What you need to know about your holiday insurance and refund rights

Holidaymakers desperate to cancel trips abroad amid fears of snap travel bans and quarantine rules risk losing thousands of pounds because travel insurers will not pay out. 

The Foreign Office has this week warned against ‘all but essential travel’ to mainland Spain and the Balearic and Canary islands, with returning travellers ordered to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive home. 

More countries, including Croatia, Belgium, France and Germany, could soon face curbs, with ministers claiming ‘no travel is risk-free during this pandemic’. 

Flying into trouble?: Holidaymakers desperate to cancel trips abroad amid fears of snap travel bans and quarantine rules risk losing thousands of pounds

Yet holidaymakers who can’t work from home in the event of the new quarantine rules face heavy losses if they try to cancel. 

Ministers have already acknowledged that some returning travellers from Spain may have to sign on for benefits if their employers won’t pay them while they self-isolate. Here Money Mail answers your most pressing questions about travelling abroad this summer…

Can I get insurance? 

Only a handful of travel insurers will pay coronavirus-related claims. 

Abta, British Airways, Cedar Tree, CoverForYou, Coverwise, Insurefor.com, Outbacker and Trailfinders cover the cost of cancellation if you catch the virus or need to self-isolate, medical treatment abroad and repatriation, according to the ratings site, Defaqto. 

Axa, Leisure Guard, the Post Office, Saga and Staysure will cover only your treatment abroad and the cost of returning home. 

If you bought an annual policy before March, you may also be covered for losses relating to coronavirus, but check the insurer has not since added an exclusion. 

There is no cover on offer for holidaymakers who may need to cancel a trip or return home early to avoid new quarantine rules. 

Brian Brown, head of insight at Defaqto, says: ‘No travel insurer will cover you cancelling your holiday because your employer refuses you time off to quarantine.’ 

If you were in Spain when the new travel ban was introduced, you should still be protected — but not if you stay longer than planned. And no travel insurer will pay claims — coronavirus-related or not — if you travel against Foreign Office advice. 

Will I get a refund? 

If your flight is cancelled, the airline should refund you within seven days under EU law. However, many airlines are encouraging passengers to accept vouchers or rearrange their trip for later in the year — though you may be charged extra if flights are more expensive. Many of those who have demanded a refund are still waiting. 

Later this week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is expected to name and shame airlines who have been slow to refund. 

It is crucial you wait for airlines and tour operators to call off the holiday. If you cancel, you may not be refunded. 

Package holiday customers must be reimbursed within 14 days under the Package Travel Regulations, although this is also regularly taking longer. 

If you accept a refund credit note, this is guaranteed by the government should the operator go bust — but vouchers are not covered. 

If you booked a holiday through a third-party booking site such as Lastminute.com, the online agent is responsible for refunding you — however, if you just booked a flight through a third party, you can claim a refund direct from the airline. Some online agents charge an administration fee.

What do airlines say? 

Jet2 has cancelled all flights to mainland Spain and the islands. 

Ryanair customers who do not want to fly to Spain may have to pay a flight change fee, plus fare difference, to move their trip. 

British Airways says customers who choose not to board a flight can claim a voucher for future travel. This applies to bookings made after March 3 for trips scheduled to take place before April 30 next year. 

If your flight is cancelled, you can have a voucher or cash refund. EasyJet says that it plans to operate its full schedule to Spain. If you no longer wish to travel you can transfer your flight without paying the usual fee, or request a voucher. 

Tui UK has cancelled all holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands until July 31. Trips to mainland Spain will not go ahead before August 9. 

Those whose holidays have been cancelled can request a refund or rearrange the holiday.

Can my bank help me? 

If your flight or holiday cost more than £100 on your credit card you have protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, and may be able to claim a refund from your bank or card provider. 

However, if your flight or accommodation is not cancelled, you may not have a claim as your holiday could still go ahead. 

If you paid by debit card you can make a chargeback request. There is no minimum spend. But if the trip is not cancelled, it’s unlikely the claim would be accepted. 

Are there any work risks?

Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, says: ‘Those who suddenly have to quarantine are in a very weak legal position, as their bosses don’t have to give them time off if they are unable to work from home.’ 

You can ask your employer for extra annual or unpaid leave, but they are not obliged to agree. If you lose your income you may be eligible for Universal Credit but not statutory sick pay.

Where can I complain? 

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, make a formal complaint to the airline. Your next step is to contact an Alternative Dispute Resolution Service, if your airline is a member. 

Aviation ADR (aviationadr.org. uk) covers easyJet, Tui, Virgin Atlantic, Wizz Air, among others. 

Take British Airways complaints to CEDR (cedr.com). You must pay £25 but only if your claim fails. 

Ryanair and Jet2 do not belong to an ADR scheme. You can take complaints to the CAA’s Passenger Advice and Complaints Team, but decisions are not binding. 

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