Coronavirus: Brits told to 'indefinitely' avoid non-essential overseas travel

Caroline Allen
The FCO has made a change to the advice. (Getty Images)

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has changed its travel advice and advised Brits to avoid going abroad “indefinitely” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On 17 March, the FCO advised against all but essential travel globally for a period of 30 days, which has now been extended.

Those with holidays booked in the future will likely hear from their travel companies and airlines to agree the next steps.

Companies have been offering people the option to receive credit or vouchers in lieu of being able to book a new date.

However, people are also entitled to have a refund if that’s their preferred option.

Travel companies have prioritised people who were meant to be travelling imminently and with expectant holidaymakers flooding the phone lines, it has been a challenge for them to keep up.

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There’s some ambiguity about what constitutes as “essential travel” which the FCO goes some way to clarify on its website.

“Sometimes we say that only essential travel is advised. Whether travel is essential or not is your own decision.

“You may have urgent family or business commitments to attend to. Circumstances differ from person to person. Only you can make an informed decision based on the risks.”

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The “indefinite” term is shrouded in some doubt, which has left people asking questions about what this will mean for their rebooking, refund and insurance rights.

“Indefinitely? Would have been easier to do it in 30 day increments? Gonna be a nightmare for airlines tour operators and their customers to manage their way through this now.” One person wrote in response to the changes.

“How about an explanation of "indefinite"! I suspect both the airlines and insurers are going to have a field day when people try to contact them to get refunds or claim.” Another added.

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A spokesperson for UK travel trade association Abta, has tried to add some light on what this means: “This advice could be in place for the foreseeable future, however this travel restriction can be removed at any time, so travel companies are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers.

“Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. There is no legal definition of ‘imminent travel’, however it is generally considered to be within the next few days.

“Our advice to customers with future bookings is to be patient and wait to be contacted by your travel provider. Travel companies are extremely busy, given the pressures of the current crisis, and will be looking at imminent departures first and deciding how far in advance they will offer alternative arrangements or refunds.”

For now, it seems the best action to take is to wait to hear from your travel provider if your trip isn’t in the next 30 days, otherwise, seek to speak to your travel company or airline.