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Coronavirus Travel Rights

Holiday refunds, travel insurance cover and more

Coronavirus Travel Rights

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has devastated travel around the globe, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently warning Brits against all non-essential foreign trips indefinitely and advising any still overseas to return to the UK immediately. 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).

How has travel been disrupted? Latest updates

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, but it's now advising against all but essential travel to ALL overseas destinations "indefinitely". For full info, see FCO coronavirus travel advice.

Since late March, the FCO has also been advising all British tourists and short-stay travellers who are abroad to return home as soon as possible.

In addition to these blanket FCO warnings, there is now widespread disruption to travel and holidays around the world. The situation is constantly changing, but here's a quick summary:

  • Many countries have now closed their borders, or are restricting travel. For example, the United States has barred UK travellers from entering, while the European Union is now refusing entry to many travellers (though not UK citizens).

  • A large number of flights and holidays have been cancelled. Airlines around the world, hit by a massive drop in demand, have been cancelling flights en masse, as have package holiday providers. For example, Tui has now cancelled all package holidays due to commence up until 11 June 2020.

  • Major events around the globe have been cancelled or postponed. These include the Venice Carnival, the Coachella and Glastonbury music festivals and big sporting setpieces such as Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
  • Europe's largest regional airline, Flybe, went into administration in early March. This was blamed in part on a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak, although the airline had also been suffering prior to this. See full info in our Flybe collapses MSE News story.
  • Disney properties have been closed. The entertainment giant closed Disneyland Resort California, Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World Florida in mid-March.

  • Cruises have suffered huge disruption as a result of coronavirus. For example, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have both suspended all cruises globally, until 1 August 2020. Cruises that are already operating are struggling, with many countries not allowing them to dock. Some ships are docking or anchoring at private islands owned by their parent companies.

It's now too late to get travel insurance to 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 probably too late. 

In mid-March we saw a series of travel insurers stop selling policies, or policies which covered coronavirus cancellation, and now the FCO has warned against all non-essential travel overseas, the situation's very difficult.

Important – we've SUSPENDED our travel insurance best buys 

Sadly, we don't know of any policies still offering cover for coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims, and even if you have an annual policy, most are now excluding coronavirus cover for newly-booked trips. As a result, we've removed our travel insurance best buys. For more help, see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide. 

I've already booked insurance – am I covered?

Most insurers will cover you for cancellation if a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advisory is put in place for your destination after you've taken out the policy and it's still in place when you're due to travel – and of course, right now the FCO's warning against non-essential travel to ALL destinations. But for a rough check, see what individual insurers have told us – though this will vary by policy and can change over time.

To be sure of what's covered, check your insurer's website – many now list their coronavirus cover. If not, and the policy terms are too tricky, call up or use online chat.

The two key questions we'd ask are:

  1. Am I covered for cancellation if the FCO warns against travel to my destination at the time I'm due to travel?

  2. Am I covered if there's no FCO advisory, but either my flight or hotel is cancelled and I can't travel as a result? If so, what's covered (flights, hotels, car hire etc)? (While right now there's a blanket FCO advisory in place, this may change in future.)
  • 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.

What if I have an annual policy that's about to expire?

While it's generally difficult to get new travel insurance policies at the moment – and virtually impossible to get one that'll cover cancellation costs related to coronavirus – if you have an existing annual travel insurance policy, you may well have more joy.

Several travel insurers, including Axa and Coverwise, have told us that if you have an annual policy and choose to renew, you'll still get the same level of cover on your renewed policy as you did on the old one. (Don't assume this applies to all policies or travel insurers though – if renewing, check directly.)

That means if you have a holiday booked and your annual policy expires in the meantime, it may be worth renewing with your current insurer rather than looking for a new policy. Make sure you arrange cover from the day after your current policy expires – that way, you'll have continuous cover.

It's worth noting even with policies that will give you cancellation cover for existing bookings on renewal, you won't be covered for any new trips you're planning. That's because travel insurance is supposed to cover for the unexpected. Equally, you won't be covered for trips booked after the FCO warned against travel to a country, or after coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

  • 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.

