info:
- Get in touch with the airline. The start point is always to contact the airline and ask. Before things get militant, you may just find you're pushing at an open door – we have certainly heard of a few (but not many so far) refunds in these circumstances.
- Under EU flight rules, you can push for a refund. So if softly softly fails, let's start to consider the rules. EU regulation 261/2004 gives specific cancellation rights for EU-regulated flights, and for these purposes – until January at least – the UK still counts as part of the EU. An EU-regulated flight is defined as:
– Any flight departing from the UK/EU
– Any flight arriving in the UK/EU provided it's operated by a UK/EU airline
Within these rules, it states that what counts in terms of getting a refund for the return flight if the outbound flight is cancelled is if the flights are part of the same 'booking'. If they are, you should be offered a full refund on both flights.
Sadly, the Civil Aviation Authority has admitted the precise definition of the same booking can be a grey area – for example, it says if you booked through a ticket agent and the two legs are with different airlines, it wouldn't count as the same booking. One key help though is if the outbound and return flights have the same reservation numbers. If so, then:
1) Contact the airline and ask for a refund in writing.
2) If this doesn't work or you don't hear back, you can make an official complaint and demand a refund. You may also be able to escalate your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution service – most are free to use, though double-check first as some may charge fees. See our Flight cancellations guide for more info.
3) If you've no luck speaking to the airline and you paid by debit or credit card, you could try and get a refund from your bank or card provider under the chargeback scheme, or Section 75 legal protection if you paid £100+ on a credit card. (Though while it's rare, after that the airline can dispute this and push for the money back – so don't think once it's in your account it's done and dusted.)
- If you booked the flights before the pandemic and had travel insurance in place then too, speak to your insurer. If you booked and bought travel insurance before coronavirus hit, you may be able to claim (assuming your policy covered pandemic cancellations), as clearly an unusable return flight is a knock-on cost.
However, most insurers are pushing for people to go the whole way with their airline first before they will provide cover. That doesn't necessarily mean they are right to insist on you exhausting every possible avenue with the airline first, just that it isn't easy. So if your insurer isn't paying out when you feel it should, again you can take it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
We hope to add more detail to this section in coming days, so do check back. Plus please do feedback your experiences.
- Get in touch with the airline. The start point is always to contact the airline and ask. Before things get militant, you may just find you're pushing at an open door – we have certainly heard of a few (but not many so far) refunds in these circumstances.
We've heard from MoneySavers who have had 'cancellation charges' of up to £75 per person taken off their refunds by their travel agent after an airline or package holiday firm has cancelled their trip.
Travel agents' association ABTA says agents ARE allowed to do this, as long as this is included in their T&Cs – though if in doubt, check what you agreed to when you booked.
Yet even if a travel agent does cover this in their terms, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute told us there's a chance it may not be a "fair term", so might not be allowed. It told us it couldn't comment on whether such terms are fair at this stage, or whether holidaymakers can successfully challenge these fees – but if you think a cancellation charge is unfair, contact your travel agent and ask it to justify the fairness of its fees.
Also note that tour operators and airlines can't charge you a cancellation fee if you booked direct, so if this happens, make sure you demand a refund in full.
If you're really struggling to get cash back from the firm you booked with, if you paid by debit or credit card you can also try getting money back via your card firm. Try claiming from your card provider under chargeback (or Section 75).
Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from – you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. Alternatively, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it. See our Section 75 and Chargeback guides for full info.
MSE founder Martin Lewis suggests you try chargeback first though: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing."
Most travel insurers have told us that if you're entitled to a refund from a firm you've booked with, you'll generally need to chase that firm for a refund rather than trying to claim on your insurance.
For example, Planet Earth told us that customers would have to pursue their request of a refund from their travel company all the way, even if this entailed taking the legal route. Similarly, Leisure Guard told us that customers should pursue all routes, including claiming from their card provider under Section 75 if possible. This also applies if you're offered a voucher, rather than cash, when you're legally entitled to a cash refund.
It's worth noting though that just because insurers say they won't accept your claims, that doesn't mean there's no point in trying. Insurers want to avoid paying out when they can and while it is correct that you should seek a refund from the provider first when you're legally owed one, if you're really struggling it may be worth contacting your insurer and seeing if it'll help you – even if it's by goodwill. If you've had success claiming on your insurance in this way, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If all else fails, there's the legal route
If all else fails, you could choose to pursue your holiday firm via the legal route. Even though some insurers say you must do this before going to them, in practice this is probably the last resort – we've put it last because it could cost money, may be time-consuming and you'll need to weigh up seriously whether the sum you're chasing is worth it.
How you make a legal challenge will vary depending on what your claiming for. A good first step may be to threaten court action in a letter – then you could end up having to file a county court claim online. See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.
Package holiday giant Tui cancelled all package holidays that were due to depart up until 10 July 2020, affecting 100,000s of holidaymakers.
And some holidays beyond this point will also be affected, as Tui's currently operating a reduced flying schedule and has cancelled all holidays to certain destinations – for example, it's cancelled all Florida holidays until 30 November 2020.
The rules with package holidays are plain – when one is cancelled, you're due a full refund within two weeks. Yet like many other travel firms at the moment, Tui was initially making customers jump through hoops to get one – though it has now made things easier.
If you had a cancelled holiday booked up until 10 July 2020, or a Marella Cruises holiday until 30 July 2020, you'll be automatically sent a refund credit note – ie, a voucher – to the value of your booking plus 20% extra on top. If you want to spend the voucher and rebook, you can then do this online if you booked online, or if you booked in a Tui store call 0203 451 2688.
However, if you want a refund you'll need to first wait for the refund credit note to come through, then put the details into Tui's online refund form to ask for a refund to the value of your booking instead. (This process has been simplified – you used to have to call.)
Since Tui simplified its refunds process, many have managed to get money back. But for others it's been trickier – some have said they've not been able to put their voucher details into the online refund form, and have had trouble calling up for help. Here's how MSE founder Martin Lewis explained it on his TV show recently:Embedded YouTube Video
As MSE founder Martin Lewis says: "Some people say it is a brilliant system and some people say it is a nightmare, so I've been talking to Tui and it seems what has happened is this. On their computerised system, if you booked online it's pretty simple and it should work quite simply.
"But if you paid in-store, they've tried to use a legacy system and transpose that data into the online system, because the stores are closed and they've had some problems with that. Addresses were put in the wrong order – that might stop you getting a refund.
"You have to give them some compassion for that – they've done it very quickly and they weren't expecting stores to be closed.
"Now when I spoke to them on the phone line issue, they said there could be an issue if you speak to someone in branch after 5.30pm or near 5.30pm because branches close before customer service, but you should be able to get through on the phone line. What I'm being told is it can be very busy in the morning and the time to call is in the afternoon, when the average waiting time is 15 minutes."
So for most, putting your voucher details into the online form should work. If you're struggling, call up for help but do it in the afternoon, when it should be easier to get through.
For those still waiting, Tui promised to pay any outstanding refund requests for holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic by 30 September 2020, so you should have been paid by now, and should follow up if you haven't been. See our Tui refunds promise MSE News story for full info.
If you're still having difficulties, let us know at email@example.com. We'll be continuing to keep a close eye on it and will follow up with Tui if needed.
There may be hope for Ryanair customers waiting for refunds for cancelled flights, as the airline has said it's making "rapid progress" to clear its refund backlog. It claimed that 90% of customers who booked directly with Ryanair and requested refunds for cancelled flights between March and June were set to be paid by the end of July.
We've asked the airline if it met this target, and what's happening for July/August refunds, and will update this guide when we hear back.
Some customers say they're still unhappy and waiting for refunds – and Ryanair languished at the bottom of our latest travel survey, with only 4% of Ryanair customers who responded saying they'd received a full refund after a cancellation.
We've full info and tips on what you can try if you haven't been paid, including how to try and get hold of customer service – see What to do if you're still waiting for a Ryanair refund.
We've been swamped with complaints about Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. Both are giving vouchers for cancelled bookings automatically, but if you want a cash refund you'll need to ask for it proactively, and may need to wait to get it.
Many customers have understandably told us they're furious at having to wait almost four months to get their cash back. Others tell us they're struggling to get in touch with the firms or have been told conflicting info – some were originally given timeframes of between 14 and 90 days, then told that it would take longer.
Virgin has now promised to pay outstanding refunds by the end of October. It's said Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays customers with outstanding claims should be paid by then, while those who make a new claim by the end of September should be refunded within 60 days. See Virgin refunds latest for full details.
