MSE News

Coronavirus Travel Rights

Holiday refunds, travel insurance cover and more

Coronavirus Travel Rights

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has devastated travel around the globe, and brought overseas holidays to a halt, although the Government is now starting to lift some travel restrictions. To help, we've been working flat out to answer your questions on travel insurance, cancelling and booking holidays, and much 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 news@moneysavingexpert.com (though unfortunately we can't respond to every email).

The Government is starting to lift some travel restrictions

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 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 since March, it's been advising against all but essential travel to ALL overseas destinations.

However, that warning has been lifted for some countries – including France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and others – from Saturday 4 July. For the very latest, see the FCO coronavirus travel advice.

Right now most people entering the UK – including returning Brits – must self-isolate for 14 days. However, that's also due to change for those entering England from some other countries on Friday 10 July. For full info on the changes to both Foreign Office advice and England quarantine rules, see our Government to start lifting travel restrictions MSE News story.

While there are some signs of travel resuming, the situation globally still remains uncertain, with many countries having closed their borders or restricting travel. See more below on entry restrictions imposed by the top 10 holiday destinations.

Which countries can you visit?

The Government has made two major changes to travel in the past week:

  • No FCO advice against travel for some countries. The FCO has now exempted a list of countries from its warning against all non-essential travel. It says these destinations have been assessed as "no longer presenting an unacceptably high risk" – so it's no longer advising against travel there.

  • No quarantine required upon return for some countries. From 10 July, holidaymakers returning to England from a list of more than 50 countries and territories will no longer be required to self-isolate.

But the two separate lists don't entirely match up, meaning there are some countries the FCO says you can travel to, but will have to quarantine on your return to the UK, and there are some countries the FCO is still advising against travel to, but if you DO go, you won't have to quarantine on your return (if you're arriving in England).

To add more confusion, not all the countries listed on either or both of these lists actually allow Brits in, and some that do will force you to quarantine on arrival.

No-hassle countries that you can visit

To make it easy for you here’s our list of no-hassle places to visit – none of these have any of the restrictions mentioned above, meaning the FCO is no longer advising against travel there, you won't have to quarantine when you come back to England and the country is allowing Brits in and won't require a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival (though some will make you do a test on arrival and quarantine if it's positive).

These are the countries we understand fit the above criteria as of when we last checked - we will be adding to this list as we go on (do note that things are changing rapidly so always check before you book AND before you travel):

Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Poland, Reunion, San Marino, Serbia, South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, Spain, St Lucia, Switzerland, Turkey.

See more below on entry restrictions imposed by the top 10 holiday destinations.

  • Countries and territories exempt from Foreign Office advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel but NOT exempt from 14-day quarantine when returning to England (they may also have restrictions on entry themselves): Brunei, Estonia, Latvia, Malaysia, Martinique, Portugal (only The Azores and Madeira), Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Wallis and Futuna.

    Countries and territories exempt from 14-day quarantine when returning to England but NOT exempt from FCO advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel (they may also have restrictions on entry themselves): Aruba, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, Curaçao, Dominica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Mauritius, New Caledonia, Seychelles, St Barthélemy, Vatican City State.

    There are some confusion here because the lists are presented in different ways. We're clarifying with the Foreign Office as to whether some of the discrepancies come from this presentation (for example, if the reason the FCO and Department for Transport don't mention the Vatican City is because it includes it within its 'Italy' exemption).

    Places currently on both lists (though we haven't been able to confirm that they won't place restrictions on entry, so see the 'hassle free' list above for those that won't): Australia, Barbados, Cyprus, Dominica, Finland, French Polynesia, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Macao, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, St Kitts and Nevis, St Pierre and Miquelon, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vietnam.

  • If your journey involves a transit stop in a country not on the list of those exempt from quarantine restrictions, you will need to self-isolate on your return to England in certain circumstances.

    A 'transit' stop is a stop where passengers can get on or off. It can apply to coaches, ferries, trains or flights. 

    You will need to following restrictions if you transit in one of these countries and:

    • new passengers get on
    • you or other passengers get off the transport you are on and mix with other people, then get on again

Not got travel insurance? New policies won't now cover coronavirus cancellation

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.

When coronavirus first started affecting global travel, we warned that if you had a holiday booked but no insurance, it was vital to get it sorted ASAP. Unfortunately, if you haven't sorted it yet, it's now too late to get insurance which covers cancellation due to coronavirus travel disruption or restrictions – insurers stopped selling that kind of cover in mid-March.

Travel insurance is available again – buy it ASAB if planning a trip, though it won't cover coronavirus cancellation

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.

 

New policies won't cover cancellation due to coronavirus travel disruption or restrictions, but 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.

 

It's also worth noting that while new policies won't cover cancellation due to coronavirus travel disruption or restrictions, some may cover you if you or a family member catches coronavirus before you travel and you have to cancel as a result. See full info, including our new top picks, in the updated Cheap Travel Insurance guide.

I've already bought insurance and booked a holiday – am I covered?

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 only 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 WON'T be covered for any kind of coronavirus travel restrictions or disruption.

