The covid-19 pandemic continues to grip and twist the world in ways many people never imagined. Now, with the UK’s official announcement of a second lockdown, due to begin November 5th, and last until December 2nd, everything is upside down all over again, including travel.

Among the hardest hit industries, travel is undoubtedly one of them. And unlike many industries, most things in travel don’t simply operate like a light switch. It’s not opening the doors of a restaurant, or putting a sign on the door of a shop. It’s a series of highly coordinated moves, and that’s just to get a plane off the ground.

We’re not even talking the comparison shopping and deal hunting you’ve scoured to actually book something. With the UK headed for lockdown, here’s what that means for your upcoming travel plans, and what you’re entitled to.

A Change In Government Travel Advice Means Refunds For Some

It’s assumed that the foreign travel office will abandon its current ‘air corridors’, if a ban on all non essential travel is put into force, as rumored. If the government does change advice to ‘do not travel’ for any specific country, all package holidays would automatically become eligible for a refund.

If that happens, the package is “not as you booked it”, and you’d have the choice to postpone to a later date, with or without change fees – depending on the operator – or take a refund. Travel businesses are fighting for survival, so if you’re financially safe enough to keep the trip alive for a future date, you may play a large role in saving a travel firm.

If the travel firm refuses to honor refund claims despite the government changing travel advice from ok to go, to do not travel, you should absolutely refer them to the EU law which upholds the rule, and also to the ATOL scheme. Worst case, a credit card dispute isn’t out of the question.

Cancelled Flight

If an airline cancels your flight, you’re also automatically eligible for a refund in the full amount. Smart airlines are allowing you to swap flights to another date free of charge. Much like with package holidays, if you’re happy to let the trip ride for another future date, you’ll potentially be playing a significant part in keeping an airline from going out of business.

If your flight is not cancelled, and you wish to cancel because of the governments change in travel restrictions, lack of interest, or inability to get insurance for the trip, things get more complicated, but aren’t impossible.

For those stuck abroad who may now be scrambling to get home, any airline which cancels your flight has an obligation to put you on another flight, regardless of airline. In other words, even if they’re bitter rival airlines. It doesn’t matter whether you used miles or cash either. In addition, there’s a powerful duty of care airlines must provide for passengers if they’re forced to stay overnight.

Most airlines will allow you to swap to a later date up to a certain range free of charge. Others won’t go that far, but will allow you to hold the full amount as a credit with the airline toward a future booking. EU rules for flight rights still apply, with the exception of any monetary compensation for delays or cancellations beyond what you paid.

It’s always best not to proactively cancel travel on your own until the last minute, so as to give airlines a better chance of cancelling from their end. When they cancel, rules and options for you the passenger are much stronger in your favor.

Delayed Flight?

If your flight is delayed because of airlines shifting schedules in response to the government news, it’s all about the length of delay. Any delay over 6 hours officially constitutes rights for a passenger, including refund or booking onto an alternative airline, even if they’re not partners.

For delays under 6 hours, it depends on airline policy. Last week, British Airways took their delay policy from 2 hours to 4 hours, to make it harder for passengers to claim options on other airlines or refund rights for delays under 4 hours.

Non Refundable Hotels

Many people book hotel and home share stays at non-refundable rates, due to large savings offered for locking in the booking. If these bookings were made in one go on the same confirmation with a flight or car rental, they should be refundable or eligible for a refund. If they were booked on their own, it’s again more complicated.

Many hotel chains, Airbnb and other travel brands created more flexible policies with late cancellation options. Be sure to exhaust these options and talk to any property managers about exceptions of policies before getting into any disputes with a travel provider.

If however a travel provider refuses to refund or change the dates of a booking you cannot consume or enjoy, there are still a variety of options. First, there’s always the threat of a chargeback via your credit card. It’s one of the many reasons it’s important to use a credit card rather than a debit card to book travel.

Second, there’s CEDR, a dispute resolution group used by many travel brands to settle disputes where neither side is happy with the outcome. Travelers are able to submit a complaint and typically resolutions are upheld by the travel provider.

2021: A Year Of Travel Hope

Things may get worse before they get better. Nonetheless, 2021 is a year of hope, and for mental health, a trip to look forward to in the future can do much good. While this is a sad blow to many, travel is all the more wonderful as we no longer take it for granted.

If you can reasonably afford to do so, postponing plans until next year, or the end of the year may be wise, and most airlines, hotels, car rentals and other travel elements should be understanding of your needs to. If they’re not, there’s always social media.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. I assume you understand that getting a refund by disputing a charge with a credit card company isn’t guaranteed. If the service provider disputes the chargeback the credit card company will not give you a credit (unless the violation is clear and the credit card company has funds that would otherwise go to the provider).

    Sure a credit card company can be your advocate but unless you have travel insurance through the card or there is fraud (doesn’t apply here since authorized the initial charge) you will not get money back unless the card company does. Otherwise the card company has financial risk they can’t handle.

    BTW I have a friend who had a $2500 chargeback reversed by Capital One because the service provider disputed it (even though the rental agreement was clear a refund was warranted). They offered a future credit and he had no choice but to accept it.

    1. This isn’t how chargebacks work in the UK. Credit providers are equally liable for breach of contract by the merchant.

  2. Travel will most likely remain a dream until a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available and widely administered. Much of next year, therefore, will probably be like this year—stated simply, “More of the same.” I hope I’m wrong.

  3. Question – I am a dual US and UK citizen living in London. Would I be legally allowed to go abroad to work remotely? This wouldn’t be for a holiday, but it also would not be technically classified as a work trip. Does it make a difference if I am going to the US or another country?

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