The travel rights you must know about as coronovirus grips the planet – The Sun
WEEKS of bad news as coronavirus has taken hold globally have inevitably had consequences.
Brits are choosing not to fly or book holidays amid fears of contracting Covid-19 or being stuck in quarantine abroad.
Airlines have seen demand plummet and have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights, while travel companies are reporting big drops in interest.
Flybe’s collapse on Thursday morning saw hundreds of thousands of passengers suddenly lose their planned trips.
So should we worry? Or keep calm and carry on?
Here, I have looked at the best ways possible to protect yourself – and your precious holiday pounds – as we head into uncharted waters, with coronavirus now in virtually every country worldwide.
If you've booked
TRAVELLERS – and the travel industry – are reliant on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and its advisories when it comes to your rights if you have already booked a trip.
If the FCO advises against all but essential travel, or all travel to a particular country or region, travel companies and insurance policies can provide help.
You would be able to claim a refund, ask to delay your trip or claim against your travel insurance policy.
But so far, the FCO has only advised against all but essential travel to China, the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea and ten small towns in the Lombardy region of Italy, as well as one in Italy’s Veneto region.
That means trips to the rest of the world must continue as normal.
Deciding you don’t want to travel because you are scared or worried will not be a good enough reason. You will simply lose any money you have paid.
This includes places like Tenerife, where the widely publicised quarantine of the H10 hotel saw many British holidaymakers put into isolation, along with travellers in lots of other popular destinations around the world.
So should you go?
TO travel or not to travel? If you suffer from an underlying health condition that means you would be vulnerable if you caught the virus, it is understandable you may not want to risk it.
There are fears even among healthy people of being trapped abroad in enforced quarantine – if a case of coronavirus is diagnosed at your hotel or on a cruise ship, say, such as the Diamond
Princess in Japan, where the first Brit died from Covid-19.
But with the virus now present in virtually every country, it is a case of weighing up the dangers and taking precautions.
Two surveys of Brits in the last few days have revealed around half of us are still considering booking a trip . . . as long as the price is right. With demand weakened, there are some very good deals around.
Travel comparison site icelolly.com reports prices are down a massive 25 per cent on holidays to Phuket and ten per cent to Malta but just two or three per cent to the Canary Islands. Florida is down six per cent and New York five per cent.
Airlines and travel firms desperate to get us booking again are changing their policies to allow for travellers to cancel, change or delay their bookings without penalties.
Terms and conditions are different for each but among those offering the chance to book and then change your mind – and delay or get a refund – are British Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa, Netflights, Kuoni and Intrepid, plus the cruise lines Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara and Princess Cruises.
Know your rights
IF you have booked to visit China, the South Korean towns or places in northern Italy where the FCO has advised against all but essential travel, you have the right to ask for a refund, or delay travelling.
Your first point of contact should be your tour operator, or your travel agent if you have booked a package holiday or a cruise. If you booked independently, contact your travel insurance company.
For any other destination, if you choose to cancel, you would lose any money paid out and in the case of those due to travel in the next few weeks, could be subject to hefty cancellation penalties.
What you CAN do, though, is claim back the Air Passenger Duty (APD) – the tax the Government levies on flights.
This can be up to £26 on short-haul flights and £172 on long-haul. Some airlines charge you an admin fee to refund APD on unused flights, while others like easyJet will refund it for free.
If you suffer from an underlying medical condition that has been declared on your travel insurance, it may be worth asking your travel insurance provider if there is anything it can do.
If you book now
THERE is no doubt: This is a great time to grab a bargain trip. Tour firms and airlines are falling over themselves to encourage you to book.
Chief Medical Officer Christopher Whitty said this week: “If you happen to be in a place with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic, weaker than the NHS, that might be a bit more problematic.
“This is particularly an issue for those who are older or who have pre-existing medical conditions.”
However, across our traditional European holiday hotspots, health services are very good and this should not be a consideration if you are heading to the likes of Spain, France, Greece or Turkey.It would make sense to protect yourself as much as possible. Start by booking an ATOL-protected package. This is any holiday that includes a flight and at least one other component – hotel, villa, apartment or even car hire.
Should the worst happen, your travel company will be responsible for getting you home, or will refund you, should the FCO advice to a particular region change and recommend against all but essential travel.
The second you book your trip, make sure you get the best travel insurance you can afford. As a rule of thumb, look for policies that include decent cover for medical expenses, as well as Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance and End Supplier Failure.
These extra elements will protect you should your airline, hotel or travel company get into trouble.
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