Thousands of Britons have had travel plans scuppered after the Government announced holidaymakers going to Spain – or are currently there – must quarantine for 14 days on their return.
It’s another blow for the beleaguered travel industry, with many booking last minute sunshine trips to Spain or simply going ahead with summer holidays that were planned before the coronavirus pandemic.
There are questions over what it means for holidaymakers and their money. Can you claim on insurance, Section 75 of your credit card or cancel with your airline and hotel directly?
Outbreak: Holidaymakers going to Spain now have to quarantine for 14 days on their return
Can employers stop you from going or withhold pay and what does it do for the confidence of those planning trips to countries that have had quarantine restrictions removed in recent weeks?
To help travellers understand their rights, we has put together a list of questions and answers for those heading to or from Spain need to know.
What’s going on?
The decision was announced on Sunday after the Government said there has been a ‘significant change’ over the last week in both the level and pace of change in confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Spain.
Since then, the advice has been extended to include the Balearics and Canary Islands, despite the areas initially being exempt from the quarantine rules.
This has left a large number of travellers having to isolate on their return with thousands of other holidaymakers unsure whether to cancel their holiday or not.
There have been talks about the quarantine being reduced to 10 days, but it is not clear if that will happen or not, with the situation changing at pace all the time.
Crucially, on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises British nationals against ‘all but essential international travel,’ to Spain.
It says: ‘This advice is being kept under constant review… national control measures may be brought in with little notice.’
I have a trip booked soon to Spain, will I get a refund?
If you booked a package holiday which is cancelled by the provider, you are entitled to a refund and it should be returned within 14 days.
However, many are not yet cancelling, just as airlines are not yet cancelling flights. By law, if you booked with an airline directly, you should receive a refund from them within seven days – if it cancels your flights.
The first port of call should be to contact your travel company or airline directly. Some might be offering the option to rebook or to accept a voucher for the value of your booking.
However, as we have seen in the past few months, lines will be busy and many firms have been slow to refund even when they have cancelled trips or flights.
Which package firms are cancelling and what will I get if they do?
It is essential to check about your particular booking with the firm, with all currently having different approaches to the latest crisis.
For instance, Jet2 and Tui have cancelled trips up to certain dates in August. This means you should get a refund or, if you should want to, a voucher or the option to rebook.
And Kuoni, even though it is not cancelling trips, is offering refunds or rebookings at a later date. Again, you should check with the firm you have booked with.
Jet2 has cancelled trips to Spain up to certain dates in August in response to the outbreak
Which airlines are cancelling and what will I get if they do?
You must check your particular flight. None of BA, easyJet or Ryanair are cancelling at the moment – but the situation is fast moving.
In the case of BA and easyJet it seems that they are offering a voucher for the value of certain bookings, or the option to rebook.
No other airlines have signalled that they are cancelling or offering flexibility yet.
Will I be able to cancel a direct hotel booking because of this?
If you have booked directly with a hotel it is unlikely that they will let you cancel without abiding by their cancellation charges.
You could try appealing to their goodwill and there is certainly no harm in asking. They may for instance let you move to a later date.
If you have booked through a third-party website like Booking.com, Expedia or Lastminute, you may find that the cancellation terms are more generous, depending on what sort of reservation you made.
What if my trip isn’t cancelled but I want to cancel it?
If your trip isn’t cancelled, contact your travel provider in the first instance to see if they are offering refunds, vouchers or a change of date.
It is a fast-mving situation and as the Foreign Office advice has changed, more trips will be cancelled. So if you can wait, it might be worth seeign if your provider first – as you will then be entitled to a refund.
If they are not, you may have to swallow the cost of cancelling your holiday and then fighting to get a refund through your insurance, credit card provider through Section 75 or a chargeback, offered by some banks.
While most tour providers still haven’t shown their hand, it is thought likely most will cancel holidays given the Government advice.
If your trip isn’t cancelled, contact your travel provider to see if they are offering refunds
Can I claim on my travel insurance?
If you can’t get a refund, your travel insurance might pay out – although most will not.
It is likely travellers will fall into two camps here. Those who booked before the pandemic who should have bought cover as soon as the trip was booked.
Then there are those who might have booked as a last minute ‘gamble.’ Some may have an annual policy that covers this type of cancellation, but finding cover with cancellation cover since the pandemic unfolded has been all but impossible.
You will need to check your insurance policy wording to see if you are able to make a successful claim.
I have a booking to Spain in the next few days or weeks: what happens if I go?
If you travel to Spain against FCO advice, your travel insurance will be invalid and you will have no cover for anything, including medical claims.
This is obviously quite risky, especially if you end up needing any sort of medical attention, so it would be generally advised to try and re-arrange or cancel your trip.
This is why it is important to contact the airline, hotel and/or tour operator to cancel.
What will happen when I get back?
If you’re returning to the UK from Spain you will need to provide your journey and contact details and self-isolate for 14 days. This may drop to 10 days soon.
You may be fined up to £100 if you refuse to provide your contact details or more if you break this rule more than once.
You may also be fined up to £1,000 if you refuse to self-isolate, or you could face further action.
Will my employer pay me if I have to quarantine?
This will depend on your employer and their rules. If, for example, you can still work from home, there should – in theory – be no problem with you quarantining.
However, you are not automatically entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer if you have to quarantine after coming back off holiday, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
Some employers will offer sick pay – either statutory or a higher level, depending on their policy.
It could be that if your employer is unable to offer you sick pay, you could take annual leave to avoid missing out on any payment, although this may not be possible if you do not have enough left to take.
However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put on to sick pay.
Slater and Gordon employment lawyer Danielle Parsons said: ‘Those returning from Spain, who have suddenly discovered they have to quarantine are in a very weak legal position as their bosses don’t have to give them time off if they are unable to work from home.
‘If you’re able to explain this to your employer they could offer you the chance to take annual leave or unpaid leave.
‘However if this leads to a dispute the employee only has a claim to unfair dismissal if they have been with the employer for two or more years.
‘Those who are self-employed will potentially have no recourse with income protection needing a longer period of time to kick in.’
If you travel to Spain on holiday against FCO advice, your travel insurance will be invalid
What if I have a trip booked to Spain? Should I sit tight or ask to cancel now?
The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to Spain, therefore, it would be wise to contact your travel provider urgently.
Although many flights still haven’t been cancelled, it is likely – given the FCO advice – that they will be soon. But you should check the latest with the firms directly.
People currently on holiday in Spain have been encouraged to follow local rules, return home as normal and check the FCO’s travel advice for further information.
I am thinking of booking a European trip: should I go ahead?
The advice is that if you book a trip to somewhere like Spain, France, Italy or Gsermany, must be prepared to lose your money.
There are ways of booking that offer more flexibility. Airline operators offer flexibile tickets. And booking rooms via websites like Booking.com, Expedia and AirBnB often means that you can cancel quite close to the date of travel without losing too much money.
As seen with Spain, the advice can change quickly.
Can I cancel and get a refund if I booked with credit card?
If you paid by credit card, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers transactions costing between £100 and £30,000 – where at least part of the purchase was made using your credit card.
If your airline, hotel or tour operator will not play ball, you might need to go down this route.
If you paid on a debit card – and also credit card – you can also potentially issue a chargeback via your bank.
This gives customers a chance of getting your money back from your bank if you bought faulty goods, a service wasn’t provided, or the company you bought something from went bust and your goods weren’t delivered.
Under the chargeback process – which is part of Amex, Mastercard and Visa rules – your bank is asking for money back from the airline or holiday firm’s bank.
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