Here are a few of the complaints we've seen:
Unlike some firms which have been reluctant to pay out refunds at all instead of vouchers, Virgin insists it WILL give cash back if you ask – you just may face a long wait for it. Here's what to try if your trip's been cancelled:
1) Weigh up first whether you definitely want a cash refund. With many travel firms struggling, we always say it's worth considering whether you're in a position to show forbearance. If you choose to accept a voucher or credit rather than demand a refund, you won't need to do anything to claim it – these are being sent to those with cancelled trips automatically.
If you accept a Virgin Holidays voucher, you can use it to rebook up to 31 December 2021. You'll have until 31 March 2021 to redeem the voucher – if you've not used it by then you can still request a refund.
If you accept Virgin Atlantic credit, you can use it to rebook on an alternative date up to 30 September 2022, and can also change the destination and name on the ticket. If you book to travel before 30 November 2020, any fare difference will be waived.
Of course, the safest option is always to demand a cash refund rather than a voucher – especially given the challenges faced by the travel industry at the moment. So you'll need to weigh up the pros and cons.
2) If you want a refund, applying online may be (slightly) quicker than phoning up. If you want a cash refund, you'll need to get in touch to ask for one.
With Virgin Holidays, the simplest way is online, using the refund request links in the email you should have received letting you know about the cancellation and the 'Manage my booking' portal. You can also ring up customer services, but if you request a refund online, the 'clock' for getting the cash starts as soon as you submit the request. If you call, it starts when the adviser you speak to confirms your request, so it could be slightly less efficient.
With Virgin Atlantic, you'll need to use the SMS service on +44 (0)7481 339184. Here, the 'clock' will start once an adviser has confirmed the refund request. You'll then be sent a refund request number, which Virgin says could take seven to 10 days.
We've seen a handful of cases where customers who've applied online have now got their money back without taking further action, eg, Betting Blab on Twitter told us: "Just short of 90 days but we received 100%". Some who've been waiting for three months still haven't been paid though. Virgin says it's working through refund requests based on how long customers have been waiting, ie, starting with those who applied in March.
3) Can't wait for your cash back? You could try complaining to Virgin. Many customers who've contacted us are worried about when they'll receive their refunds – with some saying they simply can't wait up to four months to be paid much-needed cash.
You can try making a complaint by contacting Virgin Holidays or Virgin Atlantic. Explain what's happened and what you've been told by Virgin, and demand your refund is paid. Technically you should be owed a refund within 14 days if your package holiday is cancelled, or seven days for a cancelled flight under EU law – though of course Virgin is far from alone in struggling to meet that at the moment.
There's no guarantee you'll have success with this, but it's worth a go and some have had luck, eg, Desired Destinations told us on Twitter: "We got a refund of four flights after chasing many times – finally a helpful person on email sorted it." Plus if you do decide to chase a refund from your card provider (see below), you may be asked to show you've done all you can to demand a refund from Virgin first.
If you really want to push it, you could say you're willing to file a county court claim if it doesn't refund you (see more on this below, though while you may want to threaten, you'll need to weigh up very carefully if this is actually worth pursuing). Some have also had success sending a 'letter before action' – essentially, a formal note warning you'll take court action if the problem isn't resolved. Matt tweeted: "It took 90 days and a letter before action, they coughed up the day before the deadline for starting court proceedings."
If you don't have any joy, Virgin Atlantic customers can also escalate their complaint to its alternative dispute resolution service AviationADR. However, you can only do it if you've received a deadlock letter from Virgin Atlantic or haven't heard back within eight weeks, so it's not a quick fix.
4) Still no refund? You could also try chargeback or Section 75. If still struggling to get your refund without a long wait and you paid for your flight or holiday using a debit or credit card, you can also try using the chargeback scheme. This is where your bank tries to get money back from the firm's bank, though remember that this is a customer service promise rather than a legal requirement.
There's no guarantee of success, especially as Virgin is promising to eventually pay refunds, but we've heard of some successfully getting refunds this way. For example, Penny told us on Twitter she'd waited unsuccessfully for a refund for a month after Virgin Holidays cancelled her package holiday to Florida in May, but: "I claimed a chargeback from my bank and the money was back in my account within an hour".
Bear in mind the chargeback scheme has its own 120-day time limit, meaning you'll need to make a chargeback claim within 120 days of the scheduled date of your cancelled flight or holiday. Also be aware that even once you're paid the money, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.
If you paid for a flight or holiday costing over £100 using a credit card, you could also have extra legal protection through Section 75, which makes your card firm equally liable when something goes wrong.
5) Your absolute last resort would be to go to court – but it's unlikely to be worth the hassle. As noted above, you may want to mention the possibility of going to court if you complain to Virgin – it may encourage it to take notice and hopefully refund you quicker. But you should weigh up very carefully if it's actually worth following through with your threat and file a county court claim.
If you do really want to do this, you may be able to do it through the small claims route – see more in our Small Claims Court guide. There is a cost – it's £25 to £300, and it's refunded if you win. If you lose, there are no costs against you in the small claims court, but there may be if it goes up to a higher court (you'll know beforehand though and could drop the case then).
It's also worth weighing up the hassle factor when considering this – especially given given Virgin has promised to pay a full refund in time.
Please let us know how you get on and what you've tried at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The name Loveholidays has become a scourge of many travellers during the pandemic. In our 70 best and worst firms for travel refunds survey, it had a net rating of -81, and just 4% of Loveholidays customers said they'd received a full refund (though the firm says it has refunded over 25%).
We want to take you through what you can do to improve your refund chances, though there's no perfect solution. Some customers say they've spent months trying and failing to contact the firm about cancelled holidays, and are still £100s or even £1,000s out of pocket.
We've full info about the Loveholidays situation – including how to contact it if you can't get through via phone – in Loveholidays refund hell. We've also full info on the company leaving trade body ABTA in our Loveholidays and On the Beach quit trade body ABTA so they can avoid paying refunds in full MSE News story.
We've heard from lots of parents who've paid for their children to go on school trips via with specialist providers like PGL and NST, which of course haven't gone ahead due to coronavirus travel restrictions. Some have been left £100s out of pocket and are unsure where to go for a refund.
This is a really difficult issue and answers aren't clear-cut. Below we've set out the latest info we have and what you can try to get your money back – plus the issues facing schools. We'll continue to update this. If you've been affected and have got money back another way, or if you've questions that we've not covered, let us know at email@example.com.
Here's more detail on the situation with school trip refunds.
If you paid the school, it's the school that owes you a refund
Legally, as with all purchases, your rights are with whoever you paid. So if – as generally happens – you paid the school, and the school then organised the trip with a travel firm, it's the school which owes you the refund if the trip is cancelled. You can't demand a refund directly from the travel firm, as its contract will only be with the school and not you.
Consumer lawyers we've spoken to say parents should be owed a refund from the school even if the school can't recoup the money it's paid to the travel firm (though this only applies if the trip won't be going ahead, not if you as a parent decide to pull your child out of the trip before it's cancelled).
Danielle Lewis-James, a consumer law specialist at Slater and Gordon, says: "The school may be struggling to recover the funds of the cancelled holiday, and therefore is unable to pass them onto the parent. Arguably, however, that should not be an issue for the parent as their 'contract' is with the school and not the third party in which the trip was booked with."
Many schools are finding it hard to get full refunds
The difficulty here is in many cases schools are finding it very difficult to get a full refund from school trip providers. There's huge variation here, with different holiday firms and schools taking different approaches, but several operators we've looked at are currently giving partial refunds and expecting schools or trip organisers to claim the remaining balance from their insurers.
For example, PGL says its general policy is to offer cash refunds to schools within five days, but it's subtracting cancellation charges typically equivalent to 30-35% of the cost of the trip, and says schools should make an insurance claim for the remaining balance. See more on how it justifies this approach below.
If schools are only given a partial refund, then getting the rest back will likely depend on their insurance:
- If a school is a member of the risk protection arrangement (RPA) insurance scheme, it should be able to make a claim for the balance through this scheme – the RPA has confirmed it's accepting claims and the Department of Education also suggests schools try this.
- If a school has other insurance, the Association of British Insurers says while its cover will depend on the policy the school took out, in general, insurers WILL cover extra costs that can't be recovered from the travel provider (though the school may be asked to make a claim through its bank or card provider).