Can I get a refund for a travel insurance policy I won't use?

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. Here's what some of the big insurers told us – unless otherwise stated, the info for each insurer 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.

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 CANCEL trips 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, 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.

The FCO now advises against travel 'indefinitely', so you should get a refund – for imminent trips at least

On 17 March 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned UK nationals against all non-essential travel worldwide for 30 days, and on 4 April 2020 this was extended – it's now advising against all non-essential global travel "indefinitely".

As well as being a useful safety guide, FCO warnings are important as they're the key trigger that travel insurers often use to determine whether or not your travel insurance will pay out if you have to cancel a holiday booked before the warning came into place. Some travel firms – such as airlines or package holiday companies – will also use this as a guide as to whether they should cancel and refund your trip.

In some ways though, the warning against non-essential travel "indefinitely" makes things trickier. When the end date of the advisory was 16 April 2020, many firms were paying out for all travel booked before this date. But as the warning is now effectively 'no travel until we say so' and we don't know when they'll say so, it's likely you'll need to wait until close to your travel date before airlines, hotels and travel insurers agree to refund you.

However, there's one caveat here – some airlines, like Ryanair, are saying they're planning to run flights regardless of the FCO travel advisory. And that changes things, as if your flight's running but you don't turn up for it, you won't be able to get a refund from the airline. You'd need to rely on your travel insurance paying out for the flight – it should provided the FCO travel advisory's still in place.

  • A Foreign Office warning is often the trigger for your travel insurance covering cancellation, but whether or not you'll be able to get your money back depends on your individual situation.

    • If you've a holiday booked in the next couple of weeks, there's a good chance it's already been cancelled. As a first step, speak to your travel firm to see what your options are – package holidays, for instance, should be fully refunded and you should also be able to get a full refund on most flights (though we've seen some airlines try to persuade customers to take vouchers instead). See more on this in What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?

    • If your holiday's imminent but not been cancelled, then you can go to your travel insurance. Most (though not all) travel insurance policies will allow you to claim for cancellation if you booked the holiday and insurance before the Foreign Office issued a no-travel warning and before coronavirus became a 'known event', though you'll need to check (use our table for guidance).

    • Where it gets more complicated is with holidays booked further in the future, for instance, if you've a trip planned in the summer. While the Foreign Office warning now applies 'indefinitely', it's possible that it could be lifted before you're due to travel – so you may have to wait until much nearer the time to find out if you can get a refund for your holiday or claim on your insurance.

      Technically, you may have to wait to see if the Foreign Office's advisory is still in place on the day you travel to be able to claim on your insurance, though many insurers will pay out if a warning's in place seven days before your trip, and some even earlier.

      Check what your insurer's policy is, and also keep a close eye on what your holiday firm's doing. It's possible the extended Foreign Office warning may persuade holiday companies to start offering refunds further ahead, though there are no guarantees. For example, Tui has now cancelled package holidays due to commence up until 11 June 2020.
  • The Foreign Office is advising Brits against all non-essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. 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 in the future though, as it's not clear when the advisory will be lifted, and you may well be able to go.

    If you absolutely have to travel while the 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.

  • Package holidays tend to include hotels, flights, transfers and sometimes excursions. 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.

    As with all travel, you won't get a refund if you cancel the trip or don't show up, unless there's a cancellation term in your T&Cs agreement for the holiday that allows you some or all of the money back if you cancel within a certain period. If there isn't, then you're unlikely to get anything back.

    If the package holiday is cancelled by the firm you booked with, you should get a full cash refund within two weeks from the firm you booked with, as this is what the Package Travel Regulations say should happen.

    Yet we do need to sound a note of caution – 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.

    Finally, if your travel firm has gone in to administration, or you think it might, check if the holiday has ATOL or ABTA protection – if so, you would get a full refund if the operator collapsed.

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 very plausible 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 but you chose not to travel, you 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.

