Coronavirus – can I cancel my holiday and get a refund?

12 March 2020

Now that the respiratory virus is emerging in more countries, including the UK, many people are contemplating whether or not to continue with their imminent overseas travel plans.

If you are due to travel imminently, then check the up to date travel advice for your particular destination from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Follow the advice from the FCO. If you need to cancel the trip due to the advisory warnings, contact the business you booked with to discuss your options, as well as contacting your insurer to make a claim for any non-refundable costs.

Some flights, cruises etc. have already been cancelled due to FCO advisory warnings or because of reduced demand. If you find yourself in this situation, contact the business you booked with to discuss your options and also contact your insurer to make a claim for any non-refundable costs. If you paid by credit card you may also be able to make a claim against your card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If you wish to travel to an area in relation to which the FCO is advising against all but essential travel, you will need to speak to your insurance company to see whether they will still cover you, i.e. whether they agree that the reason for your travel is essential. A holiday to the area is unlikely to be seen as 'essential travel'.

If you have not yet obtained insurance for your trip, then do so as soon as possible. However the World Health Organisation has now categorised coronavirus as a pandemic, meaning that insurers may be able to get out of paying a claim due to their exclusion clauses.  The BBC has also recently reported that certain insurers have removed the option to include cover for “travel disruption” or have included a specific coronavirus exclusion clause so it pays to check exactly what you are covered for in the event that your trip is affected by coronavirus.

If you simply do not wish to travel due to the virus but an advisory warning has not been issued by the FCO in relation to your destination, then you will need to discuss the matter with the business you booked through and with your insurer; they will be able to advise you of their policies and the options available to you. However please note that insurance policies are not designed to cover “disinclination to travel” and therefore you are not likely to be covered unless there is another reason, such as medical grounds, for not travelling.

Law correct at time of writing on 12 March 2020. For further advice and assistance in relation to contractual disputes including disputes with insurers, contact Emma Albins or another member of our Dispute Resolution Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.