Europe has now become the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, with thousands of new cases reported each day.
Every day, more and more countries rush to impose new travel restrictions in a bid to close the borders and prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The implications are huge – not only for those with holidays and upcoming travel but also for those who are already abroad and may find themselves helpless without notice.
The situation is continually evolving, but here is what we know so far:
My flights have been cancelled, what can I do?
If your flight is cancelled, your airline should get in touch via email or text about what to do next.
If not and you’re already overseas, check your airline website first – right now, call centres will be working with worried customers trying to figure out what’s going on. If the cancellation is due to a coronavirus, your airline will have posted a statement on what will happen next.
In principle, under European air travellers’ rights rules, cancelled carriers are required to find and pay for alternative transportation for you and, in some instances, provide additional assistance such as food and accommodation. In fact, due to the sheer number of passengers affected, you may receive a return, but yourself to get back home.
Where airlines have suspended entire routes due to FCO warnings, repatriation flights should be available to affected customers – check with your airline before booking your trip. Check with your airline, even if your trip is not due to end for some time – if there is an FCO warning, you may not be able to get a flight home down the line and find an alternative means of transport May be required.
If you haven’t travelled yet, you should be able to get a full refund or rebook for another time. Check with your airline what their policy is. Keep in mind, however, that some airlines will only allow you to book once again.
What if I am travelling by Eurostar, Eurotunnel or ferry?
At the moment France has not closed its borders, and the FCO has not advised against going there.
This means that for now, Eurostar and Eurotunnel services are still running – but keep in mind that this is subject to change without notice.
Eurostar has been working on a revised schedule, with reduced capacity, for some time and it continues to do so. Affected passengers are usually contacted via email, and those who wish to rebook can do so.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle says its services are unaffected. And as long as the borders between France and Britain are open, it will continue to work.
If you no longer want to travel, you can get a full refund on a Flexiplus ticket, or the company is offering to rebook affected customers.
Brittany Ferries has cancelled most of its services between Britain and Spain. The only service still running is between Portsmouth and Bilbao at the moment – but this may change soon after the FCO updated its advice to avoid non-essential travel to Spain. Most services are still operating between Britain and France, but some routes are working on a revised schedule.
Both the P&O Ghats and the DFDS are generally running for the time being. Then, if there is updated FCO advice, then there may be modifications to the service.
My leave has been cancelled, can I get a refund?
If you have booked a package holiday, it must be protected by ABTA or ATOL, and therefore you should receive a full refund, or you can choose to book again for another time.
If your transportation and accommodation were booked separately, you would need to contact the respective providers directly. Many have revised their cancellation policies in light of Coronavirus, allowing you to book again for another time.
What do I do if I have a vacation booked for the summer?
The best thing you can do right now is to wait and see, especially if you have to pay the fee or if you cancel now you lose your deposit.
China, where the virus originated, has already seen a steep drop in cases — at the time of writing, it was just 18 new cases on March 14, according to the World Health Organization.
There is no firm timescale when the epidemic will blow up in Europe and the rest of the world, but you may be able to travel well until summer.
Can I get any compensation if my travel is affected?
Unfortunately, if it is due to Coronavirus, it is unlikely.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “Where the government is advising against travelling to a destination we believe that this would be seen as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and compensation would not be payable.”
“In other circumstances, cancellations related to coronaviruses (such as where there is no advice against travel) will need to consider their merits and facts.
“However, decisions by authorities to close the airspace, restrict airline operations or ban passengers are likely to be an extraordinary circumstance.
“Onboard cancelled can also be considered an exceptional circumstance due to the economic and environmental consequences of operating flights with only a few passengers.
Will my travel insurance still cover me?
Double-check with your provider before travelling.
Several travel insurance companies have already stopped selling new policies. In contrast, some have stated that it is considered a known risk as existing policies will not cover travel disruption due to Coronavirus.
If you have already encountered travel disruption due to Coronavirus, it is still worth trying your policy provider for compensation.
Should i be travel at all?
Airlines, cruise companies and holiday firms have cut their prices due to coronaviruses, which means some are attractive cheap.
There are obvious risks to travel right now, and not just the possibility of a coronavirus agreement.
Countries can close their borders without warning, meaning you can be left stranded, with no way to get home. And even if you can get the house, you can pay a hefty fee to do it, with no promise that any travel insurance will cover you.
The FCO has not imposed a blanket ban on travel, but it may make sense to plan a stay for the next couple of months.
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