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? Don't expect to get a refund if you cancel and there's no FCO warning in place at the time, but check – some firms are now being flexible

The FCO has warned against all non-essential travel "indefinitely", so holidays booked in the relatively near future are likely to be refunded. If you cancel a trip that's well in the future though, unfortunately there's no guarantee you'll get a refund. But some firms are now being more flexible and in particular letting customers rebook.

With insurance, the situation is likely to depend on whether an FCO warning's in place at the point you're due to travel. If not, 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 Cancellation and rebooking policy Full info
British Airways You can cancel bookings before 31 July 2020 and get a voucher valid for two years – but see our BA update below. BA website
Easyjet All flights are cancelled until further notice and affected customers are being contacted. Has temporarily waived flight change fees – so anyone with an existing or future booking can move their booking to another date. Easyjet website
Jet2 All flights before 1 July 2020 are being cancelled. If you booked a trip that was due to take place before then, it'll contact you with a list of options.
Jet2 website
Norwegian You can waive the flight change fee if you have a booking on a LowFare, LowFare+ or Premium ticket (excluding bookings for domestic flights within Norway only), booked up to and including 15 June 2020.  Norwegian website
Ryanair Waived flight change fees for all customers who wished to change their travel plans due to the current coronavirus pandemic from 13 March 2020 until the end of April 2020. N/A
Virgin Atlantic Won't charge change fees for bookings since 4 March 2020. Virgin Atlantic website

Hotel and package holiday cancellation and rebooking rights

Company Cancellation and rebooking policy Full info
Accor Hotels Says guests who booked a non-flexible rate directly with Accor for travel until 30 June 2020 may modify their reservation without any modification fees by contacting their hotel directly. Accor Hotels website
Airbnb Says reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date between 14 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. Airbnb website
Best Western Told us its hotels are independently owned and operated, and it's encouraging them to show "empathy and flexibility" – but no specific details. N/A
First Choice Customers with holidays booked up to 31 August 2020 are now able to make free amendments to their bookings online until 30 June 2020.
First Choice website
Jet2 Holidays All holidays before 1 July 2020 are being cancelled. If you booked a trip that was due to take place before then, it'll contact you with a list of options.
Jet2 Holidays website
Marriott International Says that for existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with prepaid rates that are typically more restrictive, it will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by 30 June 2020. Marriott website
Tui

Customers with holidays booked up to 31 August 2020 are now able to make free amendments to their bookings online until 30 June 2020.

Tui website
  • 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 the following:

    • Avis and Budget say that any reservations for rentals in Europe due to start before 1 May 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.

    • Goldcar says cancellations are free for reservations until 31 May 2020, except for bookings with non-refundable rates.

    Below are some other questions readers have asked us:

  • Eurostar continues to operate some services, but has reduced its timetable.

    If you are booked to travel from 13 March 2020 until 1 July 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 now 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 July 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.

Ryanair and Easyjet are planning to restart flights – what you need to know

Ryanair plans to reintroduce 40% of flights from 1 July 2020, subject to the situation with travel restrictions at that time, while Easyjet has said some flights will resume, mainly for domestic routes, from 15 June 2020.

If Ryanair were to restart flights and you have a booking with it, unfortunately it wouldn't be obliged to give you a refund.

You could try going to your travel insurer, but whether you'd get your money back would depend on whether the Foreign Office still has its advisory against all but essential travel in place at the time you're due to travel. There's more information on that here.

For now, the resumption hinges on what happens with travel restrictions, so in all likelihood, you'll have to wait and see how things pan out with international border restrictions before you know what your situation is.

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've asked several insurers about this and have been given a range of answers. For example, Leisure Guard told us that you would not be covered if the FCO doesn't have an advisory against travel in place, while Admiral, Aviva 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."

  • Of course, right now with the FCO warning against all travel, your insurer is likely to cover cancellation anyway. But 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 cancellation refund from UK holiday firms like Hoseasons or Sykes Cottages?

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 in the UK unless it is essential. This means you should avoid visiting holiday or second homes, as well as campsites and caravan parks.

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, including Hoseasons and Sykes Cottages, have complained to us that they've been unable to get cash back. We've had 100s of complaints from holidaymakers in the past few weeks 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.

