Will my package break still give peace of mind? What the coronavirus crisis could mean for your summer holiday plans
- Tour operator Tui says beach holidays will be cancelled until at least June 11
- While Jet2 has already cancelled holidays until at least June 17
- Neil Simpson explores options in case your holiday doesn’t go ahead
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week, he looks at the prospects for package holidays this summer.
Question marks hang over millions of summer holidays this weekend as hotels, airlines and travel firms wait to discover when the world will reopen for business.
Until last week, Tui, the world’s largest tour operator, said it was hoping to start taking travellers to the sun again from May 14. Now it says beach holidays will be cancelled until at least June 11 and its ocean and river cruises won’t restart until June 30.
Leap of faith: Summer holidays may yet go ahead, but there are options if yours is not as originally booked
Jet2 has already cancelled holidays until at least June 17, and a new wave of cancellations from smaller package-holiday providers is expected to be announced in coming days.
Optimists in the travel industry say they hope that trips booked for the summer school holidays in late July and August will still take place as planned, though their best advice is to prepare for revised flight times or being switched to ‘similar standard’ accommodation if some hotels stay closed. This could even mean similar hotels in different countries altogether if, say, Greece recovers far faster than Spain, which has been one of the countries hit hardest by the crisis.
But it is equally important to have a strategy ready in case your holiday does get cancelled.
If it happens, the easy option is to rebook any time up to and including next summer. The big advantage in doing this is that if your original package holiday was ATOL-protected – part of the Government-backed scheme that looks after your money – then your next one will offer the same assurances.
Rebooking means you’ll also have a break in the sun to look forward to once the crisis ends.
If you can’t find a suitable alternative holiday straight away, your tour firm may offer you a voucher so you can book a similar-value trip within the next year. However, the risk with this is that if your tour operator goes bust, the voucher is likely to become worthless.
That’s why ABTA, the UK travel trade association, has created an alternative option called a Refund Credit Note (RCN). This has the flexibility of a voucher and its value can be used to book another trip as soon as you find one you like. Crucially, an RCN will be backed by the ABTA/ATOL safety nets so its value can be repaid if your tour firm goes under.
Until last week, Tui, the world’s largest tour operator, said it was hoping to start taking travellers to the sun again from May 14. Now it says beach holidays will be cancelled until at least June 11
It also has an ‘end date’ by when it can be exchanged for cash if you subsequently decide not to rebook at all.
Many of the first RCNs have July 31 as an end date, but firms can choose their own. Find out exactly what you should look for in a Refund Credit Note at abta.com under the heading ‘Coronavirus advice for customers’.
Finally, if your package holiday is cancelled and you simply want your money back, you are entitled to it. The rules say refunds should be paid within 14 days of cancellation, although many travel firms are struggling to find the resources to comply with that at the moment.
ABTA and consumer group Which? suggest a month is likely to be a more realistic timeframe, and advise making a note of when and how you request your refund so the company can’t try to avoid paying it later.
Get the latest information on the claims process at which.co.uk under ‘Coronavirus outbreak Q&A: advice for travellers’.