So if a school or trip organiser is able to accept a partial refund and claim the rest through insurance, this may be the quickest and simplest way to get money back for parents. In practice though, some schools have told us they're struggling to sort out a full refund and have also encountered delays.
What can I try to get my money back?
The issue then is often that while parents may be technically owed refunds by the school, schools haven't had the money they paid back. In some cases, schools have paid out refunds to parents anyway and said they'll try and recoup the money later, but others have said this isn't possible – many are understandably trying to balance tight budgets.
In practice, many parents will want to show extra forbearance when asking for refunds from their child's school – and many schools will already be working tirelessly to try and get parents' money back. So you need to decide how desperately you need the money back and how hard you want to push it. Here's what you can try:
1) First speak to the school and find out what steps it's taking. For example, is it checking its insurance or is it a member of the RPA scheme? If it's been offered a partial refund, is it demanding more? If your school's doing its level best to get the money back and can't afford to pay out an immediate refund, you may want to wait for it to chase the money down.
2) If you really need the money now, you can write to the school and insist on a refund. If you can't afford to wait or don't believe the school is chasing a refund hard enough, the next step would be to formally write to the school and insist on a refund. Slater and Gordon suggests if you do this you set a deadline and ask for the refund to be paid within 14 days.
3) If you REALLY want to push it and paid by card, you could try chargeback or Section 75. If you haven't got anywhere with the school and paid for the trip by credit or debit card, you could try to get a refund from your bank or card provider via the chargeback scheme or Section 75. Before you do this though, weigh up carefully if it's the right approach. A chargeback request, for instance, will mean your bank tries to recoup the money from the school's bank, which will put the school under pressure. Unless you desperately need the cash, it may be better to be patient and give the school more time.
Chargeback and Section 75 won't work if you paid for the trip in cash or by cheque, and it gets trickier (though may still be worth trying) if you paid through a third party payment portal rather than directly by card. For full info on how this works and what to do, see our Chargeback and Section 75 guides.
Do be aware that even once you're paid the money with chargeback, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.
4) The absolute last resort would be legal action – but be VERY wary. If you can't claim the money back elsewhere and you've exhausted all other options, Slater and Gordon says you could file a court claim against the school – though again, only if you really can't afford to show forbearance. Before considering doing this, you'd have to weigh up not only the possible risks and costs (see our Small Claims Court guide for more details), but also the impact it would have on your relationship with the school – and, of course, the moral argument.
- If a school is a member of the risk protection arrangement (RPA) insurance scheme, it should be able to make a claim for the balance through this scheme – the RPA has confirmed it's accepting claims and the Department of Education also suggests schools try this.
While some schools may be able to claim back the full cost of the trip through a combination of claiming directly from the travel provider and from the RPA scheme or travel insurance, others may have inadequate or no travel insurance. In that case, what the travel firm is offering becomes crucial.
For example, PGL has told us it will now offer more flexible arrangements to schools which can't fall back on travel insurance.
It says this will be done on a case-by-case basis depending on each school's circumstances – but it could include agreeing to roll over deposits and payments onto future bookings, or paying out additional refunds to schools above its contractual obligation, so the school has less of a shortfall when refunding parents.
So if a school is being offered a partial refund and doesn't have any recourse to travel insurance, it could be worth the school explaining the situation and asking the firm what it can do.
A wide range of firms offer school trips, and their approaches to refunds sometimes differ. We've highlighted PGL above as it's one of the larger companies, but if your school uses a different firm, its policy may vary.
Two other big brands, NST and European Study Tours, are both owned by the same parent company as PGL and therefore have the same policy – namely that if Government restrictions remain in place 21 days before a scheduled trip, the trip will be considered to have been cancelled when the restrictions came into force during March 2020. This means cancellation charges will be subtracted from any refund, though the charges won't be as hefty as they would be for a last-minute cancellation.
Voyager School Travel says on its website that if Foreign Office regulations are in place a week before a scheduled trip, it will work with schools to rebook the trip and will pay a refund if rebooking isn't possible – though it's not clear if this will be a full refund or not.
And Halsbury Travel Group says its usual cancellation policy applies if schools cancel, but doesn't make clear what would happen if a school didn't cancel but restrictions meant the trip couldn't go ahead.
We've contacted these last two firms for further comment and will update this guide if we hear back.
Under the Package Travel Regulations, holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are usually owed full refunds – and this is supported by the trade body ABTA's rules, and general guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority.
Yet PGL, for example, insists these rules don't apply to its relationship with schools, which it argues are classed as business-to-business rather than consumer transactions – and as a result, it insists it doesn't need to pay out full refunds to schools which have booked packages. (ABTA and the CMA confirmed to us that these rules apply only to consumer transactions, not transactions between businesses – but neither could give us a definitive answer on whether a school trip booking should be regarded as a business transaction.)
PGL also argues that because the Government issued ongoing and specific advice against running school trips (which is separate to the Foreign Office's travel advice), cancellations should be considered as a 'deemed disinclination to travel'. In other words, it's arguing that it – ie, PGL – didn't cancel the trip, and so under its T&Cs it doesn't owe a full refund.
It insists it has interpreted Government guidelines fairly, and that its approach is supported by guidelines from both the Department for Education and the Association of British Insurers – which have both said schools should first ask for refunds from travel providers and then try to reclaim on insurance or card protection schemes.
We've asked consumer lawyers for their views on PGL's arguments around this, and will update this guide when we know more.
Frankly, our view is there is a moral case for travel firms fully refunding schools, but this is a legal, not a moral, question. Schools which believe they are entitled to a full refund may need to take legal advice.
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If you've booked a future trip and it's NOT been cancelled by the firm you booked with, then your rights are more complicated – it depends to some extent on what travel restrictions are in place and what insurance cover you have.
NB: Here we're only talking about trips which HAVEN'T been cancelled by the firm you booked with. If your trip has been cancelled, see above for full help on how to get a refund.
If you're trying to shore up plans, and thinking of cancelling as 'it won't happen' or 'I won't go anyway', be careful. Unless your travel firm or airline has a generous cancellation policy, if you choose to cancel, that's known as 'disinclination to travel' and you aren't entitled to money back from the firm – or your insurer.
Instead, wait for the holiday firm to cancel and, if it does, you're due a refund. Even if it doesn't cancel, if the Foreign Office still advises against travel to your destination when you're due to travel, as long as you bought insurance before coronavirus became a 'known event' on 13 March 2020, most will cover you.
Yet even if you don't get a refund from either route above, you're likely no worse cancelling later as opposed to now.
However, if you're definite you won't go, ask the airline or travel firm to move the date or give you a voucher. It doesn't have to, but some are being flexible, and there's no harm in asking.
Package holiday not cancelled when there's an FCO warning in place? You SHOULD still get a refund from the operator
With package holidays, if a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warning is put in place (as has now happened in Spain and France) under the Package Travel Regulations you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days – even if the trip's not been cancelled.
The rules state if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur which "significantly affect the performance of the package", you're due a full refund if YOU cancel. And while they don't specifically state that an FCO warning would count as one of these circumstances – though they do give as an example "the outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination" – in practice travel trade body ABTA says firms MUST refund you if the FCO warns against travel and you can't be given a holiday without "significant change".
So you should be able to get a full refund, but always check first with the firm before you cancel.
If your holiday's not been cancelled but travel restrictions are in place, you MAY be able to claim on insurance
Between March and July, the FCO had warned against all non-essential travel overseas. That warning has now been lifted for some countries, but it remains in place for others.
As well as being a useful safety guide, FCO warnings are important as they're usually the key trigger that travel insurers often use to determine whether or not your policy will pay out if you have to cancel a holiday booked before the warning was put into place.
If your flight or holiday is still running and you have insurance, it may cover you (though as explained above, for a package holiday it's worth going to the firm first). If an FCO warning is in place for your destination at the time you're due to travel, you're likely to be able to claim on insurance if your policy covers coronavirus cancellation – this will usually be the case if you took out the insurance and booked the trip before mid-March, though this is not the case for all policies, so check. See more in I've bought travel insurance – am I covered? below.
Sadly, if you have no insurance, or you either booked the holiday or bought insurance after mid-March, you're unlikely to get anything back.
Of course, for many the relaxation of Government travel restrictions will be good news as it means you'll be more likely to travel as planned. But if you still don't want to travel – for example, because there are quarantine requirements or you're still worried about safety – your chances of a refund may be less.
What if the country I'm going to says I can't come in or I have to quarantine?