  • 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, then some insurers, eg, Leisure Guard, say you won't be covered for non-coronavirus cancellation until the FCO warning is lifted. Others, such as Nationwide, say you will be, 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.
Quick questions
  • 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, AdmiralChurchill 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?"

    Can customers claim for coronavirus cancellation on expired policies?

    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)

    1) You can only claim for the costs paid before the policy ended. So if you paid a deposit before the policy ended and the rest of the sum afterwards, you can only claim the deposit back.

    2) Customers need to have a policy in force if they want to cancel the trip and can only cancel a trip (if they have the relevant travel disruption cover and there is FCO advice in place) if it is within the next 31 days.

  • 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.

  • Travel insurers that we've spoken to have generally said if you don't want a voucher for a cancelled holiday and are legally due a refund, you must pursue all other avenues to get that refund (with some specifying that this would even include taking legal action) before they'll let you claim.

    While it's worth trying to pursue the cash by other means first, if you've hit a dead end you may want to try claiming from your insurer anyway. Insurers obviously want to avoid paying out when they can, but it's possible they may pay out on a case-by-case basis if you're done what you can to get a refund and not been able to get one. Here's what we'd try if you know you're due a refund but have only been offered a voucher:

    1. Demand a refund directly from your travel provider. Try calling them or contacting them on a live chat option and quote the relevant laws if you can. For example, if a package holiday's cancelled you should be entitled to a full refund within two weeks under the Package Travel Regulations.

    2. Try claiming from your card provider under chargeback (or Section 75). If the above fails, go to your card provider and ask to do a chargeback request.

      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.

      Do 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.

    3. Try claiming from your insurer (and take it to the ombudsman if you're not successful). At this stage, if you haven't got your cash back, you can argue you've tried the avenues reasonably available to you and been unable to get a refund, so it's worth trying to claim from your insurer. Try and provide evidence of the steps you've already taken to get a refund. If it won't accept your claim and you think you've been treated unfairly, you can try escalating your case to the Financial Ombudsman.

    4. If all else fails, 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.

    If you DO accept a voucher and rebook your holiday, if you had an existing single-trip policy it should cover the new trip, though do let them know and check it does, and be aware you probably WON'T be covered for coronavirus cancellation. With annual policies, ask your insurer if it'll extend your policy if it doesn't already cover the dates of your new trip.

  • 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):

    Which travel insurers are issuing refunds for unused 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.

    Which insurers will cover you if your travel is affected by coronavirus?

    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 (6) Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes
    Coverwise (5) No Yes No No
    Co-op (7) Only if your travel's essential Yes Yes No
    Direct Line (8) Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes
    Halifax Only if your travel's essential

    Yes 

    Yes

    Depends on circumstances

    Leisure Guard (9) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No
    LV (10) 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 (11) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No
    Post Office (12) No Maybe Maybe No
    Virgin Money (13)

    Yes

    Yes

    Depends on policy

    Case-by-case basis

    (1) The AA is no longer quoting for single-trip policies covering France, Italy or Spain. Customers who previously got quotes and are within their 30-day 'quote guarantee period' can still purchase their policy, while policies already purchased will be honoured. Annual multi-trip policies for Europe will cover France, Italy and Spain as normal. The AA also says any new policy purchased after 3pm on 13 March 2020, or any new trip booked after 3pm on 13 March 2020 under an existing annual multi-trip policy, will not cover any cancellation claim in relation to coronavirus.

    (2) Admiral has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (3) Allianz Assistance warns customers: "Be aware that financial losses as a result of epidemics or pandemics are not covered under most policies."

    (4) Aviva has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (5) Axa and Coverwise say that any new policy purchased, or any new trip booked, that is covered by an existing annual multi-trip policy after 9am on 13 March 2020 will not cover any cancellation claim in relation to coronavirus.

    (6) Churchill has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (7) Co-op has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (8) Direct Line has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (9) This info doesn't apply to older Leisure Guard policies purchased before 12 September 2019 – for info on these policies, contact Leisure Guard. Leisure Guard also says that for any policy issued from 11.59pm on 13 March 2020 there will be no cover provided for any claim directly or indirectly caused by, arising or resulting from, or in connection with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) or any mutation of the disease.

    (10) LV has temporarily paused offering policies to new customers.

    (11) Planet Earth has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (12) Post Office has paused offering policies to new customers.

    (13) Virgin Money has paused offering policies to new customers.

I've got a trip booked – can I cancel and get a refund?

If you've booked a future trip, then your right to cancel and get a refund depends very much on the latest UK Government travel advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which is what insurers and airlines generally take their cue from.

Important. DON'T rush to cancel your trip yourself

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.

Got a trip planned imminently? You may be due a refund – check

Since mid-March, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been warning UK nationals against all non-essential travel overseas, but this warning has now been lifted (as of Saturday 4 July) for some countries (though 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 came into place. They can also be a factor in airlines and other holiday firms deciding whether they should cancel your trip, though levels of demand and the situation overseas are also factors.

Here are the key need-to-knows about refunds if you're due to travel imminently:

  • Many holidays and flights departing imminently have been cancelled, in which case the holiday firm or airline should give you a full refund. In some cases you may have to fight for it though, as some are only offering vouchers.

