Countries around the world are beginning to close their borders as coronavirus panic continues. This has resulted in less demand for travel and thus airlines across the globe are being forced to amend itineraries and cancel certain routes.
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Many passengers are now faced with the devastation of cancelled holiday plans, as well as worries over financial losses.
However, if airlines are cancelling flights then passengers will be able to claim back their money, even if there is a slight wait.
In what cases am I entitled to a refund?
Passengers are entitled to a refund if their airline has cancelled their flight due to the current coronavirus outbreak.
At the time of writing easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Norwegian have all cancelled or have plans to cancel a huge number of flights.
BA has grounded 75 percent of its scheduled flights through April and May, easyJet has cancelled 100 flights across Europe so far with “further significant cancellations” planned.
Ryanair has announced that from Tuesday 24 March onwards “most if not all” will be grounded.
Norwegian, meanwhile, has cancelled thousands of planned journeys and been pushed to temporarily lay-off multiple crew members.
TUI has suspended its holiday packages until further notices.
In all of these instances, passengers on those affected journeys should be entitled to a refund of their money.
They should also be entitled to a refund if the country they were planning on travelling to has been issued with an FCO travel warning.
At present, the FCO is currently advising against “all but essential travel” to more than 200 countries worldwide for the next month.
How do I claim a refund from my airline?
The first port of call is to contact your airline directly and get their advice on what steps to follow in order to pursue your refund.
Some airlines are also offering the opportunity to reschedule flights until a later date. If you choose to reschedule a flight you will not be entitled to any compensation as the cancellation is the result of an “extraordinary circumstance” that is beyond the airline’s control.
If you have booked via a travel agent, you should contact them directly.
When it comes to package holidays, you should be protected by Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
Package holidays that are for less than 24 hours, or are for business travel, may not be covered by the regulations.
Airlines are likely to be swamped by calls and emails from passengers at the moment, so many are advising passengers to only contact them if they are due to fly.
Some airlines, such as Wizz Air, have automated refund processes for passengers.
The airline says it will be “automatically uploading 120% of the original fare in airline credit to affected customers’ WIZZ accounts.
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My airline won’t refund me, are there other options?
Airlines should be offering refunds, however journeys with multiple flights or stops may be a little bit more difficult to pursue.
If you are struggling to get in touch with an airline, most will have an official complaints page or address where you can write an escalated letter of complaint to.
However, if passengers find themselves waiting longer than eight weeks for correspondence, they can take their complaint to an alternative dispute resolution.
The Civil Aviation Authority provides detailed instructions on these bodies on its website.
According to the CAA website: “If you have been dissatisfied with the response of an airline or airport to your complaint, you should be sent information on whether ADR is available in the airline/airport’s final response.
“If you have not received a final response in eight or more weeks.”
You can also contact the CAA directly, however this should only be done if all other avenues have been explored.
Passengers who optionally decide not to travel will not be entitled to a refund from their airline if their flight is still operating and no travel warning is in place.
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Can I get a hotel refund?
When it comes to hotels the rules are slightly different.
The best thing to do is contact your hotel directly and speak to them about the situation.
Some hotels may allow you to reschedule your booking to a later date.
Others may be open to giving a refund, however, there is no one rule across the board.
Room sharing service Airbnb updated its cancellation policy, saying it will now allow guests to cancel reservations anywhere in the world for a full refund as part of its “extenuating circumstances policy”.
Meanwhile, Hilton hotels has said that it will offer full refunds or waive change fees for those with bookings in areas with government-issued travel restrictions.
Similarly, hotel giant Hyatt says all existing reservations made before March 13, 2020 that are for arrivals between March 14 and April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at with no extra charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival.
Marriott is also offering a similar policy until April 30.
Will my travel insurance still cover me for losses?
Travel insurance rules and regulations have changed drastically in recent weeks, and no two insurance company is alike.
The best thing to do is contact your travel insurance provider directly to find out if you have coverage.
Many travel insurance providers, such as The Post Office and Aviva are unable to sell new insurance policies but are still providing coronavirus coverage for those who purchased their policy in advance of the current chaos.
Many are saying the date the World Health Organisation named the virus a pandemic is the date they could no longer provide coverage to new customers.
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