Some travellers are now facing another dilemma – the UK Government says they can travel, yet the country they're going to won't let them in or insists they must quarantine for a certain amount of time on arrival.
If you do need to quarantine when you get to your holiday destination, it's unlikely airlines or hotels will offer a refund if they're open and running services. You also won't be able to use credit or debit card protection, because the service is still available.
So if you don't want to go, you'll likely have to see if you're covered on your travel insurance. But it'll depend on the policy you have and who it's with, as answers vary. For example, Direct Line told us it would offer cover if you bought the policy before 13 March 2020, Planet Earth said it would assess things on a "case-by-case" basis, while Admiral said you wouldn't be covered.
New. I'm affected by the Welsh lockdown – will my insurer pay out?
A two-week lockdown is taking place in Wales running from 6pm on Friday 23 October.
Travelling out of Wales for a holiday is not permitted under the regulations and the Welsh Government is advising travellers to contact their holiday provider if they can't travel and want a refund.
If your travel provider won't refund you, you'll have to go to your insurer. Whether you'll get your money back depends on your specific insurer.
For example, Planet Earth told us it wouldn't cover you in this scenario, while Admiral, Churchill and Direct Line said customers would be covered as long as they booked the trip and the insurance before the pandemic became a known event in mid-March.
Since 8 June 2020, travellers arriving in the UK from some overseas destinations have needed to self-isolate for 14 days.
We've been asked by several users if they'll legally be able to get a refund on travel abroad (for example, a flight or package holiday) if they were unable or unwilling to quarantine for two weeks on their return, and therefore were unable to take the trip. The short answer is no, as the company would not have to refund you for your disinclination to travel – though some firms may agree to help out.
If you are coming from a country not on the exemptions list, then before you arrive in the UK, you'll need to fill out a "contact locator form", including details of where you'll be isolating and how you can be contacted. You'll need a receipt showing you've filled out this form (either printed or on your phone) – there will be spot checks at the border and Border Force can impose fines on those who don't comply.
You'll then need to go to your accommodation and stay there for 14 days. If you don't have a suitable place to stay, you'll be asked to self-isolate in hotel accommodation arranged by the Government. The Government has warned that those in quarantine could face random checks from public health authorities to ensure they're self-isolating. Those who break the self-isolation rules could be fined.
Despite lifting restrictions for some destinations, the FCO is still warning against non-essential travel to many countries.
This doesn't mean you need to cancel trips booked to places where the advisory is not being lifted if the trips are in the future, as the lifting will eventually be expanded to further countries, and you may be able to go.
If you absolutely have to travel while an advisory is in place, you may still be able to but will need to carefully consider all the risks and also check the entry restrictions of the country you're travelling to – in some cases, British visitors have been barred altogether.
See the Government's guidance on international travel for more help, and also bear in mind your travel insurance may be voided if you travel while an advisory's in place, so check with your insurer.
If you are quarantined during a trip abroad, you may incur extra costs, such as paying for more accommodation or booking new flights home.
The first thing to do in this situation is to speak to your tour operator or the agent you booked your trip through to see if you can recover any extra costs.
For any unrecoverable costs, you may be able to make a claim through your travel insurer if you have the right kind of policy. This situation will generally fall under 'disruption to travel', so check for this clause in your travel insurance documents – though in any case, it's worth speaking to your insurer directly to see if you're covered.
To be eligible for a refund, it's usually the case that the firm needs to cancel the booking rather than you doing it, as if you cancel, unfortunately there's no guarantee you'll get a refund. Plus, you're unlikely to be covered by travel insurance, providers of which would usually regard you cancelling as a 'disinclination to travel'.
There are a few exceptions to this though. For example, if you booked a package to attend a specific event which has now been cancelled, such as the 2020 Olympics, then under the Package Travel Regulations this may count as a "significant change" and so you may be entitled to a refund.
Of course, what constitutes a "significant change" is slightly ambiguous, so if you feel you won't be getting the same holiday you paid for and no longer want to travel as a result, it's worth requesting a refund and seeing how you get on.
This is a big decision for many who've paid deposits for trips and are currently being asked to pay the remainder or another instalment, particularly on summer holidays. Sadly, there is no right answer here – all we can do is help you weigh it up.
Here are the pros and cons of both options:
If you pay up... Hopefully, things will have improved by the time you're due to travel and you'll go ahead and have a wonderful holiday. But there's a reasonable chance that may not happen.
If a package holiday firm cancels, you're due a full refund (and it's the same if it's a flight covered by EU law, as most are). Alternatively, if your trip isn't cancelled, but the Foreign Office is still warning against travel to your destination, then provided you got travel insurance before they stopped covering coronavirus, you can likely claim.
There are risks here though:
- If the Foreign Office lifts its travel warning for a destination you're travelling to and you choose not to travel, you likely won't be covered by insurance.
- Even if the package holiday firm or airline does cancel your trip, some travel firms are making it difficult to get refunds for cancellations and are only giving vouchers.
- Sadly, the travel industry is under terrible threat, and frankly some firms may go bust. If it's a package holiday, check if you've ATOL or ABTA protection so you would get a full refund if the operator collapsed. If not, you're likely reliant on claiming via your card provider under chargeback or Section 75 protection – which should help, but is far from certain (and be aware that even if you're paid chargeback, there is a chance the firm can dispute it via a clawback system, so you shouldn't spend it immediately).
If you don't pay up... Then you're the one effectively cancelling the holiday, not the firm, so you're likely to lose your deposit.
This means that if the booking is subsequently cancelled by the operator you won't get your money back, whereas if you continue to pay and it's then cancelled, as outlined above you would get a refund.
Even then, if the deposit is small and the balance is large, and you think you're very unlikely to travel, taking this hit may be an easy option.
Ultimately it's a decision for you to make, and there's no clear answer.
Some people will have medical risk factors that make coronavirus a more serious threat – for example, the NHS says older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) are more likely to become seriously ill with the virus.
If you're due to travel to an area which has a high volume of coronavirus cases but there's no FCO warning at the time you travel, and you're worried about the heightened risk of the virus due to your age or underlying health conditions, speak to your insurer to discuss your options.
The Association of British Insurers says that whether you'll be covered by your insurance depends on your specific policy and your situation. You may be asked to provide evidence of your pre-existing condition – a doctor's note, for example. Many insurers will make a decision on a case-by-case basis.
We asked several insurers about this and were given a range of answers. For example, if the FCO doesn't have an advisory against travel in place, Admiral, Aviva, Leisure Guard and Planet Earth said they would look at each circumstance on its own merits.
Churchill and Direct Line told us: "Where a customer's pre-existing health condition has been declared to us and cover confirmed, and they have evidence from their doctor advising against travel to their intended destination, claims for cancellation will be considered."
Before the FCO issued a blanket warning against travel, a number of MoneySavers told us they had a trip planned to a destination which was largely closed for business – yet they were unable to cancel as no FCO warning was in place at the time. For example, Hollie tweeted:
In general terms, as set out above, don't expect a refund if you cancel in these circumstances. Unfortunately, if no FCO warning is in place at the time that you're travelling, then airlines, tour operators and insurers won't usually offer a refund if you decide not to travel.
Yet if you've booked a package holiday and were sold on the basis that you'd be able to visit a specific attraction and this was the main reason you booked the trip, you could argue that the attraction being closed counts as a "significant change" to your holiday under the Package Travel Regulations, and therefore ask for a refund.
Check the documents and T&Cs from your travel provider to see whether you may be able to argue this. However, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says it's unlikely that many packages would have been sold on this basis.
If you were due to travel on a cruise that has been cancelled, you'll generally receive a full refund – though check your cruise line's policy directly.
If you have consequential losses, you can follow the steps above to try and recover them. It's also worth noting that some cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, have previously said they will consider reimbursing "reasonable out-of-pocket expenses" incurred as a result of cruises being cancelled on a case-by-case basis – so check.
If your cruise itinerary has been altered and you no longer want to travel as a result, your cruise line may let you cancel and get a refund or credit to spend on another cruise – again, you'll need to check directly to find out your options.
If you can't get a refund this way and you had booked your cruise as part of a package holiday, you may have some protection under the Package Travel Regulations if you had a major alteration to your itinerary – though it's unlikely that changes to a couple of stops on a long cruise would count as "significant".
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says if changes "are significant in the relation to the overall trip", customers may be entitled to a refund.
It said: "With cruises, there is the cruising element with the facilities and entertainment on board as well as ports of call, and all aspects of the trip must be considered in any decision about the significance of any changes to the itinerary."