  • If your flight or holiday is still running and you have insurance, it may cover you. 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. 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.

  • The situation is changing – and you may soon be less likely to get a refund if you don't want to go.  Airlines and travel firms are restarting travel, and from early July cancellations will become less common – particularly as the FCO warning's been lifted for many countries as of Saturday 4 July. If your trip's not cancelled, you won't be due a refund from your travel firm. And if there's no FCO warning in place for your destination when you're due to travel, you're also much less likely to be able to claim on insurance if you have it.

Of course, for many those developments 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. See more on refund rights for trips booked further ahead below.

  • The Foreign Office is advising Brits against all non-essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions, though this was lifted on Saturday 4 July for some countries. It says that all countries may restrict travel without notice, so you should avoid travelling if you can.

    This doesn't mean you need to cancel trips booked to places where the advisory is not being lifted if the trips are booked in the future though, 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.

I've booked a summer holiday, but not paid in full yet – should I pay the balance? 

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:

  1. If the Foreign Office lifts its travel warning for a destination you're travelling to and you chose not to travel, you likely won't be covered by insurance.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Got a trip planned for later in the year? It's complicated...

The FCO has warned against all non-essential travel since March, thought this has been lifted for some countries as of Saturday 4 July. If you're travelling to a destination where the restriction has been lifted, it may well go ahead, and you likely won't get a refund, but if you're travelling to a country where the restriction hasn't been lifted, it'll likely be cancelled.

If there's no FCO warning in place at the point you're due to travel, you almost certainly won't be able to get the money back on your insurance, as the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says travel insurance "is not designed to cover disinclination to travel where the FCO advice has not changed to advise against travel". None of the insurers we've checked with will cover you if you cancel in this scenario.

Some airlines, hotels and other travel firms WILL now let you cancel or rebook

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.

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 cancellation and rebooking rights

Airline (and link to full info) Cancellation and rebooking policy
British Airways Can cancel any flight due to take place before 31 Aug 2020 and get voucher valid for 2yrs – but see BA update below
Easyjet Has temporarily waived flight change fees – so anyone with an existing or future booking can move it to another date
Jet2 All flights before 15 Jul 2020 cancelled – it's contacting customers with their options
Norwegian Can waive the flight change fee for LowFare, LowFare+ and Premium tickets (excluding bookings for domestic flights within Norway only) booked up to 31 Jul 2020 
Ryanair From 10 Jun 2020, no change fee if you move July and August bookings up until 31 Dec 2020
Virgin Atlantic Customers with flights booked between 12 Jun 2020 and 30 Sep 2020 can rebook up until 30 Sep 2022

Hotel and package holiday cancellation and rebooking rights

Company (and link to full info) Cancellation and rebooking policy
Accor Guests who booked a non-flex rate direct for travel until 30 Sep 2020 can change booking without fees.
Airbnb Allowed reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 Mar 2020, with a check-in date between 14 Mar and 31 May 2020, to be cancelled before check-in. We've asked if this is now being continued beyond 31 May 2020
Best Western No specific details – says its hotels, which are independently owned, have been encouraged to show "empathy and flexibility"
First Choice Customers with hols booked up to 31 Aug 2020 can make free amendments to their bookings online until 30 Jun 2020
Jet2 Holidays All hols before 15 Jul 2020 cancelled – it'll contact customers with a list of options
Marriott International For existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with prepaid rates, it'll allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours before arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by 5 Jul 2020
Tui

Customers with hols booked up to 31 Aug 2020 can make free amendments to their bookings online until 30 Jun 2020

  • 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 1 September 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.

    If you are booked to travel from 13 March 2020 until 7 September 2020 and you wish to postpone your trip to a later date, you can request an e-voucher which will give you the flexibility to 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. You'll need to make the new booking by 30 September 2020, for travel at any time up to March 2021.

BA's letting many cancel flights in exchange for a voucher – but think carefully before accepting

British Airways is now allowing anyone who has a flight booked up until 31 August 2020 which hasn't yet been cancelled to cancel it for free and claim a voucher for its value, which can be used on future bookings. 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 an non-cancelled flight, BA has confirmed you lose your right to a refund. So if you want cash, you're likely better off to hold on and see if it cancels.

Now of course BA is our flag-carrying airline and the Government is unlikely to let it fail. So hopefully these vouchers have value, and BA does need support – the firm is talking about 12,000 potential redundancies (which sadly brings into sharp focus the trade-off between individuals' pockets and employment and the economy).

Therefore, 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 the Foreign Office lifts its warning against all non-essential travel, a voucher gives flexibility.

But as these are price-based vouchers, not vouchers for identical flights, there's no guarantee you'll get a decent deal, and you could be better off flying with another airline – in which case, financially at least, cash wins.

Important. Travel firms' call centres are swamped right now, so weigh up when's best to call

As you'd expect, airlines, package holiday firms, travel insurers and more are dealing with a massive volume of queries at the moment.

