Hundreds of thousands of holiday plans have been left in tatters after the Government placed France on its “red list” of countries, forcing many into a last-minute scramble to cancel their trips.
The Government has struck a number of places off its list of countries you can visit without having to quarantine for two weeks upon return. Britons planning to start their trip in the coming days must now start the process of requesting refunds and claiming on their insurance, unless they are prepared to self-isolate for 14 days on return.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential travel to France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos and Aruba from 4am on Saturday.
So what are your consumer rights and what refunds are you entitled to?
If you booked directly with your airline and it cancels your flight then you are entitled to a full refund.
If your flight is still running and you no longer want to go on your trip then you should hold off cancelling your booking yourself and hope that the airline does. If you voluntarily cancel, you are unlikely to get any money back.
MartynJames, of consumer rights group Resolver, said: “Consumers are being asked to take all the risks when booking travel. If flights are still running and the Government advice is not to travel, you are not technically entitled to a refund.”
Major airlines have waived their flight change fee, allowing customers to postpone their travel date if needed. It is worth checking the terms of the airline you booked with.
A spokesperson at credit card company Visa said passengers are not required to accept any changes to the service they originally purchased. If flights are rescheduled, there are ways you can try to get your money back instead of re-booking or accepting a voucher.
If you purchased your tickets on a debit or credit card and the seller is withholding a refund, you can contact your bank to make a “chargeback” claim. You can ask your credit card provider for a refund under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
The section is a legal act that protects you when you spend on your credit card but the value of the ticket or item must be between £100 and £30,000 to make a claim.
If you are unable to get a refund from the airline, you should turn to your travel insurance provider.
Unfortunately, the announcement means that the vast majority of travel insurance will be invalid if it has not already been purchased, according to Tommy Lloyd of Medical Travel Compared, a travel insurance comparison firm. Travel restrictions typically void policies if a country is added to the FCO’s “blacklist”.
He said: “I have always said how important it is to buy travel insurance at the time of booking and this horrendous situation is a good example of why this is an absolute necessity.”
If you bought travel insurance right now for an imminent holiday to France, as the FCO advisory is now a "known event" it is likely you would not be able to claim for a cancellation, he said.
Those who still plan to travel and accept the quarantine penalty on return should contact their travel insurer to explore their options and ascertain their level of cover.
Patrick Ikhena of comparethemarket.com, a price comparison website, said many insurance providers had started to offer “enhanced Covid cover” to give passengers more peace of mind. However, these are unlikely to include cover if you travel to a region against FCO advice. There are many different degrees of protection currently so it is important to check what you are covered for.
If you do not already have travel insurance and still want to travel despite the Government warning, insurance provider Battleface sells a new Covid-19 travel package that includes cover for countries to which the FCO advises against travelling.
But the added protection against potential changes in travel restrictions comes at a cost.
Anyone already in France can continue on their holiday as normal unless advised by their travel adviser and will still be covered under several insurance policies.
Antony Martin, of provider Insurefor.com, said those who have the Covid protection travel insurance policy will be covered for the rest of their trip. These protections include if they have tested positive for Covid-19 and need medical assistance, if the hotel they have already checked into is closed due to local lockdown or coronavirus issues, or if other guests tested positive. However, the policy does not cover any money lost during 14-day quarantine on their return.