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The coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on the travel industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all travel and all but essential travel worldwide. This guide looks at what this means for your holiday plans, travel insurance and how you’re protected.
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Many insurers are limiting or changing cover on single and multi-trip policies for claims relating to coronavirus.
It is important you contact your insurer to find out how coronavirus is going to affect your policy. Some insurers will not cover any claims relating to coronavirus on new policies or holiday bookings made after the 17 March 2020.
You should check directly with any potential insurers to find out how coronavirus affects your policy.
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If your airline or holiday company has cancelled your trip because of coronavirus, you are legally entitled to a full cash refund. In most cases this legal entitlement is dependent on the airline or holiday company informing you that the holiday has been cancelled. Should you cancel before receiving this notification you run the risk of losing your right to a cash refund without a cancellation penalty.
Unfortunately, many airlines or holiday companies are failing to meet this requirement due to the unprecedented number of refund claims being processed. We advise if you want a cash refund to hold out for one, even though it is currently taking substantially longer for airlines and holiday companies to process at the moment.
You may instead be offered vouchers or the option to arrange an alternative flight or holiday. Legislation does not require you to take these options and you can still insist on a full cash refund.
If only part of your holiday has been cancelled, for example your airline has cancelled your flight, but your hotel has not, it’s worth getting in touch with the parts that have not cancelled to see if they will offer you a refund before making a claim on your travel insurance policy.
If you have travel insurance, you should check your policy or with your insurer to find out if you might be able to make a claim for other costs associated with your trip. You will only be able to make a successful claim against your travel insurance policy if you have attempted to make a claim first against your airline or holiday company. Your policy will only cover you for any costs that couldn’t be refunded.
Unless you booked your flight as part of a package holiday, whether or not you are entitled to get a cash refund will depend on whether you are ATOL protected. Generally, flights booked directly with an airline and some flight only bookings with your tour operator will not be protected unless you have received an ATOL protected certificate with your booking.
Although many travel insurance policies don’t cover insolvency it’s still worth checking your policy. If not you might still be able to claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you bought the tickets using a credit card.
No, ATOL protection is designed to help you if your travel agent goes out of business. So, if your holiday is cancelled, ATOL does not protect you.
Taking vouchers for your flight could be risky should the company become insolvent and any vouchers offered by ATOL backed holiday companies may not be covered under the ATOL scheme. This has led to many holiday companies now offering ‘refund credit notes’ which ABTA claim will be financially protected by ATOL up until their stated expiry date.
You can still book holidays, however this is a risk as it’s unclear when flights will resume. The government has also announced a 14-day travel quarantine to help limit the spread of Covid-19, for those arriving in the UK from 8 June
If you do book a holiday now it’s unlikely your travel insurance will cover you for coronavirus related claims, even if you have an existing annual policy because it now considered a “known event” by insurers. Some policies may still cover you for emergency medical treatment related to Coronavirus so it’s still best to check with your insurer.
Booking a future holiday using a credit card means you might be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which might offer you some additional protection if you’re unable to claim a refund from your airline or holiday company and you’re not already covered by your travel insurance policy.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.