If your trip's not for a few months, you may want to wait to get in touch, though of course there's always a risk things could change in the meantime, as this is such as fast-moving situation. If your trip's imminent, you're abroad right now or you need urgent assistance, unfortunately you may not be prepared to wait.

More refund questions

  • 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."

  • A number of major events around the world have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak – these include Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

    If you bought flights, accommodation and tickets for the event separately, unfortunately you're unlikely to have much protection if the event is cancelled but there's no FCO warning about travel to the area. Try speaking to the airline, hotel and event provider to see what they can offer you.

    But if you bought your trip as a package, there's a chance you may be able to get a refund. Under the Package Travel Regulations, if a tour operator makes a 'significant change' to the original arrangements, you aren't obliged to accept the alternative and are entitled to a full refund of the package price.

    What constitutes a 'significant change' is slightly ambiguous, of course – but if you've bought a package pegged on a particular event and that event is cancelled, meaning you no longer want to travel, it's worth requesting a refund.

    Can I claim on my insurance?

    If you've booked to go to a specific event in an area where there is no FCO advice not to travel and the event is cancelled, it's very unlikely you'll be able to claim for your consequential losses, such as travel and accommodation, if you no longer wish to travel.

    We've put this scenario to several insurers, and almost all have told us you won't be covered – see our insurer-by-insurer information above for full details.

  • 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.

  • Many cruise lines have cancelled trips or altered their itineraries to avoid stopping at ports in affected areas.

    For example, several cruise firms have suspended all new cruises until mid to late June 2020, having previously modified some sailings.

    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.

Are you due a refund from UK holiday firms?

Many are also worried about holidays and other travel they've booked within the UK. The UK Government has issued guidance saying people should avoid travelling within the UK and shouldn't visit holiday or second homes, campsites and caravan parks.

The restriction against staying in holiday accommodation is due to be relaxed though – on Saturday 4 July in England, on Saturday 11 July in Wales (though this is subject to review) and on Wednesday 15 July in Scotland (though self-catering holiday accommodation with no shared facilities was allowed to reopen in Scotland on Friday 3 July).

While customers of some UK holiday firms, such as Center Parcs, are getting full refunds when their trips are cancelled, many who've booked with others have complained to us that they've been unable to get cash back. We've had 100s of complaints from holidaymakers in the past weeks and months who say they've only been offered a new booking or a voucher instead – and we've briefed Trading Standards and the Government on what we've been told.

We'd previously received lots of complaints about UK holiday providers Hoseasons and Sykes Cottages, but both have now backtracked and changed their coronavirus booking policies. This means you should now be able to get a full cash refund if your booking couldn't go ahead due to Government restrictions. See our Hoseasons and Sykes Cottages MSE News stories for full details.

But if you're still struggling to get a refund from another firm, it's always best to see what the company itself will do before pushing hard – not everyone gets the same answer.

In general though, with all UK holiday firms, what your legal rights are depends on how you booked.

  • If you did this, then you have the same rights as if you booked a package holiday abroad. You are entitled to get all your money back within two weeks of any cancellations. See more information here.

    Put simply, a package holiday is a combination of various different travel services, such as accommodation, car hire, transport, or a tourist service – such as a trip to a landmark – booked as one.

    You'll know you booked a package holiday if your travel company:

    • Has asked you to pay a single price through a single payment.
    • Has let you select a combination of services – such as a flight and hotel – before you agreed to pay for them.
    • Charged you an inclusive or total price for all the services you bought.
    • Advertised or sold the travel services to you as a package or similar term.
    • Sold you one travel service, and then transferred your details – including your payment details – to another company, which you then booked another travel service through within the space of 24 hours.
  • If you just booked accommodation, the rules are more complicated. In fact, being honest there are no hard and fast rules or regulations governing it, other than standard consumer and contractual law, and therein lies the problem.

    Exactly what you're entitled to is likely to depend on the precise wording of your contract – even Trading Standards tell us this area is very "woolly" in terms of the law.

    So before you do anything, it's worth thinking about whether you'd be willing to take the vouchers. Remember, travel firms are struggling at the moment – they may not even have the cash to provide all the refunds. So pushing hard could push them into administration, and there's a knock-on effect on their employees – it's a fine line. If you do want to push for cash, here's what we'd suggest, but there are no hard and fast rules:

    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.

    This complaint is far more powerful if you've seen in your contract a term that specifies you're entitled to a refund in this situation – if so, quote the T&Cs clearly when you contact the firm.

    It's also worth noting that on 30 April 2020, watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into firms which fail to give customers proper refunds for coronavirus-related cancellations. It says it would usually expect customers to be given a full refund if restrictions mean a service can't be provided or accessed, or if a firm cancels without providing the goods or service – so you could use this to argue for a refund.

    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 reports 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 news@moneysavingexpert.com.

  • Holiday company Center Parcs has said that its UK parks will be reopening from Monday 13 July, but some facilities – such as its 'Subtropical Swimming Paradise' and 'Aqua Sana' – will initially stay closed.

    It says it'll contact you no later than one week before your break to let you know what facilities are available and that it'll still offer you the chance to rearrange your holiday or cancel and get a refund if you're not happy.

