HELP! COVID-19 CANCELLED MY HOLIDAY
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
This is the number one most talked about subject in the Travel Industry at the moment... cancellations. We have spent the last 3 months helping our clients sort their cancelled travel plans so thought we’d share some of our insight.
First you need to know if your holiday has actually been cancelled. As we know all non-essential travel from the end of March was advised against by the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) which means there is a good chance if you were due to leave the UK during that time your trip has been cancelled.
It may sound obvious but check with your Travel Agent/ Tour Operator/ Airline/ Cruise Line/ Hotel etc to find out if your plans have been cancelled. A lot of the time companies will contact you but don’t take that for granted. Some scheduled airlines are still operating flights in which case it’s up to you to contact them to see what your options are otherwise you’ll be listed as a ”no show”. Always go through the channel/company that you booked through first.
Once you know the status of your trip you will likely have options...
If you’re planning to take this trip or a similar trip again in the foreseeable future then it’s a great time to rebook. Many companies are offering free changes or even giving you extra incentives to rebook.
We have noticed that 2021 is selling fast. Many trips have been cancelled this year all eyes are on next year to get plans secured before the mad rush.
REFUND CREDIT NOTE
What is a Refund Credit Note? (RCN)
A Refund Credit Note (RCN) entitles you to rebook a holiday or receive a cash refund at a later date, up until the expiry date of the note. It also retains any financial protection that you may have had with your original booking.
RCN is a great option for those who want to travel again but are not quite ready to rebook. Maybe you’re wondering when it’s going to be safe to travel...
Maybe you can’t get your annual leave approved yet...
Maybe flights aren’t released for when you want to go yet...
Whatever the circumstances take the time to consider this option as it’s often quicker and less complicated than requesting a refund.
RCN also gives you the right to refund if you change your mind. ABTA’s guidance is worth reading: https://www.abta.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak
If the above options don’t suit then the next obvious step is to seek a full refund.
This is where things get slightly more complicated:
Cancelled Flight Only - There are delays with Airline’s refunds & many only offering the option to rebook at a later date.
Currently the ball is in the Airline’s court as they have your money. Many are based overseas and are setting their own rules. You can always try reporting the airline if they’re not playing ball but don’t hold your breath. We have found that if you can get through to a person on the phone they’re often more helpful than online chats but you may need to dedicate a chunk of time to the cause as call waiting times are longer than usual. Keep trying!
Cancelled Package Holidays -
If you booked a package holiday, you are entitled to a refund. We completely understand that for those customers that would prefer a refund to rebooking, you may be frustrated and concerned by the amount of time it is taking. In normal circumstances a refund should be paid within 14 days. But these circumstances are extraordinary, and it is simply impossible for many companies to pay monies back as quickly as they would like to as many have not yet received money back from hotels, airlines and other suppliers affected by the crisis.
Our experience of dealing with Package Operators varies A LOT. The further into the chaos of Covid-19 cancellations the slower the refunds are becoming. This doesn’t mean they’re not happening, it just means some are happening slower than others.
One of the benefits of booking with a Travel Agent is that this becomes our fight. Agents up and down the country have been working day and night to seek refunds for their customers. If I can make one request of the general population it’s to be kind to your Travel Agent. They’re not sitting on your cash and I can imagine they want to get your money back to you as quickly as possible. Many Tour Operators, Airlines etc have furloughed the vast majority of their teams to protect their business which means less people are dealing with unprecedented cancellations & refund requests.
I can‘t think of any event in the life of the Travel Industry where there has been such widespread and prolonged disruption. I think it’s fair to say that no company imagined this & that no company had a plan of how to deal with a pandemic on this scale.
Under the Package Travel Regulations (PTR) you are currently entitled to a refund for a cancelled holiday if you wish but there are calls for the Government to change these rules to protect the Travel Industry. It may be that going forward Refund Credit Notes are issued in place of cash refunds. We are keeping our ears close to the ground to hear if the UK Government announces this change.
As we are fast approaching the Peak Summer Season there are signs of hope for travel resuming. We are expecting quarantines to be lifted and “travel corridors“ introduced which would allow some sort of foreign travel to take place.
Our hope is that Airlines & Tour Operators will act fairly, continuing to provide options for passengers going forward. If you have a live booking for the coming months then it’s important to keep informed: - Regularly check the FCO advice for the county you are visiting.
- Check with the company you’ve booked with to see what options you have.
- If you do decide to go make sure you have Travel Insurance in place.
If you want to make a new booking then speak to a human first.
Just because a flight is bookable online doesn’t mean you should go on that flight. Travel Professionals will be able to give you genuine advice and guidance before booking.
I hope this article has been helpful.
I look forward to the day where we can archive this as “old news” and we can roam the planet freely and responsibly. In the meantime... stay safe!