Coronavirus ABTA Announcement
Coronavirus advice for customers
Please be aware we’re receiving an exceptional volume of customer enquiries, which we are responding to as quickly as we can. Unfortunately, we cannot respond to all of these calls directly, so please check our Q&A below.
ABTA Members are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers. If your trip is not imminent, your travel company may not be in touch with you right away. Our advice is to keep trying, though please do be patient.
On 17 March the Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) advised against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals, initially for a 30-day period.
General travel advice for travellers
The FCO currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals. British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place.
For the latest updates please visit the FCO website here.
Those currently in destination should be aware that many destination authorities have advised you to leave as soon as possible and introduced enhanced health measures including self-isolation procedures, and it is very important that travellers follow the public health advice relating to their local destination. Travellers should comply with these processes and take relevant preventative measures to reduce the risk of exposure. Travellers should also keep up to date on local advice.
Advice to customers seeking refunds and with forward bookings:
On 17 March the Government advised against all non-essential travel overseas, initially for a period of 30 days.This situation is unprecedented, and ABTA is in urgent talks with the Government to introduce temporary changes to regulations to ensure that customer’s money is protected under the current extraordinary circumstances.
We are asking for support from the travelling public in the following ways:
- If your trip has been cancelled because of the change in FCO advice, talk in the first instance to your travel provider to discuss options.
- If possible, postpone your holiday or travel arrangements, don’t cancel – this will mean you have a holiday to look forward to in the future, and it will help your travel provider maintain its cash flow through the short-term challenges.
- If you are not able to postpone, they may offer you a refund credit voucher instead of a cash refund. ABTA is in urgent talks with the Government to ensure that these credit arrangements have the full cover of financial protection. You should await further guidance on this.
- If your travel provider has said they will offer a cash refund, please be patient with them as they process this: they are likely to be dealing with an exceptionally high volume of enquiries.
- If you have a travel booking for later in the year, please be patient. The situation is changing rapidly, and travel restrictions are currently only in place until mid-April. You may incur cancellation charges or lose your deposit if you make a hasty decision.
Nobody knows for sure how long the current coronavirus pandemic will last, but we know that we will come out of the other side and we need to ensure that when we do, holidaymakers are still able to book and take their holidays and that there is healthy and competitive travel industry to support them.
Q: What do I do if I have a holiday booked to depart after the current 30-day no-travel period (up to 16 April)?
A: If you have a travel booking for later in the year, please be patient. The situation is changing rapidly, and travel restrictions are currently only in place until 16 April.
If it turns out that FCO advice against travel affects your holiday, your travel company will contact you to discuss the options, at that time.
If there is no Government advice against travel to your destination, you’re free to make the choice not to go, but there's no obligation on your holiday company to give you a refund. Normal cancellation charges will apply.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to claim any cancellation charge on your insurance as there isn’t normally cover for disinclination to travel but you can check the terms of your policy.
The safety of travellers is a priority for travel companies, and their decisions will follow British Government advice.
If you cancel now, or don’t pay your balance when it is due, normal terms and conditions will apply and you will lose your deposit or have to pay cancellation charges.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to, which includes a link through to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website that provides specific travel health advice for countries. The Foreign Office also has a specific page with more information on coronavirus.
Q: I’m abroad already, should I return home immediately?
A: The FCO are not currently advising British people to immediately return to the UK if they are overseas, except for the countries detailed in their travel advice.
However, British people should keep in mind that flights may be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions may be put in place by foreign governments.
If people do want to return to the UK immediately, then they need to take account of the fast moving situation and plan accordingly, while flights remain available in many places.
Q: What happens if I have to travel whilst the non-essential advice is in place?
A: British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place. Anyone still considering travel needs to be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face.
Anyone planning to travel should check the validity of their travel insurance.
British nationals who need to travel are advised to read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice for the country they are travelling to, which includes entry requirements and a link through to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website that provides specific travel health advice for countries.
As a precautionary measure enhanced health screening procedures have been put in place at arrival and departure areas in many countries.
Many countries have also introduced entry restrictions for people travelling from certain countries, travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice and sign up to email alerts for the country they are travelling to, as these are subject to change at short notice.
Q: What are my options for postponing a trip?
A: As a result of the extraordinary situation and customer concerns over coronavirus, many travel companies and airlines are doing all they can to offer more flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their travel date should they wish to postpone their holiday. In certain circumstances this may not be possible. Customers should speak to their travel provider to discuss what their options may be.
Q: If I cannot follow my initial travel plans due to the coronavirus outbreak, am I entitled to compensation?
A: You won’t be entitled to any compensation, as the reason for the holiday not continuing is outside the control of the tour operator.
Q: My holiday is after the current 30-day no-travel period (up to 16 April) but I have a pre-existing medical condition and do not want to travel – can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday?
A: As with the above advice, you’re free to make the choice not to travel, but if the FCO are not advising against travel to your destination then there is no obligation on your travel company to give you a refund. Normal cancellation charges will apply.