Cancelled a holiday due to coronavirus? Know your rights

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Dispute Resolution on Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Millions of people have had their holiday plans disrupted over the last few months as coronavirus has halted both international and domestic travel. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now advising against all non-essential travel until further notice, meaning that would-be holidaymakers are desperately seeking refunds for cancelled trips. However, major travel companies are now bypassing the law and refusing to refund customers their money, directing them to rebook their holidays or accept vouchers instead.

Am I entitled to money back if my flight is cancelled?

Under the EU’s Denied Boarding Regulations, if your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund within seven days if the flight is a) with an airline, or b) from an airport, based in the UK or EU. The EU Regulation Nr. 261/2004 also states that airlines must inform you of cancellations at least 14 days prior to your flight’s scheduled departure date. If it fails to do so, you could claim between €250 to €600 depending on the distance of your flight.

What are my rights if my holiday is cancelled?

  • Package holidays

Package holidays with flights are ATOL protected, meaning that you are entitled to a full refund within 14 days. ATOL is the name given to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) protection scheme, to which all travel companies selling package holidays must be signed up. It will also protect you if the travel firm you’ve booked with goes bust prior to, or during your trip.

Moreover, the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, which entered into law in July 2018, updated the definition of package holiday to include more modern booking styles, such as custom-made holidays where the consumer selects the various elements of their trip separately, but purchases from the same provider in one transaction.

  • Linked travel arrangements

Linked travel arrangements are holidays where the various elements are purchased in separate transactions but facilitated by one provider. For example, if you purchase a hotel stay with one travel provider and are then directed to click through to a separate provider for travel arrangements, it is a linked travel arrangement.  These are subject to an inferior level of financial protection to package holidays. For example, you will only be entitled to a refund for the first element booked (in this scenario, the hotel), and this entitlement will cease once the booking company has passed your money onto the hotel.  

  • Non-package arrangements

For these types of holidays, you won’t be entitled to the financial protection measures outlined above. However, if you booked with a credit card, and your transaction cost over £100, then you may be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which provides that the credit card company is equally liable with the provider if your trip is cancelled.

Is my travel provider breaking the law?

If you booked a flight or package holiday, and your travel firm is refusing to reimburse you with a cash refund, then they are breaking the law. Many are trying instead to offer a voucher of equivalent value, but will not be financially protected if the company later goes bust due to the strain of the pandemic. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has stated on its website that a holiday voucher is not ATOL or ABTA protected; customers should ask their travel provider for a ‘refund credit note’ instead, which entitles customers to rebook their holiday at a later date or receive a cash refund up until the credit note’s expiry date. It will also offer the same financial protection that came with the original booking (e.g. ATOL protection with a package holiday) up until the expiry date of the note. To distinguish a refund credit note from a simple holiday voucher, customers should look for:

  • An expiry date
  • A value equal to the value of the original booking
  • Details of the original booking and a reference number

Your provider is also breaking the law if they have failed to reimburse you within seven days for a flight or within 14 days for a package holiday.

Get in touch

If you have had your holiday cancelled and believe your travel company is breaking the law, get in touch with our expert Dispute Resolution solicitors on 0203 871 0110 or contact disputeresolution@attwaters.co.uk.

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