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Luxembourg added to UK travel exclusion list – your rights

Luxembourg added to UK travel exclusion list – your rights

Luxembourg has become the latest country to be added back on to the UK's travel exclusion list, after the Government announced anyone arriving from the small European nation must quarantine for 14 days, and advised against all non-essential travel there.

In a rapid-fire move, the UK Government announced on Thursday evening that the new advice would apply from Friday 31 July. It comes after recorded coronavirus cases in Luxembourg jumped tenfold since the start of June – and follows similar restrictions being brought in for Spain last weekend.

The Government has said:

  • Travellers arriving from Luxembourg must quarantine for two weeks. This includes returning British holidaymakers, and applies from Friday 31 July onwards to those arriving in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. For more on what this involves, see how does quarantine in the UK work?

  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now warning against all non-essential travel to Luxembourg. An FCO warning is often a key trigger for travel insurance – for example, it means if you decide to travel anyway, your insurance is unlikely to cover you. 

  • Brits AREN'T being told to come home early. The UK Government is not advising UK travellers already in Luxembourg to cut short their trip and return early at this stage.

Luxembourg is a small country with a population of around 600,000 – the Foreign Office says it is visited by around 120,000 UK nationals each year.

For full help on your travel rights in a similar situation, see our Spain Travel Help guide, and for general info on travel insurance, holiday refunds and more, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

I'm in Luxembourg at the moment – what do I need to do?

If you're already travelling in Luxembourg then there's no need to come home immediately.

The Foreign Office says: "The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Luxembourg to leave at this time. Travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus."

Don't worry about your travel insurance either. When we asked the Association of British Insurers about the similar situation in Spain earlier this week, it said that after a change in FCO advice, your insurance is likely to continue to cover you until you've returned home.

I had a trip booked but it's been cancelled – what are my rights?

The good news is if your flight or package holiday is cancelled by a travel firm, it has to refund you in full by law:

  • Under the Package Travel Regulations if a package holiday's cancelled, you're due a full refund within 14 days. Though right now, it's often taking longer and getting a full refund during the pandemic has not always proved easy (for more help, see cancelled package holiday refunds).

  • If you have a flight and it's cancelled, then under EU flight delay rules you're due a full refund within seven days. Though again, right now there are delays to refunds and some have struggled to get them (for more help, see cancelled flight refunds).

Hotel stays booked directly are unlikely to be cancelled. If they are, there's no specific regulation governing these like there is with package travel and flights. You'd likely be owed a refund, but it would depend on local law.

I've a trip booked and it's NOT been cancelled – what are my rights?

Here the answer depends on what kind of trip you have booked:
 
  • With package holidays, under the Package Travel Regulations you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days even if the trip's not been cancelled.

    The rules state if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur which "significantly affect the performance of the package", you're due a full refund if YOU cancel. And while they don't specifically state that an FCO warning would count as one of these circumstances – though they do give as an example "the outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination" – in practice travel trade body ABTA says firms MUST refund you if the FCO warns against travel and you can't be given a holiday without "significant change".

    So you should be able to get a full refund, but always check first with the firm before you cancel.

  • With other bookings (eg, flights), unfortunately these rules don't apply. If your flight hasn't been cancelled and is still running, then unfortunately you won't be owed a refund, even though the Foreign Office is warning against non-essential travel.

    In this situation you MAY be able to claim on travel insurance, but it'll depend on your policy, when you bought it and when you booked. See more on travel insurance claims below.

    Failing that, it's worth checking what your firm will offer you. Many airlines will let you rebook or offer a refund credit note, which may be worth taking if it's your best option. In some cases, sadly it's possible that you may be left out of pocket.

I've a future trip booked but it's a way off – what should I do?

If you've a trip to Luxembourg booked but it's not leaving in the next few weeks, then you may be best off waiting to see what happens.

Don't cancel your trip yourself. That means you have no rights to a refund in most cases. It is far better for the airline or travel firm to cancel the trip – then you have more rights. As this is a fast-moving situation, it is possible that the FCO guidance and quarantine rules could change again, in which case your trip could be back on.