Even if no FCO warning is in place, if you're due to go on holiday but are unable to go because you've received medical advice to self-isolate over the time you were meant to be away, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says you should be able to make a claim on your travel insurance.
You're likely to be asked for evidence of your need to self-isolate, which the ABI says could include a doctor's note, or a note from your employer or college. It's worth noting that insurers which are members of the ABI have pledged to "be understanding of the difficulties customers may have in getting medical certification" – so if you're unable to get an official doctor's note, it's worth asking if you can provide alternative evidence.
This also cuts the other way though – so if you've been told to self-isolate but decide to ignore the advice and travel anyway, you'll likely invalidate your travel insurance.
It's worth checking directly with your airline or hotel even if your original booking was on a non-refundable basis, as some have started to introduce special cancellation or rebooking policies to help those affected by coronavirus. And even where firms haven't introduced special policies, it's worth asking anyway if there's any flexibility, as in some cases they'll be willing to let you cancel or rebook.
Beware though – even where there's flexibility, you may have to give notice to cancel or rebook, as some firms charge fees for last-minute changes.
Here's what firms have told us they're doing (although this changes regularly, so you'll need to check with companies directly for the most up-to-date information).
|Airline (and link to full info)||Cancellation and rebooking policy|
|British Airways||Can cancel any booking made after 3 Mar 2020 and due to take place before 31 Aug 2021 and get voucher valid for 2yrs. No late notice fees apply – see BA update below|
|Easyjet||Has temporarily waived flight change fees for bookings 14+ days away – so anyone with an existing booking can move it to another date if they give notice. A £5 fee applies if making the change over the phone
|Jet2||No refund if you cancel. £35 fee to change date
|Norwegian||Costs may be involved in changing your booking, unless it's a Flex or Premium Flex booking|
|Ryanair||From 10 Jun 2020, no change fee if you move Jul and Aug bookings up until 31 Dec 2020, so long as you give at least seven days' notice. From 17 Jul 2020, no change fee if you move Sep bookings up until 31 Dec 2020 – same notice applies|
|Virgin Atlantic||Customers who make bookings before 31 Dec 2020, for travel all the way up to 31 Aug 2021, will face no change fees (for up to two changes or one name change) if they choose to amend the booking. Can rebook to travel anytime before 31 Dec 2022|
|Company (and link to full info)||Cancellation and rebooking policy|
|Accor||Guests who booked a non-flex rate direct for travel until 31 Dec 2020 can change booking without fees|
|Airbnb||Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 Mar 2020, with a check-in date between 14 Mar and 15 Oct 2020, can be cancelled before check-in|
|Best Western||No specific details – says its hotels, which are independently owned, have been encouraged to show "empathy and flexibility"|
|Jet2 Holidays||Costs involved if you cancel
|Marriott International||Existing reservations for future arrival dates will have the same reservation policies as when the booking was made. For new reservations made from 6 Jul 2020 with an arrival date on or before 30 Dec 2020, bookings can be changed or cancelled with no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date|
Customers can amend hols for free if they contract Covid-19 beforehand, and will be covered for an extended stay and new flight home if asked to quarantine at their destination. Tui will contact you if there's a "significant change" to your holiday
While we've seen quite a few changes to rebooking and cancellation policies from airlines, hotels and package holiday firms, we've seen fewer from car hire firms – partly because some are already quite flexible.
We checked the websites of several major car hire firms and saw Avis and Budget say that any reservations for rentals in Europe until 15 December 2020 can be changed or cancelled without fees. Bookings starting after this time can be changed without fees up to 72 hours before the start of the rental. Additionally, cancellation fees for pay later and prepay rental customers will be waived if they're affected by coronavirus-related travel bans.
Eurostar continues to operate some services, but has reduced its timetable.
It is giving customers with recent or upcoming bookings the opportunity to request an e-voucher if they want to postpone their trips and travel at another time.
The e-voucher will be issued for the full value of your current train or Eurostar holiday package, and will be valid for a new booking to any Eurostar destination.
If you were booked to travel up to 7 September 2020, you can request an e-voucher up to 60 days after your original outbound travel date. The voucher will be valid for a year after it's issued, and you'll need to make the new booking within this time.
If you're booked to travel between 8 September and 15 November 2020, you'll need to request your e-voucher by 11.59pm on the day before your original outbound travel date. The voucher will be valid until 1 June 2021, and you'll need to make the new booking within this time.
British Airways is now allowing anyone who has a flight booked which is due to depart up until the end of October 2020 to cancel it for free and claim a voucher for its value to be used on future bookings. (If you've booked since 3 March 2020, you can do this for flights due to depart up until 30 August 2021.)
You'll be able to use the voucher on flights which depart up until 30 April 2022. (For full info, see the BA website).
It's important to be aware that if BA cancels a flight, you're legally due a full refund. Yet if you voluntarily agree to a voucher for a non-cancelled flight, BA has confirmed you lose your right to a refund.
So if your flight is still currently set to go ahead, you'll need to weigh up whether you want to ask for a voucher now or wait to see if it's cancelled later on, meaning you could ask for a cash refund.
While BA says it tries to give customers as much notice as possible if their flight's cancelled, at the moment its schedules are constantly under review and whether your flight goes ahead will depend on a range of factors, including different countries' travelling restrictions – so there's no definite timeframe for when you'll find out if your flight's been cancelled.
However, BA says you can request a voucher right up until check-in for your scheduled flight closes. So if you don't want to travel and would prefer a cash refund, you could wait to see what happens to your flight – if it isn't cancelled and you're not owed cash, you can still request a voucher.
For BA loyalists who can afford to, taking a voucher is a decent thing to do. Plus if you may choose not to travel anyway, even if the flight's on and your destination's not covered by Foreign Office warnings, this offers extra flexibility. And as these are price-based vouchers, not vouchers for identical flights, if you'd booked expensive peak-season flights and now want to rebook to a cheaper time or destination, there could be a real advantage in going for the vouchers.
But it cuts both ways. There's no guarantee you'll get a decent deal if you rebook, and you could be better off flying with another airline – so for many, taking cash may make more financial sense.
The Passport Office is warning, understandably, that renewing is taking longer than the usual three weeks.
We're hearing reports that at the extreme, some are taking three months or more, while Fast Track face-to-face services are suspended – and the Government's now admitted there's a backlog of more than 400,000 passport applications.
This is causing a lot of stress to those with upcoming travel booked, as Tracy emailed: "Been waiting 13 weeks. Now looks like our holiday will have to be cancelled, costing us £1,000s." And 'no passport' isn't covered on most travel insurance policies.
But the Government's now introduced a new five-day fast-tracked service to help those due to travel in the next fortnight whose passports have been delayed – so if you're set to go abroad imminently, you can ring the Passport Office on 0300 222 0000 to discuss the situation and ask for your application to be fast-tracked.
What if a family member or I get coronavirus before/during our trip?
Some travel insurance policies will cover you in this scenario – though it depends what policy you have and when you took it out/booked your trip.
If you bought insurance and booked the trip before mid-March, it's likely you'll be covered for cancellation, though check. Equally, many newer insurance policies offer coronavirus medical cover – so you're protected if you catch coronavirus while travelling, or if you or a family member get coronavirus before travelling and can't go on your trip.
However, don't assume you're covered – you'll need to check. See more in our Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
Am I covered if I miss my holiday because the area where I live has entered into a localised lockdown?
If you live in an area which has been ordered into a local lockdown (as has now happened across several areas), then you may be required to stay at home if the Government advises against all but essential travel to, from and within the area. That means if you had an overseas trip booked during this period, you wouldn't be able to go.
Unfortunately, in this situation you've no special refund rights with your travel firm, so if the flight's still running and your accommodation's open, you won't be automatically due a refund – but your travel provider may offer you some flexibility if you explain the situation.
Your first step in this case would be to speak to your airline, hotel or package provider and ask if you could postpone the trip to a later date, or cancel it and get a refund. However, if your trip's still running, ultimately your rights depend on what terms you booked the trip on, and the cancellation and refund policies of the travel firm.
You MAY be able to claim on travel insurance if there's a local lockdown
If you don't have success with your travel provider(s), you may be able to claim on travel insurance.
If you took out your travel insurance or booked the trip after the pandemic was officially declared, it's likely you won't be covered as coronavirus will be considered a 'known event'.