Top 10 summer hols destinations – where will they let you in?

The Foreign Office's warning against non-essential travel was lifted for some countries as of Saturday 4 July, and England's quarantine requirements are also being relaxed. Yet even if there are no UK travel restrictions, there's still the issue of whether the country you're going to will let you in or make you quarantine when you arrive.

The table below shows the top 10 holiday destinations according to ABTA, and the latest info we have for each on entry requirements. Always check for yourself though before travelling or planning travel, as this is a fast-moving situation – if you spot something in the table that needs updating, let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com.

Top holiday destinations for Brits – will they let you in?

Country Entry restrictions Quarantine requirements
Spain Open now to tourists from UK, most of the EU and some others from outside the EU. All arrivals must provide contact details and undergo a temperature check. None
France Open to tourists from UK and much of Europe as well as certain countries from outside Europe. Travellers from elsewhere can only enter if the journey's essential, they have an international travel certificate and no coronavirus symptoms. Yes for some, but only voluntary. Arrivals from some countries incl the UK – but not the EU & some other countries – are asked to 'voluntarily' self-quarantine for 14 days. 
USA Closed to tourists coming from UK and many other countries. No entry if you've been in the UK (or some other countries, incl much of Europe) 14 days before travel (except US citizens and a few other exceptions).
Yes. Everyone arriving must self-isolate for 14 days.
Italy Open to tourists from UK, EU and some other countries. This applies to the mainland, Sardinia and Sicily.  None for arrivals from UK. Though some arrivals from elsewhere may need to isolate for 14 days.
Germany Open now to tourists from UK, EU and some non-EU countries. Travellers from elsewhere can only enter with a valid reason (though the list for this is broad, eg, 'seeing family') and you'll need to carry documents to prove this. None for arrivals from UK, EU and certain non-EU countries. Arrivals from elsewhere must quarantine for 14 days.
Greece Open now to most tourists from the EU and some non-EU countries – but not from UK, Turkey or Sweden until 15 July. All Greek airports, some sea ports and one land border (through Bulgaria) are now open.  Yes for some. If arriving from a 'high-risk' airport, you'll be tested on arrival and must stay overnight at a designated, paid-for hotel to await results. Those who test positive must quarantine for 14 days.
Portugal Open now to tourists arriving by air. Plus, the land border with Spain is now open. You can't disembark from a cruise ship on the mainland or in Madeira. None on the mainland. In the Azores and Madeira, you must either provide a negative test in order to avoid quarantine, or take a test on arrival and quarantine for 48 hours awaiting the result.
The Netherlands Open to tourists from UK, most of the EU and some non-EU countries. None currently mandatory. But UK and Swedish arrivals must complete a health screening self-declaration form and are strongly advised to quarantine for 14 days.
Turkey Open now to all tourists. None for most, but all arrivals will be tested for coronavirus and anyone with a positive result will be referred to a private hospital.
Croatia Open to tourists from EU countries (incl UK) without restrictions. All other foreign nationals may enter if they can show proof of business or tourism purpose, eg, accommodation booking confirmation. None for EU or UK tourists. Mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from some non-EU Balkan countries, eg, Serbia.

When are airlines restarting flights – and what are their rules on social distancing, masks etc?

Several major airlines have now restarted flights, with more due to do so in the coming weeks, as restrictions put in place due to the pandemic are gradually relaxed. (Crucially, once airlines restart flights they're no longer obliged to offer you a refund - you can try going to your travel insurer, but whether you can get money back likely depends on whether an FCO warning is still in place at the time you're due to travel.)  

Airlines are putting new rules in place 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 be updating this table in the coming days as more info becomes available:

How airlines will restart flights and protect passengers

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 from Heathrow. Many short-haul and a small number of long-haul routes will be added by end of July Yes, must bring your own No, though queuing discouraged No, but you're asked to limit movement in cabin Multiple changes incl food & drink not avail to buy on short-haul flights (see full info)
Easyjet Some (mainly within UK) already running. Package holidays abroad to restart from 1 Aug 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 Some already running Yes, masks provided No  No Offering ltd menu (see full info)
Jet2 15 Jul Yes, must bring your own Being decided currently Being decided currently Being decided currently
KLM Some already running 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. More to be added in July, date TBC Yes, must bring your own
No No, but gaps left between groups where poss No food or drink service
Qatar Airways Some already running. Will expand to 65+ destinations by mid Jul Yes, must bring your own
Waiting for reply No, but gaps encouraged where possible on lighter-load flights Waiting for reply
Ryanair Some already running 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 Selected routes from 11 Jul Yes, must bring your own No No, but seats assigned apart where poss Pre-order & cashless payments only for food & drink
Virgin Atlantic Some long-haul flights from Heathrow resume 20 Jul. 17 destinations will be added from Aug, flying from Heathrow or Manchester 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

Passport at or nearing expiry? Renew it ASAP

The Passport Office is warning, understandably, 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 services and face-to-face appts are suspended. 

So if you've a trip planned later this summer sort it quickly, 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.  See full info and help in Passport renewals latest.

