The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact around the world already. As the virus continues to spread many people wishing to travel on long-awaited holidays or to study or work abroad have seen their dreams set aside. In this guide we’ll cover your travel rights and what options are available for you.
What is the government saying?
On the 24th March 2020, the UK entered into a state of lockdown for three weeks. This means that citizens are only allowed to leave the house in order to buy essential items, for medical purposes, to help or care for a vulnerable person, to undertake one form of exercise or if you are an essential worker or your job cannot be done from home. Whilst this lockdown is in place you will not be able to travel abroad. The current situation is changing daily and at present the government is calling for all citizens to stay home and self-isolate. You can find out more about this here.
I was meant to be travelling in the next three weeks, what are my options?
You will be unable to go on holiday or travel during the next three weeks as the UK is under lockdown, this goes for holidays in the UK and abroad. As this lockdown has been announced and enforced by the government, you will have rights regarding refunds or being able to reschedule your dates.
You should only be leaving your house for one form of exercise or to travel to work. This is applicable to anyone who is an essential worker or whose job cannot be done from home. When travelling outside it is important to practise social distancing and keep a 2m gap between yourself and others. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. If you feel unwell, do not travel outside and you should self-isolate.
What happens if I go against the government guidelines?
It’s important to adhere to current guidelines and not travel during this time unless it is essential to. Anyone in the UK who breaks the rules of the three week imposed lockdown faces being fined or prosecuted.
What if I was meant to be travelling abroad for a new job?
Contact your new employer and see what their current policies are, their HR department will be able to recommend the next steps or if there are options to work from home in the time being. Your new role may be put on hold or your start date may be rescheduled.
What if I was meant to be travelling to study abroad?
Unfortunately, with the crisis, many universities have closed with work now being moved online. If you are meant to be undertaking a term abroad it is unlikely that you will be able to at this time. Contact your university’s international department to see what their policies are and how they can best assist you in this time.
What if I have a package holiday booked?
If you have a package holiday booked during the time of the lockdown you are entitled to contact your tour operator and request for a full refund or to reschedule your holiday. If your holiday is after the current recommended time, you also have options if you do not want to travel, with some companies offering an alternative. It’s important to get in touch with your tour operator and enquire about their policies and what options you have regarding cancellation fees, any refunds or new dates.
What if I booked my flights independently?
Due to the exceptional circumstances airline companies are offering many customers flexibility during this crisis. If your flight has been cancelled due to the lockdown or any flight bans, then you are entitled to a full refund, however, this may take time to process at the moment, as airlines are inundated.
All airlines are allowing customers to reschedule flights, but you will not always receive an email notification. Some airlines recommend that you log into your account and go to manage booking to see which options are available for you.
What if I booked my accommodation independently?
Many online booking companies are allowing people to make changes to their bookings without incurring a fee. AirBnB has announced that if you have booked accommodation between the 14th March to the 14th April then you can cancel or amend your booking for free. Booking.com is also waiving cancellation fees, whilst Expedia is allowing people to reschedule their bookings free of charge. Hotels.com are offering free cancellation depending on the country you are travelling to and outline this in detail on their website.
Hotel chains like Premier Inn are allowing customers to amend or cancel their bookings free of charge. The Hilton hotel chain is also offering this option.
Should I still go on holiday in April or May?
The situation is changing on a daily basis, so it’s important to pay attention to the latest news and updates. The current lockdown is imposed for three weeks, but this is likely to be extended. It’s important to know that if you decide to cancel your holiday and there is no current government recommendation against traveling then you will not be able to claim a refund. Contact your tour operator to see if their tours are going ahead, as many companies have postponed all tours until the end of May or beginning of June.
If you have booked your holiday independently, contact your airline and enquire about rescheduling your flights. You will also have this option for accommodation, but whether you get a refund or can reschedule for free will depend on the company you booked with.
Will my travel insurance cover COVID-19?
If you purchased your travel insurance before the crisis it might still cover you. However, as the outbreak took hold many insurance companies either stopped including disruption cover in their policies or added a clause to exclude any disruption from the coronavirus. Some companies have now stopped selling travel insurance altogether. To learn more, contact your insurer, some have now updated their websites to include information about their cover and whether it is applicable to anything coronavirus related.
Is there a way I can send things to loved ones?
Even though you are unable to travel to a destination, you still are able to send items to some countries via a courier service. At My Baggage we are helping people connect with their loved ones overseas by giving them the opportunity to send a care package. This is the ideal option for anyone who has family or friends abroad that they are unable to visit. You can learn more about this here.