But if you booked and bought travel insurance before this, then whether you're covered will likely depend on the details of your policy, including whether it excludes coronavirus cancellations and whether it includes travel disruption cover. We're speaking to a number of insurers to find out what cover they're offering in this scenario, and will update this guide when we hear back.
Note that if you travel anyway despite the local lockdown, you may risk invalidating your policy cover as your policy may insist that you abide by Government advice.
With overseas travel significantly disrupted, many will have chosen to book a holiday within the UK this autumn – and half-term is fast approaching for many schools. But in recent few weeks we've seen lockdown rules across much of the UK rapidly tightened, with a new 'tier' alert system in England and upcoming 'fire-break' lockdown across Wales – leaving many wondering if they can still travel, and if not, what their rights to a refund are.
Important. The situation in different areas is changing rapidly, so do check the latest rules for yourself before taking any action.
How 'tiers' and new lockdown rules affect UK travel
Whether you're allowed to travel depends on the rules where you are and where you're going, plus how many of you are going (see multiple household restrictions below), so this can get complicated. To find out what restrictions apply in a given area, check the Gov.uk website – here are the key need-to-knows:
- Holidays in Wales are completely banned from Friday. This blanket restriction is part of Wales' 'fire-break' lockdown, which applies from Friday 23 October to Monday 9 November. However, until Friday the rules are more complicated. You can't holiday in the 17 areas of Wales which are in local lockdown – including Cardiff and Swansea – regardless of where you're travelling from, and can't holiday in ANY part of Wales if from a "high-risk area", which includes tier two and three areas of England, the central belt of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- If you live in Wales, you can't holiday ANYWHERE from Friday. Again, this restriction is part of the 'fire-break' lockdown running from Friday 23 October to Monday 9 November – you can't holiday within Wales, elsewhere in the UK or overseas. Until Friday though, the rules depend on which part of Wales you live in – in short, you can't go on holiday if you're in a local lockdown area.
- Travel is not advised to or from areas in England with 'tier three' restrictions, or central Scotland – but it's NOT against the law. The Government says people should "avoid" travelling into or out of parts of England with tier three restrictions – which currently includes Liverpool and Lancashire – except for purposes such as work, education or caring responsibilities. This means you shouldn't holiday in a tier three area, or holiday elsewhere if you live in a tier three zone – though this is currently guidance rather than a legal restriction.
Similarly, the Scottish Government says people living in the five central belt health board areas – Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire & Arran and Greater Glasgow & Clyde – are "advised" not to travel outside of their own area unless they need to. And similarly, it says that those who live elsewhere shouldn't visit these areas unless they need to – though again, these aren't currently mandatory travel restrictions.
- You CAN travel to or from other parts of Scotland, or areas in England under 'tier two' restrictions – but only with your household or support bubble. Large areas of England, including Leeds, London and Newcastle upon Tyne, are currently subject to tier two restrictions. You can holiday there, or in parts of Scotland outside the central belt area described, but extra restrictions apply and, crucially, different households can't mix indoors. (The Scottish Government has also asked people to "think about whether you need to travel".)
If you live in one of these areas, you can leave and go on holiday elsewhere – though this should only be with members of your own household or support bubble.
- There aren't any extra travel restrictions in 'tier one' areas of England (though you could still be affected if you've booked a trip to a higher-risk area). If you live in a tier one area, you only need to follow the usual coronavirus rules, such as the rule of six. This means you're free to leave your area and go on holiday elsewhere (including areas under tier two restrictions, though you'll need to follow local restrictions while you're there).
But if you do have a trip booked, you'll need to check what the rules are at your destination – for example, if you've booked a trip to Wales you may be unable to go.
- In Northern Ireland, people are also being advised that "no unnecessary travel should be undertaken". We're checking the legal status of this advice and whether it means those in Northern Ireland should not be travelling elsewhere for a holiday, and will update this guide when we know more.
Holiday firm cancelled your trip? You're likely due a full refund
As with overseas holidays, a key factor in whether you're owed a refund for a UK trip is whether your holiday firm has cancelled your booking. If yours does, then in simple terms you're likely due a full refund – and if you don't get one, you should fight for it.
When the pandemic first hit, this wasn't always the case – we had 100s of complaints from holidaymakers who said they were only offered a new booking or voucher instead. However some of the big firms which initially refused to pay out, such as UK holiday providers Hoseasons and Sykes Cottages, have now backtracked and changed their coronavirus booking policies.
If you've booked a package holiday then under the Package Travel Regulations you are entitled to get all your money back within two weeks of any cancellation. But even if it's not a package, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says as a general rule firms MUST offer cash refunds for cancellations due to coronavirus. So if your holiday or accommodation booking is cancelled, you're likely due a full refund and should ask for one if it's not offered.
Do check the small print of your contract for any specific exclusions though, and you may also want to consider showing forbearance if you can – if you're offered a rebooking instead of a refund and are happy to take it, it helps at a time when the travel industry is struggling as never before.
1) Insist on a refund in writing. Firms will naturally want to push you to accept a voucher or rebook your holiday, as it avoids them having to cough up. So make it clear, in writing, that you expect a refund. Sadly, pushy customers tend to be more successful than those who just leave it, though be firm and polite rather than rude and aggressive. It's also worth quoting what the CMA has said in cases about refunds in this situation.
2) Try going to your card firm and asking it for a refund (ask for chargeback first, then try Section 75 if that doesn't work). Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it.
Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from, and you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. See our Section 75 and Chargeback guides for full info.
As MSE founder Martin Lewis explains though, try chargeback first. Here, Martin explains why: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing.
"If you claim under Section 75 though, then you are asking the credit card company itself to cover you, and while it may be legally obliged to do this, it is likely to be much more reticent to do it. So it's worth trying Section 75 only if chargeback fails. And with both, if you are rejected you have the right to go on to the free Financial Ombudsman, which can adjudicate."
There's no guarantee this will work, but some who've struggled to get other travel refunds, eg, for Ryanair flights, have had joy this way. Do be aware that even once you're paid the money with chargeback, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.
3) If you are prepared to play hardball, threaten court action. This is the route a very senior, and often litigious, lawyer told us he would take if it happened to him. This is about writing a formal note that you plan to file a county court claim if it doesn't pay a refund. Keep it short and sweet, with just the basic information about what's happened, and state a time (say, three weeks later) when you expect a response or you'll go ahead.
Think carefully about whether you want to do this and how hard to push. Consumer lawyer Dean Dunham previously drafted two template letters for Sykes Cottages customers, and we saw some report that they'd successfully used them to get a refund. Of course, these should no longer be necessary for Sykes Cottages customers as it's now committed to provide full refunds, but they could give you a sense of what this type of letter could look like if you want to write to another firm. (Some details will be specific to Sykes, so should be treated as inspiration rather than as direct templates.)
4) File a county court claim online. This is following up on your promise to go to court – and again, it's what our senior lawyer says they'd do, but of course everyone is different. Essentially, it will hopefully go through the small claims route – a low-hassle online process for simple cases where you can represent yourself – though it will take some time, and it does depend on how good you are at this type of thing. This can be objected to by the other side though, and be pushed up to a district court, where you may need legal representation.
There is a cost for doing this – it's £25 to £300, and it's refunded if you win. If you lose, there are no costs against you in the small claims court, but there may be if it goes up to a higher court (you'll know beforehand though and could drop the case then). See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.
Let us know how you get on at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holiday not cancelled? Your refund rights depend on what lockdown rules are in place
In some cases, your holiday may still be running or your accommodation open, but you may be unable to go due to lockdown restrictions either at your holiday destination or in your local area. The key to your rights here is the legal status of the restrictions which are stopping you travelling:
If travel's illegal under coronavirus rules, you're likely due a full refund
The good news is in this situation – for example, if you've a trip booked at the end of the month to Wales – the CMA says you should expect a full refund. Its guidance states that consumers should get their money back if they're not provided with a service due to lockdown laws, or can't access what they paid for "because, for example, lockdown laws in the UK or abroad have made it illegal to receive or use the goods or service".
It's important to note however that CMA guidance isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and this is a new scenario which hasn't been tested – so while you can direct your holiday accommodation provider to the guidance, complain to the CMA or even pursue legal action, there are no guarantees.
While some holiday firms, such as Marriott and Travelodge, have said they'll offer refunds in this situation, with others it's less clear-cut. For example, some Premier Inn customers initially reported being denied refunds, though Premier Inn now says it WILL consider refund requests on a case-by-case basis.
It's also worth noting it may be harder to prove that you're prevented from travelling due to lockdown rules if the restrictions relate to where you live. In this situation, when you speak to your holiday provider it may be worth providing evidence of the specific reason you're unable to travel.