New. 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 in to a local lockdown (like Leicester currently has) then you’re recommended to stay at home as 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.
 

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 the flight’s running, for example, whether you’re successful will depend on what terms you booked the flight on, and the cancellation and refund policies of the airline.

If you don’t have success with your travel provider(s), you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

You’ll need to check whether you have a travel insurance policy that excludes coronavirus as a medical condition. It’s likely most policies taken out after March will exclude it, but those taken out before March should cover it. Check your insurer’s policy wording to find out. If it’s not excluded, then you may have a claim for cancellation on medical grounds.

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.

My child's school trip has been cancelled – how can I get a refund?

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 news@moneysavingexpert.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.

  • 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.

  • This is where it gets very complicated, and sadly there's no definitive answer currently as there are different opinions circulating.

    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.

What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?

Many airlines and holiday companies are still choosing to proactively cancel trips. If this happens, then in principle you should generally get a full refund – but in some cases that's proving hard in practice.

Many airlines now only offer vouchers via their website – but you DON'T have to accept 'em 

Under EU flight delay rules (which still apply this year despite Brexit, and which cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline), 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.

However, a number of airlines now appear to be pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead.

One clear example of this is Ryanair, which has angered many passengers by sending them vouchers even when they've specifically requested a refund. (As a result, we've urged the Civil Aviation Authority and Trading Standards to investigate – see our Ryanair refunds farce MSE News story). If you're a Ryanair customer looking to get a refund, we've also put together some tricks to try and get a refund.

We were hearing that a lot of customers were having problems getting refunds from Easyjet earlier this month, but now it appears they are offering them via this link.

You're absolutely entitled to a refund in this situation, but enforcing your rights at the moment is the problem. Here's what to try if your airline's not offering a refund online (though for Ryanair, see our Ryanair refund tricks):

1) Consider whether you 100% need a refund, or if you'd be happy with a voucher. At the moment, many airlines are really struggling. This means of course that it's safer to demand a refund rather than settle for a voucher in case the airline collapses before you can use it. But it's also worth considering whether you're in a position to show forbearance.

As MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said earlier this month: "Many organisations are struggling to cope. For those that can afford it, even if you've a right to a full refund for a ticket, if the firm is struggling in a struggling sector and it asks you to take vouchers instead, that's worth considering. That may just be what stops that firm from collapsing and its staff from losing their jobs."

2) Try calling the airline – though there may be long waits. While many airlines are pushing customers to take vouchers online, the big ones we've spoken to (including BA and Easyjet) say they are refunding customers – you just need to call for this to happen. Phone lines are very busy at the moment, which makes it hard to get through and this is understandably putting some off – but the simplest way of getting a refund is to hit the phones and keep at it. If you're not in urgent need of the cash, you could maybe try waiting a little until the phone lines are calmer.

3) If you really can't get through, try chargeback on your card. Chargeback is a type of protection that means if you don't receive the goods you bought, you may be able to get your money back via your debit or credit card provider. It's not a legal protection, so is at your card provider's discretion – but it does cover goods provided, so may well protect you in this scenario. As we revealed, some Ryanair customer service staff have been telling customers that chargeback is "fraudulent activity" and that customers who use it could be blacklisted from flying with the airline. Ryanair has told us this isn't the case. See full Chargeback help

Do 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.

4) As a last resort, complain to the airline – then an ADR scheme if there is one. If you've not had any luck with the above, then you can try filing a formal complaint. (Different airlines have different processes for this, so check what your airline says). In your complaint, make sure you explain what went wrong and clearly state what you want in terms of a refund.

If you don't get a response, or do but it's not what you're after, you can try going to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service if your airline works with one (see which airlines are covered by which ADRs). If your airline's not covered by an ADR, you'll need to escalate your complaint to a regulator instead (for any flights leaving the UK or coming into the UK with a UK or EU airline, that's the Civil Aviation Authority).

Bear in mind that the regulator's decisions aren't necessarily binding, and if you take your case to an ADR and lose, you may have to cover costs – so weigh up if it's really worth it. See more info on how this works in the Flight Delays guide.

If you struggling to get a refund, please let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com (sadly we can't reply to every email).

Note the info on your rights above applies to flights covered by EU law. With other flights, your rights will depend upon the rules of the country which has jurisdiction over the flight – this will vary from country to country.

Package holiday cancelled? Again, you're due cash, not vouchers – but that could change

Currently, package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are entitled to all their money back within two weeks under the Package Travel Regulations.

Yet there are unconfirmed reports from travel expert Simon Calder that the Government might soon agree to changes to the Package Travel Regulations, which could mean companies will be able to issue credit notes instead of giving cash refunds. These credit notes, or vouchers, would enable the holidaymaker to book a new trip within two years. Any customer who does not redeem the voucher can then claim the sum in cash.

We asked the Government about this, and while it didn't confirm any details, it did suggest that an announcement may be made shortly. We'll update this guide as soon as we know more.

  • If you're owed a refund under the Package Travel Regulations, you're technically due the money within two weeks. But Bruce Treloar, lead officer for travel law at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), says that enforcing this at the moment is likely to not be appropriate.

