Can’t make a holiday due to lockdown law? No right to refunds, says Abta

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Distant dream: the south coast of Barbados (Simon Calder)
Distant dream: the south coast of Barbados (Simon Calder)

As millions of Scots become subject to a travel ban, Abta has confirmed that UK holidaymakers who are prevented from going abroad by lockdown laws are not entitled to a refund.

At present, residents of England and Wales are not allowed to go on holiday abroad. The Scottish government is bringing in a similar law for people who live in a Level 3 or 4 local authority area – which includes Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and many other areas.

“Going on holiday, including abroad, is not a reasonable excuse to leave,” the Scottish government says.

Many holidaymakers have contacted The Independent about trips they have been unable to take because of the lockdown laws. They include a honeymoon couple who were due to be in the Caribbean, but could not take the trip because of England’s second lockdown.

The couple were originally due to travel in April, but in March they agreed to pay an extra £300 to switch the trip to November. They were unable to make the journey without breaking the law, and are £1,200 out of pocket.

“They are basically saying we should have gone ahead with the holiday because the flight still operated and the hotel is open,” they told The Independent.

They say their bank and travel insurer refused any compensation because the trip still went ahead, even though the law prevented them taking it.

Abta, the travel association, agrees that the couple – and thousands of other holidaymakers in similar positions – have no right to a full refund unless the trip is cancelled by the operator or goes against Foreign Office advice.

Crucially, while the law prevents residents of England going anywhere abroad on holiday, the Foreign Office advice does not reflect this inability to travel.

A spokesperson for Abta said: “If the airline cancels your flight, the travel company cancels the package holiday or the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel you should be entitled to a full refund.

“In other situations, customers should speak to their travel company to discuss what their options are. There are likely to be options to amend travel dates beyond the end of the lockdown period.

“If no alternatives can be arranged customers might receive a part refund although the travel company would be entitled to retain any costs already incurred that could not be recovered from the travel service suppliers.

“This is what the Competition and Markets Authority [CMA] has said about local lockdowns so far.

"You can speak to your travel insurance provider to see if there is any cover, although most policies don’t cover for this sort of Covid cancellation.”

The Package Travel Regulations, which cover package holidays, do not address the case when customers are prevented from travelling by UK government action.

While the CMA stipulates that refunds should generally be offered when new laws prevent travel, as Abta says the holiday company can withhold costs that have been incurred directly in connection with the booking.

Leading tour operators, including Tui and Jet2, have cancelled hundreds of departures during lockdowns, and offered full refunds. If the trip is going ahead but the customer cannot legally travel, they generally allow postponements.

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