For example, MoneySaver Trudy emailed us to say: "Hoseasons cancelled our holiday in Wales this month and told us we could change the date. Then after several attempts to get in touch, and them not answering our emails, they have now sent us a voucher. The holiday costs £800 and to be honest we want our £800 back."

Before pushing hard, it's always best to see what the company itself will do – not everyone gets the same answer. Hoseasons told us it's "discussing any specific concerns with customers directly" and focusing on helping customers rebook, while Sykes Cottages says it's an agent for property owners who have separate contracts with customers – we've heard of some getting refunds and others not – and it usually depends on the property owner.

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

If you booked as part of a package holiday...

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 it DIY, eg, accommodation only...

If you just booked accommodation, as most have with firms such as Hoseasons or Sykes Cottages, 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.

3) If you are prepared to play hardball, threaten court action (for Sykes Cottages customers, there are template letters). 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. If you do want to have a go, consumer lawyer Dean Dunham has drafted two template letters you can try using if you're a Sykes Cottages customer. We've seen a number of reports of success from those who've managed to use these template letters to get a refund.

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.

What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?

Many airlines and holiday companies are now choosing to proactively cancel trips. For example, Easyjet has now grounded all flights, while British Airways has suspended all flights to and from London Gatwick. Meanwhile, Tui has cancelled all holidays until at least 11 June 2020.

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

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.

Tui's now cancelled trips until 11 June 2020 – how to get a refund

Package holiday giant Tui has now cancelled all package holidays that were due to depart up until 11 June 2020, 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 11 June 2020, or a Marella Cruises holiday until 30 June 2020:

  • If you booked online, you can amend your booking online and get an extra 20% of credit to spend if you haven't got their refund credit yet (please note there will be a 24-hour period when this won't work – if this happens, it's because the refund credit is in the process of being sent).

  • If you booked in a Tui store, you can amend your booking by calling Tui on 0203 451 2688. You will still get the 20% extra credit.

  • You can wait, and will receive a refund credit to the value of your booking plus 20% to use at another time.

  • Or you can use Tui's online refund form to get a refund – you have to wait until you've got your refund credit note to do this.

If all else fails, you can go to your card firm – but you shouldn't need to with Tui. If you're really having difficulty and booked on a debit or credit card, then you could try going to your card firm instead and asking it to refund you – try chargeback first, then Section 75 if that doesn't work. However, while with some firms this is an essential technique to get a refund, this shouldn't be necessary with Tui, as from the reports we've had, it doesn't seem to be actually denying refunds to customers.

It's also worth noting that customers who have a booking between 12 June 2020 and 31 August 2020 can amend to another time. They just have to do it before 30 June 2020.

This means final balance payments (if they've not been made) will move to 12 weeks before the new travel date. People who booked online can do this on Tui's website. Customers who booked in a store can just call Tui on 0203 451 2688. As these holidays are not cancelled, you will not receive an extra 20% booking incentive.

  • 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.

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.

Will I be ATOL-protected?

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.

Could I make a claim through chargeback or Section 75?

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.

How long after booking am I covered by chargeback and Section 75?

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.

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.

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 is organising rescue flights for those abroad (as are some airlines)

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

  • Airlines should 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.

    Yet passengers were not always being booked on alternative flights. For example, MSE got in touch with British Airways after we learned it was not booking its customers in the United Arab Emirates (from where it's not currently flying) onto Emirates or Etihad flights to Heathrow, which are still operating. A few days after our intervention, BA changed its policy (on Friday 24 April) for its customers stuck in the UAE, and will now book them onto Etihad flights at no additional cost if you call them.

    Such passengers previously had to book their own Emirates or Etihad flight home, and try to claim the cost back from BA, or wait till BA began flying that route again (which was in June, at time of the policy shift). BA insists the change was in the pipeline before we alerted it. We have also contacted BA to find out how those who booked their own Emirates or Etihad flight before the policy change can claim that money back from BA. 