    He said: "Traditional advice and legal remedies are likely to be inappropriate currently. Communication between consumers and businesses is key.

    "CTSI provide business advice to the travel industry, who are appealing for patience as they are unlikely to have sufficient cash available to meet all refund requests, and many are at risk of going out of business. Suppliers based outside of the UK (eg, hotels and cruise lines) are refusing, in many cases, to refund deposits provided by UK business.

    "CTSI do however advise tour operators and holiday companies to keep communicating with their customers about the steps they are taking now and those they intend to take in the future."

    So while in theory you should get a refund, and it should arrive within two weeks, this is unlikely to happen in practice at the moment. It may be advisable to show forbearance and not push the law as far as it can technically go.

Tui's now cancelled trips until 10 July – how to get a refund

Package holiday giant Tui has now cancelled all package holidays that were due to depart up until 10 July 2020 (and holidays to Florida up to 30 November), affecting 100,000s of holidaymakers.

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 have 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.)

It's also worth noting that customers who have a booking between 10 July 2020 and 31 August 2020 can amend to another time. They just have to do it before 30 June 2020.

 

  • 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.

    If you're still having difficulties, let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com. We'll be continuing to keep a close eye on it and will follow up with Tui if needed.

With vouchers you may NOT have protection if the holiday firm later goes bust

With many firms right now giving vouchers rather than refunds for cancelled trips, and huge uncertainty across the whole travel industry, a key question for many is 'what protection do I have if I take a voucher and the firm then collapses?' This isn't a theoretical concern either – Flybe went into administration in early March, and many other airlines have spoken frankly about the challenges they're facing in keeping trading.

At MSE, we're usually very sceptical about vouchers, as they can lose their value overnight if a firm were to go into administration. When Thomas Cook collapsed, for instance, those with gift cards found they were suddenly unable to spend them.

If you do accept a voucher or credit note, there is a chance you could have some protection through the ATOL scheme. If not, you'd be relying on a Section 75 or chargeback claim (see below) – and unfortunately, you're unlikely to get your money back from a voucher through these routes if the firm goes bust.

  • Right now, some holiday firms are issuing a special kind of voucher called a 'refund credit note'. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says refund credit notes, which are issued if an ATOL-protected flight-only booking or package holiday has been cancelled, will likely offer ATOL insolvency protection. That means if you take the voucher and the firm goes bust, you should get a full refund.

    This is a new form of protection introduced for the pandemic, so the Civil Aviation Authority – which runs the ATOL scheme – says it's NOT been tested and isn't 100% guaranteed, but there's a chance you'll have more protection than you'd usually get with vouchers. So if you're offered a voucher, it's worth checking if it's a refund credit note and if that gives you ATOL cover.

    With other vouchers though – whether those which aren't refund credit notes, or refund credit notes which are issued for bookings which never had ATOL protection – you likely won't be covered by ATOL.

  • If you're not covered by ATOL protection and your travel company went bust leaving you with a voucher, the Financial Ombudsman says you may be able to claim from your card provider via Section 75 (if you paid on a credit card and it cost over £100) or the chargeback scheme (for any other card transaction).

    But the likelihood of being able to claim from your card provider in this situation depends on the terms you agreed to when you accepted the voucher – if it's being offered as a "full and final settlement" of your claim against your holiday provider, then this is likely to mean you can't later make a claim for a refund from your card provider.

    However, if the terms of your voucher let you claim further losses from the supplier that aren't covered by the voucher, or it's not given in full and final settlement of your refund claim, you may be able to use chargeback or Section 75 through your card provider.

    If you used a debit card or paid less than £100, any claim would be through the chargeback scheme – and different providers may have different chargeback rules. So if you're unsure, it could be worth asking your bank whether it would allow you to claim a refund through chargeback if you'd previously accepted a voucher. For credit cards where the cost was more than £100, you could try a Section 75 claim.

    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.

  • It's worth noting you can only file a chargeback claim within 120 days of making a purchase, and the Financial Ombudsman says that the time limits apply from the date of the transaction (ie, when you initially bought the flight or holiday – the voucher date is likely to be irrelevant here). Given this, it's worth weighing up if you'd actually be covered by this scheme, especially if your booking was made several months ago.

    With Section 75, there won't be a time limit issue as you've six years from purchase (five years in Scotland) to make a claim.

What if only one part of my holiday is cancelled?

If one element of your holiday is cancelled but another element remains (eg, your flight is cancelled but your accommodation isn't), it's worth first contacting the non-cancelled element to see if they'll refund you as a goodwill gesture – assuming you no longer wish to travel.

If this doesn't work, check your travel insurance policy, which may have provisions to cover 'consequential losses' such as these. See our insurer-by-insurer table for more info on what individual providers are doing.

The 50 best and worst travel firms for cancellation refunds

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating across the travel industry, with millions of holidays and travel bookings either unavailable or cancelled. Yet firms have treated customers in very different ways, according to a major new investigative survey by MoneySavingExpert.com.

