Your travel refund rights explained amid Covid-19 testing and quarantining shake-up
Holidaymakers with trips abroad face disruption due to new Covid-19 testing and quarantining travel requirements both here in the UK and elsewhere around the globe. Below we explain what's changing and your refund rights if you can no longer travel.
The changes come as drastic measures are taken to mitigate the spread of a new 'Omicron' coronavirus variant. For a more detailed breakdown, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide. If you need to book a test for your return to the UK, visit our Cheap Covid Tests guide.
Shake-up announced for those travelling to the UK and to certain destinations, including Spain and Switzerland
Tougher restrictions have been reintroduced for travellers returning to the UK, while some destinations have also introduced new rules for travellers coming in - both of which mean you may no longer be able to (or may no longer want to) travel. Here's a summary of the key changes:
- All travellers to the UK now need to take a 'day two' PCR test and self-isolate until they have a negative PCR test result. These changes came into force from 4am on 30 November.
- More countries have been added to the UK's red list. From 4am on 28 November the following countries were added to the UK's red list: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This means arrivals to the UK from these destinations must take a pre-departure test (excludes u11s), take a PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back to the UK (excludes u5s), and undergo 11 nights of managed quarantine in a hotel, which costs £2,285 per person (for children the rate is £1,430 for those aged 11-17 and £325 for those aged 5-10. It's free for those under five).
- Many countries have tightened their entry requirements and others are likely to follow. For example:
- From 26 November, fully vaccinated travellers to Switzerland need to quarantine for 10 days on arrival.
- From 28 November to 13 December, non-Israeli citizens are banned from entering Israel.
- From 1 December, everyone aged 12 and above arriving in Spain must be fully vaccinated.
- From 1 December, vaccinated travellers will now need to take a test before arriving in Portugal.
See our Covid Travel Rights guide for full details on entry requirements for Brits' top destinations.
Don't cancel a booking yourself if you can't travel or no longer want to do so
If you can't now travel, or you no longer want to, you have a couple of options; you can:
- Hold off cancelling yourself as the travel provider may cancel, which means you'll be due a full refund. If you cancel it could mean you lose your rights to a cash refund.
- Check your travel provider's T&Cs - if you booked a flexible policy some will allow you to cancel and get a full refund. However, be aware that when it comes to UK flights, for example - no carriers will currently allow passengers to cancel flights and receive a full cash refund, although many will allow you to either claim a voucher or change your booking dates (see below for more on this).
- Check your travel provider's T&Cs - some will let you rebook or get a voucher to redeem on a future trip. We can't round-up every firm's policy but below are some of the major travel providers' policies (see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more info):
- British Airways: Until check-in closes you can change flight-only bookings free of charge or exchange the value for a voucher, which can be redeemed for travel up until 30 September 2023. If you booked a package holiday, date changes can be requested at least three weeks' prior to travel.
- Easyjet: You can change flight-only bookings up to two hours before departure. You can also amend or cancel easyJet holiday packages up to 28 days before departure - any closer and you'll be liable for cancellation fees, which will be taken from any refund due.
- Jet2: You can change the dates of travel or request a full refund if the destination requires you to either self-isolate or provide proof of a full vaccination for those aged 15 and under in the seven days before you depart. This applies to both flight-only and package holiday bookings.
- Ryanair: For bookings made between 10 June and 30 September 2021 for travel before 31 December 2021, you can change your flight free of charge at least seven days before departure. If you booked after 30 September you have to pay a fee to change your flights.
- TUI: All customers due to travel up to and including 19 December 2021 can change flights and holidays free of charge.
If you've booked a package trip you may have additional rights
The info outlined above applies to both package trips and to so-called 'DIY' bookings - and we've also included some examples of travel firms' package holiday terms above too - but if you've booked a package holiday you may have additional rights on top. For example:
- Package trips to red-list destinations should be fully refundable. That's according to package travel trade body ABTA, which says this applies even if you're the one who cancels the trip. This is because where a country goes onto the UK's red list, it normally means the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has advised against all but essential travel, and in this instance package providers should give refunds. Currently, the FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the countries on the red list.
- You may be able to argue that trips to non-red list destinations have significantly changed and that you therefore require a refund. The Package Travel Regulations state that if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur that "significantly affect the performance of the package," you're due a full refund even if you cancel. Whether something is a 'significant change' will be determined on a case-by-case basis and there are no guarantees, but ABTA says possible examples could include:
- Your destination requiring you to quarantine on arrival
- Your flight being cancelled and there being no replacement on the same day
- The hotel being changed to a different resort or lower standard.
ABTA adds that a refund won't be due if you simply want to cancel to avoid quarantine requirements on arrival back to the UK, as this hasn't technically impacted your holiday.
For further information on Package Holidays and Flexible Booking Policies see our respective guides.
Unless you catch coronavirus within 10 days of travel your insurance is unlikely to cover you
Coronavirus is now a known-event, so most travel insurance policies will not cover you because of Government restrictions at home or abroad or because you simply no longer want to travel. See the table below for full details:
|Scenario||Are you covered?|
|You or a family member can't travel as you've got Covid-19.
Most policies DO cover this, as long as you're not travelling against Government advice.
|You or a family member can't travel as you've been told to self-isolate by NHS test & trace or by the NHS Covid app.||
SOME policies cover this – check insurer's site and the policy wording carefully.
|You can't go because of Government restrictions at home or abroad.||
NOT covered by most policies, so you won't be able to claim for this.
|Can't travel as you don't feel safe going.
NOT covered – this is known as 'disinclination to travel' which travel insurance never covers.
Insurers will instead expect you to get your money back via other avenues - be it via the airlines, travel agents, through Section 75 or Chargeback - although there's no guarantees as you may still be getting the service you paid for, which could make arguing for a refund tricky.
Visit our Cheap Travel Insurance guide if you're looking to get cover for as little at £13/yr.
If your trip is still going ahead you can still travel
That's so long as you're happy to comply with any new restrictions in place. Just bear in mind that travel insurance won't cover the costs of any mandatory quarantine on arrival, so you may have to fork out extra if this is required.
Also be aware that if the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel and you still go, it would invalidate any travel insurance you've taken out.
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