However, it's worth checking now exactly what your rights would be if the worst were to happen. In particular, if you're asked to make further payments towards a future holiday, weigh up carefully what the risks are and whether it's worth doing so. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more help.

Can I claim on travel insurance?

The Foreign Office now warns against travel to Luxembourg – and a Foreign Office warning is usually the key trigger for you to be able to claim on your insurance.

Yet this is not a normal time. While there are exceptions and you should check with your insurer, in general:

  • If your travel insurance and holiday were booked pre-pandemic (roughly mid-March), you ARE likely to be covered.
  • If your holiday was booked pre-pandemic and you renewed existing annual cover with the same firm since, you ARE likely to be covered.
  • If you either booked the holiday or got new travel insurance since the pandemic began, you are NOT likely to be covered. The only mainstream exception we know of is via Nationwide FlexPlus.

I still want to travel to Luxembourg – can I?

If your travel provider is still running trips, theoretically you can still travel. But be extremely wary of doing so. Most travel insurance won't cover you if you go to Luxembourg when the FCO is advising against non-essential travel there. That means if something goes wrong while you're away, even if it's unrelated to coronavirus, eg, you have an accident, you won't be protected.

Remember too that the FCO has advised against travel to Luxembourg with good reason. Cases of coronavirus are generally rising there and the Government has decided that it's riskier to go there than to go to many other countries. We don't think it is advisable to travel when the FCO says you shouldn't.

However, if you are determined to travel anyway, then you should at the very least make sure you take a valid EHIC and check you have travel insurance, which will continue to give you at least some protection.

When we checked with insurers earlier this year, there were a handful who told us that you MIGHT be covered by their travel insurance if you travelled in this scenario, so there may be some exceptions. But it may be safer to take out a policy with a provider which specifically offers protection in this scenario. One example we've seen is Battleface (though we've not looked at it in detail, so you'll need to check what's covered). You could also look for a specialist broker via the British Insurance Brokers' Association website – search for "Travel: High Risk Areas".

What are the rules on quarantining on return from Luxembourg?

If you arrive in England from Luxembourg, you will not be allowed to leave the place where you're staying for the first 14 days, and if you do not self-isolate, you can be fined £1,000 (the rules are similar but with slightly different specifics in ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland).

You should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential care, and you cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas. You should not go shopping and you must only exercise within your home or garden.

Those you share a home with will not have to self-isolate unless they travelled with you, but the Government says you should avoid contact with them as much as possible.

What are my rights with work if I have to quarantine – will I still get paid if I can't go in?

For many, being required to self-isolate for two weeks on return to the UK will be a huge issue – especially for those who are already in Luxembourg and about to return, and weren't warned of any quarantine when they first went on holiday. Unfortunately, your rights in this situation are not clear-cut.

The official line from the Government is that you aren't entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you have to quarantine after returning to the UK. So you may have to rely on the goodwill of your employer if you cannot work while quarantining.

Speak to your employer as soon as you can to work out what's possible. If you can work from home, that may be one solution – alternatively, you may be able to take extra holiday, or some employers may agree to pay you sick pay.

We asked the Government for exactly what your rights are in this situation, and a spokesperson said: "We urge employers to show flexibility to employees who will have to self-isolate due to the changes to quarantine rules. No employee should be penalised for following the rules and self-isolating."

They also added that should an employee be dismissed for quarantining, they may be able to take their employer to a tribunal to rule on whether the dismissal was fair. In determining whether a dismissal is fair, a tribunal will take account of the entirety of the situation – this could include whether the employee was legally required to quarantine following a return from holiday, along with any other relevant factors relating to their absence.

They said that if an employee cannot do their job from home, they could request extra annual leave to cover the 14 days of self-isolation, and if their annual leave request is refused, their employer may agree to let them take unpaid leave.

Sadly, you're unlikely to be covered for any loss of earnings through your travel insurance – the Association of British Insurers says this isn't something travel insurance is designed to cover.