Our coronavirus travel survey received more than 27,000 responses (from 1-11 May 2020), and asked travel customers for their rating, feedback and experiences of dealing with companies due to problems arising from coronavirus. Firms were then ranked by subtracting the percentage who had a poor experience from those who had a great experience with the company.

We asked for feedback on 81 airlines and travel firms, and also allowed people to add their own if they weren't included in our list. Of the 53 firms that we received more than 100 responses for, travel agent Travel Trolley was the worst rated with a net score of -95%, followed closely by TravelUp also at -95% (but with a slightly lower proportion of 'Poor' votes) and Teletext Holidays at -94%. Of the big names, the worst were Ryanair at -82% (from a massive 2,500 responses) and Tui at -60%. See the full cancellation refunds survey results.

  • 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.

How to get a Virgin travel 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 up to 120 days 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. Here are a few of the complaints we’ve seen:

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays admit they have changed their refund timeframes, but insist all customers will now receive refunds within an “absolute maximum” of 120 days. The firms say they're working through a backlog of requests due to “unprecedented volumes” and the fact staff are working from home - they say they've boosted the size of their refund teams and are prioritising requests based on how long customers have been waiting.

  • 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 2020 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 refund, 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 120-day ‘clock’ for getting the cash starts as soon as you submit the request. If you call, it starts when the advisor 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 120-day ‘clock’ will start once an advisor has confirmed the refund request. You’ll then be sent a refund request number which Virgin says could take 7-10 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 up to 120 days 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 7 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, do 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 though when considering this – especially given given Virgin has promised to pay a full refund in time.

    Please do let us know how you get on and what you've tried at news@moneysavingexpert.com.

Refund paid to your credit card? Ask for it to be transferred to your bank account for free

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.

My outbound flight's been cancelled but my return hasn’t - help!

This is becoming an increasing 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 with some budget airlines they 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 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 (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.

New. Ryanair claims 90% of its refunds backlog will be cleared by the end of July

There may be new 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 now claims that 90% of customers who booked directly with Ryanair and requested refunds for cancelled flights between March and June are set to be paid by the end of July.

Ryanair says it’s already paid all its cash refund requests from March and 50% of April requests – and aims to have paid all its April cash refunds by 15 July. The airline says it will have paid all May refunds and most June refunds by the end of July.

But 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 - see What to do if you're still waiting for a Ryanair refund

I'm currently abroad – what can I do?

On 23 March 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning to all British tourists and short-stay travellers to return to the UK as soon as possible.

The FCO said the warning reflected "the pace at which international travel is becoming difficult with the closure of borders, airlines suspending flights, airports closing, exit bans and further restrictions being introduced daily".

The Government organised rescue flights for those abroad 

On 30 March 2020, the FCO announced it was working with airlines to repatriate tens of thousands of Brits stranded abroad. There were two elements to its plan:

  • Airlines were told to recognise their responsibility for transporting passengers with pre-booked tickets home. A key EU law (which still applies in the UK) states that where a flight is cancelled, airlines must offer a refund or an alternative flight. It is understood this includes flights on other airlines, where available, if the original airline is no longer flying that route.

  • Where commercial routes weren't running, the Government paid for special charter flights. These were organised to fly to priority countries and bring back UK residents. You had to pay for a seat - the price varied from route to route.

Three months on, most Brits who wanted to come home should hopefully be back, but for full info on the repatriation scheme see the Gov.uk website.

Can I get a refund if I need to quarantine in my destination, or when I come back to the UK?

Since Monday 8 June, those arriving in the UK from overseas – including returning travellers – must self-isolate for two weeks (though for some destinations this will soon change). Many other destinations have already introduced quarantines for travellers which could affect future holidays.

What if I need to quarantine in my holiday destination – can I get a refund?

If an FCO travel warning is in place for your destination at the time you're due to travel, providing you had travel insurance in place before coronavirus, you're normally covered even if the flight/holiday isn't cancelled.

But with the FCO lifting its travel warning for some countries as of 4 July, some travellers are now facing a 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.

If you claim to your insurer, get rejected and you think it's treated you unfairly, you can escalate your claim to the Financial Ombudsman, but there's no guarantee of success.

An exception to the no -efunds rules may be package holidays where you had excursions booked that you then couldn't take as the quarantine means there'd be a significant change to the booking as a result of the enforced quarantine (think all-inclusive golfing holidays or Disney World breaks). In this case, the package travel provider may be obliged to refund you.

It's still all a bit uncertain though. We'll update this guide as and when the picture becomes clearer.

Quick question

  • 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.

Travellers arriving in the UK must now self-isolate for 14 days – can I get a refund if I don't want to travel?

As of 8 June, travellers arriving in the UK from overseas now need to self-isolate for 14 days - though from 10 July this will no longer be the case for those arriving in England from certain countries, including Spain, France, Italy and Germany.

We've been asked by several users if they'll be able to legally 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.

  • The quarantine requirements apply to UK travellers returning home, as well as those visiting the UK. However, anyone arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is exempt, along with a specific list of key workers including medics and freight workers - and a further list of exempt countries is expected to be published "later this week". 

    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 £1,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while in Scotland the penalty is £480.