If travel's advised against but not illegal, your refund rights are less clear
If your trip is to or from a part of the UK where travel is advised against but not illegal, such as part of England under tier three restrictions, things could be more complicated.
Unfortunately, in this situation you may find it more difficult to get your money back if you decide not to travel. The CMA's guidance says if the restrictions which prevent a service being used aren't legal restrictions, it's not clear whether a consumer would be entitled to a full refund.
This doesn't mean you're definitely not entitled to a refund. The CMA says if a consumer would be at serious risk if they went ahead with a contract (such as a holiday booking) against Government guidance, the contract could be deemed to have been "frustrated" – in which case you could be owed a full refund. But it's much murkier – and again, you need to remember these are untested situations and ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies in different scenarios.
The best bet is to speak to your holiday or accommodation provider and ask what it'll offer. You may be able to cancel under your usual terms and conditions, or ask for more flexibility such as a date change. If you can't come to an agreement you're both happy with, you'll need to weigh up how hard to push for a refund. You can try the steps we outline above, but there are no guarantees and you may be less likely to have success if your trip isn't technically forbidden by law.
If you're still allowed to travel, you've no automatic right to a refund
If you are still permitted to go on your holiday under official restrictions and guidance – for example, you're from a tier one area and are holidaying in an area that's also under tier one or tier two restrictions – it's important to understand you don't have any automatic right to a refund if you choose not to go.
If your holiday's still on or the hotel's still open, your refund rights will simply depend on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you booked. Of course, these may still let you cancel for free or move your trip, and some firms are also offering extra flexibility to all their customers at the moment due to coronavirus, so it's still worth checking what your options are.
Travellers who've booked trips where multiple households are due to stay together have faced increasing restrictions in recent months. For example, in England the Government initially said a maximum of two households could go on holiday together, then introduced the "rule of six", which means if guests are from multiple households, only six can stay together in total.
Here are the rules on multiple household holidays as they now stand:
- If you live in an area of England with 'tier one' restrictions, you can go on holiday in a group of up to six, though if you're going to an area with tighter rules you'll need to obey these while you're there.
- If you live in or are planning to visit an area of England with 'tier two' restrictions, or Scotland, you can only go with your own household or support bubble.
- In other areas of the UK, holidays are either advised against or banned (or will soon be banned), regardless of how many households were due to go.
If your holiday is to and from a permitted area, but would break the rules because the travellers are from multiple households, CMA guidance suggests you'd be owed a refund (though it's not completely clear-cut and there are no guarantees).
When we checked back in September, all the major UK firms we've spoken to said they would pay out – see more details in our Social gatherings of more than six banned – your refund rights MSE News story. We're checking if this remains the case and will update this guide when we know more.
Right now, the situation with travel insurance is complex – different policies offer different levels of cover, and there are lots of different scenarios under consideration. Here are the key need-to-knows if you've already got travel insurance and booked your holiday:
- Cancellation due to coronavirus travel restrictions MAY be covered – but it's likely this will only be the case if your insurance was taken out and holiday booked before mid-March. If you took out your policy and booked your holiday before the FCO warned against all non-essential travel in March, most (though not all) insurers should cover you for cancellation due to coronavirus travel restrictions or disruption as long as an FCO warning remains in place for your destination. (You'll be expected to try for a refund from your airline or travel firm first though.)
The same should apply if the FCO lifts its travel warning but then reimposes it before you're due to travel.
If you either took out your policy or booked your holiday after the FCO warning was put in place in mid-March, you're much less likely to be covered for any kind of coronavirus travel restrictions or disruption. It's worth noting though that Nationwide's FlexPlus packaged bank account does now offer coronavirus cancellation cover on new trips in some circumstances, so if you've recently taken that cover and have since booked a new trip, you may also have protection for future cancellation – see more in our Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
- Some policies MAY cover cancellation even if there's no FCO warning when you're due to travel. It's not just about the FCO travel advice – even if the FCO warning has been lifted when you travel, your trip could still be disrupted, leaving you needing to claim. So it's also worth checking whether your policy covers cancellation if there's no FCO advisory but either your flight or hotel is cancelled, and you can't travel as a result. Some policies do cover this, other's don't – for a rough idea, see our insurer-by-insurer info below.
- Some polices MAY cover cancellation due to coronavirus illness. Some policies may also cover you for cancellation if you – or, in some cases, a family member – get coronavirus before you're due to travel. This is more likely to be the case if you took out your policy and booked your holiday before mid-March, but in some cases newer policies and more recent bookings may also be covered, depending on your insurer.
- Non-coronavirus cancellation will LIKELY be covered by your policy. In most cases, regardless of when you got your policy or booked your holiday, travel insurance will cover you for cancellation of a holiday which isn't related to coronavirus – for instance if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel.
One exception to this though can be if you book a holiday while an FCO travel warning is in place for your destination. If you do that, some insurers won't cover non-coronavirus cancellation until the FCO warning is lifted. Others, such as Nationwide, say they will, so it depends on your policy.
- If an FCO warning is in place at the time of your trip, you're UNLIKELY to be covered by your insurance if you decide to travel anyway. Many insurers warn that travelling when the FCO advises against it can invalidate your cover – so it's usually a bad idea, as you won't be protected while you're away.
There are a few exceptions though, and your insurance may also remain valid if your trip's deemed 'essential' – the FCO warning is only against non-essential travel. So if in doubt, check with your insurer.
Millions of regular travellers have annual policies covering all their trips away. When these lapse, they just get a new one. So a June trip, booked in January, may be covered by one annual policy up until say April, and a second one starting the next day. Normally that's no problem, but this year...
- Travel insurers stopped offering coronavirus cancellation cover after it was declared a pandemic in mid-March.
- The company you usually claim from is the one which covers you when the issue that stops you going occurs. With coronavirus, it's tough to define when that is.
However, the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed to us that if you had an annual policy before mid-March and renew with the same insurer after that, you SHOULD still be covered for coronavirus issues (as long as you were covered before you renew). All the insurers we've spoken to – including all those listed in the table below – have confirmed this. So if you're rejected, go to the Financial Ombudsman and argue the firm isn't following "standard industry practice".
It's more difficult if you switch insurer at renewal. Normally that's a good MoneySaving idea, but this year – as we've warned above – if you move to a new annual policy after the mid-March cut-off it won't provide cover for coronavirus cancellation. In that case, you may sadly find you're not covered for coronavirus cancellation by either your old policy or the new.
Some insurers (eg, Admiral, Churchill and Direct Line) tell us you may be able to claim on your old policy in this scenario, for the amount you paid towards the holiday while the old policy was in effect. Others say no, in which case complain and then go to the ombudsman, arguing "the policy was in place when the Foreign Office advised against travel indefinitely".
Here's a table of what different insurers told us in response to the following specific scenario: "A customer had an annual policy with them ending in May 2020, then took out a different policy with a different insurer. The customer had booked a holiday in January 2020 for August 2020. Assuming the new policy won't cover coronavirus cancellation, can they claim on the old, now-expired policy?"
Insurer Response AA Waiting to hear back Admiral Yes, as long as the FCO advice remained consistent and wasn't withdrawn then reinstated (1) Aviva No – but can cancel trip 31 days in advance if policy is active (2) Axa No Churchill Yes, as long as the FCO advice remained consistent and wasn't withdrawn then reinstated (1) Direct Line Yes, as long as the FCO advice remained consistent and wasn't withdrawn then reinstated (1)
Leisure Guard Yes, as long as the FCO advice remained consistent and wasn't withdrawn then reinstated (1)
LV Waiting to hear back Planet Earth Yes, as long as the FCO advice remained consistent and wasn't withdrawn then reinstated (1)
- Travel insurers stopped offering coronavirus cancellation cover after it was declared a pandemic in mid-March.
If you don't have a holiday booked, then there's little benefit in renewing your policy, as you only get the coronavirus continuity on holidays that were in place before mid-March.
Major travel insurers, including Axa, Churchill and Direct Line, are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who've ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you'll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you're certain you no longer need the cover.
Importantly, you can only do this if you haven't already made a claim on your policy. Only consider doing this if you don't have any travel still booked and if you've sorted a refund for any trips that have been cancelled, as once you've cancelled your travel insurance, it obviously won't give you any further protection.
And if you think you might want to book a trip in the near future, consider carefully if it's worth keeping your policy anyway – getting new travel insurance can be tricky at the moment, with many providers no longer taking on new customers.