    Please let us know in the comments below if airlines are failing to rebook you onto other available flights home from any other destination, and we will try to get in touch with them. 

  • Where commercial routes do not exist, the Government will provide up to £75 million in financial support to enable special charter flights. These will fly to priority countries to bring back UK residents.

    The Government says that special charter flights for countries with no commercial routes will be prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision. In some places, access for flights to land and the ability to move around within the country to assemble for return flights will also be decisive factors.

    You have to pay for a seat on one of these charter flights, though the price will vary from route to route. For example, seats on the flight it's running from Ghana will cost £500 per person.

If you're stuck abroad, your first call should be to your airline or holiday company to find out what flights it's running and what it can offer you. If you've already spoken to it and have gotten nowhere, it may now be worth speaking to it again as many airlines have now pledged to fully honour their responsibilities to passengers with tickets booked.

If your airline or holiday company's unable to help, the FCO says you should check if commercial flights out of the country are still operating. You can do this by checking airlines' websites, FCO travel advice pages for the country you are in and local British embassies' social media accounts.

If there are no commercial options, you should sign up to alerts on the FCO travel advice page for the country you're in and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised there and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email. Again, you're likely to have to pay for this flight, so check the cost.

If you're in real need, the Government says consular teams will work with you to consider your options. As a last resort, the FCO may be able to issue you an emergency loan, though this will depend on your circumstances.

  • You're entitled to either a refund or new flight, but if you opt for the refund the airline no longer has a duty of care for you. This means you can't claim back any further expenses you incur and you will have to seek out another flight yourself. If you are already abroad, try and get the airline to put you onto an alternative flight where possible.

    If you get really stuck, as a last resort, you can contact the FCO on +44 (0)207 008 1500.

I was about to book a holiday. Should I still do it?

This is a judgement call. In the immediate future, taking a holiday outside the UK is off due to Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel and, more broadly, the Government's lockdown rules. We don't know how long the Foreign Office advisory will last, but regardless, right now you can't get travel insurance that covers you for most coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims.

In fact, even if you have an existing annual policy, it likely won't cover any new trips booked. Sadly, and disastrously for the travel industry and their employees, that means most people would be sensible to avoid booking any holiday for now.

Even for trips later in the year it is a tough call. For booking at that time, the key is to look at the cancellation rights. If it's possible to book now, and then get a refund by cancelling if you can't go due to coronavirus, then you may want to go for it (just ensure you pay via debit or credit card to improve protection in case travel firms go into administration). But nothing in this environment is without risk.

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

The UK has now announced that from 8 June anyone arriving from overseas will need to self-isolate for two weeks, and 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? 

Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all non-essential travel, so providing you had travel insurance in place before coronavirus, you're normally covered even if the flight/holiday isn't cancelled.

The quarantine issue is therefore speculative, but we're starting to prepare this guidance in case the FCO advisory is lifted in the future, as it may be that you don't want to go on the holiday if you have to 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, while Admiral and Planet Earth said you wouldn't be covered.

The Financial Ombudsman also told us if you claim to your insurer, get rejected and you think it's treated you unfairly, you can escalate your claim to it, though there's no guarantee of success.

An exception to the no refunds 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 highly speculative 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.

Can I get a refund if I don't want to travel because I'll be quarantined when I return? 

From 8 June, travellers arriving in the UK from overseas will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

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 to quarantine for two weeks on their return and therefore were unable to take the trip. In theory 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.

However, frankly it's all a bit theoretical at the moment, as flights, cruises and trains are largely cancelled. And as the Government is advising against all but essential travel to anywhere in the world with no end date, this would be the trigger for your travel insurance (if you're covered) regardless of quarantine rules.

So this is more of a hypothetical question for the future, if there was a scenario where blanket Government advice not to travel was lifted but quarantine measures remained in place. We'll keep you in the loop as we know more. 

  • The new quarantine requirements will 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 will be exempt, along with a specific list of key workers including medics and freight workers.  

    If you arrive in the UK by rail, air or sea, you’ll need to fill out a form giving your travel information and contact details.

    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, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be free to set their own enforcement approaches.