Do I have to accept a credit instead of a refund?
Helen, 33, from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, and her partner booked an Intrepid tour to India and were due to depart on 10 April. On 14 March Intrepid announced it was suspending all trips (except those in Australia) from 16 March until 31 May. Customers booked to travel during that time were offered a credit worth 110% of the value of the trip. As with many readers who have written in, Helen wants to know whether she is entitled to a cash refund instead of a credit.
The short answer is yes; legally, under the current Package Travel Regulations, customers are entitled to a cash refund. However, Intrepid, as with many other tour operators is offering a credit note as an alternative in the hope customers will want to join a tour when normal travel resumes. Intrepid’s credit notes are valid until the end of April 2022, but Helen is worried that future departures may be fully booked due to pent-up demand. She is also worried that the 110% does not cover the cost of the original trip which she bought at a 25% discount. Guardian Travel put those two points to Intrepid but had not received an answer at the time of publication.
Helen’s other concern was that the credit note may be worthless if the company goes out of business. This week the Association of Travel Agents (Abta) has confirmed that credit notes will have the same protection as holidays. It says: “If you are not able to postpone, your travel provider may offer you a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund. This Refund Credit Note can be used to book another holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by Abta/Atol – if your original booking had that protection. So, you would be reimbursed if the travel company failed financially.”
Abta is also advising anyone with trips booked for later in the year to be patient. As the Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel is currently only in place until mid-April, it warned that customers “may incur cancellation charges or lose a deposit if you make a hasty decision”.
• For further information and advice go to Abta’s website
Why can’t I get a refund on flights in May?
Peter Brady from Aylesbury booked and paid in full for flights with British Airways to Italy from 24 May returning 31 May. He said after filling in the form with British Airways to receive a voucher and rebook for another time, he has received an email from British Airways saying that he is not eligible for a Future Travel Voucher. He wants to know why.
Unfortunately, airlines will only offer refunds while the Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel or while flights are suspended due to closed borders.
Should I cancel my trip in July?
Kim, 60, from Warrington asks whether she should pay the full amount of her holiday by 20 April for a trip due to depart on 2 July. She says “I am unsure where I stand if I cancel until next year. Would I incur costs?”
A similar question was covered in last week’s Q&A but as so many readers have asked it’s worth reiterating: tour operators are trying to be as flexible as they can while facing drastic loss of business, so it’s always worth asking your travel provider – if you can get through to them. But, legally, refunds or credit notes only apply to holidays that have been cancelled due to Foreign Office advice or where the tour operator itself has suspended trips (for example Intrepid, above, suspended tours until 31 May). Any holidays after that comes under normal terms and conditions. The best advice is to wait and see whether travel restrictions/bans are extended so that they affect your holiday. If your holiday is cancelled then you will be entitled to a refund.
Can my child travel back to university in the UK?
Two readers have asked about children wanting to return to university. Alex, in Wiltshire, said: “My daughter who is at university in Belfast flew home a week ago. She needs to go back to Belfast to move out of her university accommodation and bring her belongings home. Easyjet has cancelled all flights from Bristol. Do you think it would be irresponsible for her and me to drive up to Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway and take a ferry to Belfast? The ferries still seem to be running.”
While the UK is on strict lockdown people should not travel anywhere other than for food or medicine or for a short walk.