If you booked your insurance within the last 14 days, then as usual you've the right to cancel the policy under 'cooling off' rules – though firms can charge an administration fee. For other policies, your chances of getting a refund depend on the insurer and whether your cover is annual or single trip.
To give you an idea of what insurers are doing, here's what some of the big firms told us back in April – though their policy may have changed since then, so it's worth checking directly (unless otherwise stated, the info for each insurer in the table below applies to all its policies):
Insurer Annual policies – can I get a refund?
Single-trip policies – can I get a refund or change the dates? Admiral Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, pro-rata refund for cover not used (calculated by days left on the cover) or can amend travel dates up to 365 days from date policy first bought Allianz Assistance No Yes, full refund or can amend travel dates Aviva No Yes, pro-rata refund for cover not used (based on length of policy still to run) Axa Direct Yes if bought before 13 March 2020 – pro-rata refund for total number of days left on the policy if it hasn't been used. No if bought on or after 13 March 2020 Yes if bought before 13 March 2020 – can get up to 65% refunded or amend travel dates if the policy hasn't been used. No if bought on or after 13 March 2020 Churchill Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, can amend travel dates – can cover a trip up to 550 days from date policy first bought Co-op Yes, pro-rata refund based on date policy taken out and also other factors, eg, whether the policy has been travelled on Possibly – you "may" be entitled to a partial refund Direct Line Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, can amend travel dates – can cover a trip up to 550 days from date policy first bought LV Waiting to hear back Possibly – you can get a refund "in most cases" (we've asked for this to be clarified)
More Than No Yes, can get a full refund or amend travel dates to any date up to a year in the future Saga Possibly, on a "case-by-case basis" Possibly, on a "case-by-case basis" Table last updated 27 April 2020.
Insurance is about unexpected eventualities. Within that there are the usual likely known eventualities, such as illness or lost luggage. Then there are the unknown eventualities, like Icelandic volcanoes or pandemics. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict whether insurers will pay out in different circumstances.
Yet it's important to understand insurers are covered by the financial 'treating customers fairly' rules, which mean if you don't think it has been fair, you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn't, you can then go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate.
Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing then tell the ombudsman.
Under the NHS's Test and Trace system, you may be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days if you've been in contact with a person who has coronavirus.
If you are told to do this, you'll be asked not to leave your home for any reason, and so, if you had travel booked during this period, you wouldn't be able to go.
In that case, if you have a travel insurance policy that doesn't exclude coronavirus as a medical condition (this will be the case with most policies taken out before mid-March, but double-check), then the Association of British Insurers says it expects insurers to pay out to cover the trip.
And it also adds that you may risk invalidating your policy cover if you travel despite being advised to self-isolate, because your policy may insist that you abide by Government advice.
On 10 March 2020, we asked a number of big insurers what their policies are on cancellation due to coronavirus. What they told us is outlined in the table below, though only use this as a very rough guide, as it will vary by policy and may have changed over time.
Where we've been told an insurer has changed its policy we've updated the table, but the info below may not be fully up-to-date. We've left it in to give you a general idea of what insurers have told us, but ALWAYS check your cover directly with your insurer.
Scenario Is my policy valid if I travel when the FCO advises against all but essential travel? If the FCO advises against travel after I've bought the policy, can I get travel/accommodation costs back? If there's no FCO warning and my flight's cancelled, can I claim back hotel and other costs (eg, car hire)? If there's no FCO warning and my hotel's cancelled, can I claim back flight and other costs (eg, car hire)? AA (1) Only if your travel's essential Yes Only if you have travel disruption cover Only if you have a policy with the level of cover to cancel or cut short a trip in the event of a catastrophe Admiral (2) No Yes Yes No Allianz Assistance (3) No No No No Aviva (4) Yes Only with travel disruption add-on Yes No Axa (5) Only if your travel's essential Yes Only if you have travel disruption cover Depends on circumstances Churchill Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes Coverwise (5) No Yes No No Co-op (6) Only if your travel's essential Yes Yes No Direct Line Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes Halifax Only if your travel's essential
Depends on circumstances
Leisure Guard (7) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No LV Only if your travel's essential Only with the Premier policy Only with the Premier policy No Nationwide Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes Planet Earth (8) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No Post Office (9) No Maybe Maybe No Virgin Money (10)
Depends on policy
If you are one of the many who had to postpone your 2020 holiday and rearrange it for later this year or 2021, you might find that you can still use your current travel insurance policy. To move the insurance dates, or extend your annual travel insurance policy, you will need get in touch with your insurer. But in short:
- If you have a single trip policy, you may still be covered if you take the holiday within a year of the original travel date. For single-trip policies, the re-arranged holiday would need to be within 365 days of the original departure date to do this.
- Got an annual policy? You might be able to extend it by up to three months. There is some flexibility for annual travel insurance policies, with many insurers giving the option to suspend the policy for three months, or get an extra three months of cover. For example, if you moved your holiday to February next year, and your travel insurance policy ends December 2020, you might be able to extend it to March next year.
- It won't cost you anything as long as your holiday is like-for-like, just at a different date. If your rearranged holiday is to a new destination seen as 'riskier', or for a longer trip, it is likely you will be asked to pay extra, eg, if you decide to swap your week in Spain for 10 days in South Africa.
- Your cover stays the same except for the coronavirus cover. While your original travel insurance policy might have included cancellation cover if the FCO advice was not to travel due to coronavirus, it is likely you will lose this cover for any extension period of an annual policy or a rearranged single-trip policy. But you should still be covered if you need to cancel because you or a family member is diagnosed with coronavirus before you go (many give this, but not all). Plus when you are on holiday, you will still have medical cover, including repatriation, if you need medical help abroad due to coronavirus.
Everything else will stay the same – so, for instance, if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel, your usual cover will remain in place.
- You can ONLY move your policy if it's due to FCO advice or travel disruptions (eg, local lockdown). If your holiday has been rearranged because you no longer want to go this year, it may not be possible to change the insurance dates (as it will be viewed as disinclination to travel) but it is always worth asking.
- If you can't extend it, you might be able to get a refund instead. Many travel insurers are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who've ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you'll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you're certain you no longer need the cover. Importantly, you can only do this if you haven't already made a claim on your policy. For more, see our Can I get a refund? section.
Here is a table showing what some insurers will let you do if you need to move your holiday because your original holiday has been cancelled. If your insurer is not listed, and you have feedback to share, let us know.
Which insurers will let you change your policy to your new travel dates?
|Single-trip policy||Annual-trip policy|
|Leisure Guard (3)||Yes||Yes|
(1) If purchased from 1 Jan - 14 Jul 2020, a three-month extension added. The extension will also apply for renewing customers up until 10 Aug.
(3) Applicable to Leisure Guard policies purchased before 18 Jun 2020.
We always say get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you Book). Normally that's because if you leave getting insurance until just before you travel, you're not covered for anything that happens before the point you get it which stops you going – thus you've waved off half the value of the cover.
After the FCO warned against all non-essential travel in mid-March, many insurers stopped selling new policies altogether and we had to pull our travel insurance best buys as a result. Yet a few are now offering cover again – dirt-cheap prices have gone, so prices are higher, but it's still affordable.
Until recently, the only travel insurance policies which would cover your holiday being cancelled if the Foreign Office were again to warn against travel were those taken out pre-pandemic for holidays booked pre-pandemic. Nationwide says its FlexPlus packaged bank account will do it too, even for new customers, provided the warning wasn't in place when you booked the holiday or got the insurance, whichever is later.
However, be warned – from 1 January 2021, Nationwide's travel insurance cover will change. While its insurance cover remains top-of-the-range, if you book a holiday after 1 January you won't then be covered if you need to cancel for a Covid-related reason, including:
- If you or a travelling companion have been told to self-isolate but don't actually have Covid-19.
- If the Foreign Office is advising against all travel or all but essential travel to your destination.
- If your pre-booked accommodation goes into local lockdown.
- If you, or a close relative, were suffering from coronavirus when you booked the trip.
Even if you're struggling to get a policy that'll cover coronavirus cancellation, it's still worth getting insurance ASAB (As Soon As you Book) if planning a trip – or ASAP if you've already booked one. There are a whole host of reasons you might need to claim which are nothing to do with coronavirus – for example, if other illness or a bereavement stops you travelling, or you have something stolen while abroad.
For full help on travel insurance, including what policies taken out now will cover and our top picks, see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
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