MILLIONS of Brits could lose the entire cost of holidays as coronavirus cases surge putting trips abroad at risk.
It comes as the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) late last night updated its guide to advise against all but essential travel to the Canary and Balearic Islands.
This extends a ban placed on travel to mainland Spain put into place this weekend due to rising coronavirus cases, and there are now fears France and Germany could be next.
France and Germany are still on the government’s list of countries you don’t have to quarantine from on arrival to the UK, but all Spanish holidaymakers have now been told to isolate on their return.
It’s thought millions of Brits will also have trips booked to countries not on the government’s air bridge list, which means they may struggle to get a refund unless they bought a package.
But ignore FCO advice and continue to fly and it’s likely to invalidate any travel insurance cover you do have, although you’ll still be covered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in certain European countries.
Most insurance policies won’t cover coronavirus cancellations
One issue is that if your travel provider cancels your trip, any new travel insurance policies taken out or trips booked since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, and therefore a known event, may exclude cancellation cover.
So it is important to check what you are and are not covered for.
In this scenario you should, however, be able to claim from your travel provider or card provider instead given you’re not getting the service you paid for.
See below for more on this, as well as our round-up of the travel insurers that will cover coronavirus-related problems.
If you cancel, your insurance won’t pay out
Many tour operators, including TUI, are cancelling trips as a result of the change in FCO advice, but whether you’ll get your money back depends on a number of factors.
Package tour operators, for example, are obliged under law to provide an alternative trip or a full refund if they cancel trips.
But it appears some travel providers are getting around this by continuing to operate holidays meaning it’s up to the passenger to cancel.
And if you cancel you won’t be covered by your insurance.
Similarly, if you’re travelling elsewhere but you’re worried about last-minute quarantine rules being imposed, you’re also unlikely to be able to claim on your insurance if you cancel yourself.
Hotels and airlines can refuse refunds if they don’t cancel trips
A separate issue is for passengers who didn’t book a package and who paid for separate flights and hotels.
In this scenario you’re not covered by package travel rules and this means you’re at the mercy of your hotel and flight operator for a refund.
This is proving a problem for those with trips to Spain as many airlines are continuing to fly despite government advice.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “While almost all package holidays are now likely to be cancelled, airlines are ignoring the FCO’s travel warning and continuing flights to Spain, therefore refusing customers refunds.
“This forces customers to make an impossible decision on whether to fly or risk losing their money.”
You’re also unlikely to be able to claim from your card provider in this scenario as your accommodation and flights are still going ahead as planned.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act credit card providers are jointly liable if retailers or service providers are unable to provide what you’ve paid for – so long as it cost between £100 and £30,000.
Similar rules called Chargeback also cover credit card purchases under £100 as well as debit card purchases but unlike Section 75 these aren’t written into law meaning you’re not guaranteed to get your money back.