Coronavirus: your rights as travelers

Flight cancelled, trip shortened or postponed... The COVID-19 pandemic disrupts all our projects. What are your rights if you have booked a flight or accommodation? Who should you contact? Know your rights when traveling in times of coronavirus.

Travel by air and Covid-19

If your flight is maintained but you ask for your tickets to be cancelled because you can no longer or do not want to leave (e.g. mandatory quarantine on arrival), your right to a refund will depend on the terms of your tickets.

If they cannot be changed or cancelled, there is no guarantee of a refund, even if you invoke the travel restrictions issued in France to request the cancellation of your flight.

In the current health context, most airlines offer flexible booking conditions (paid or free of charge) which allow you to change your flight or obtain a credit note if you are prevented from travelling. 

However, you must generally make your request within a certain period of time before departure.

Contact your carrier as soon as possible to check the conditions of your ticket and ask for a flight postponement or a voucher if possible.

If your carrier has cancelled your flight, bus, boat or trainbecause of the Covid-19 pandemic, you are in principle entitled to a refund of your ticket.

Please note! If you initially had a choice between a voucher or a refund and you chose the voucher, it will not be possible to demand a monetary refund afterwards. The conditions of use and duration of the voucher are set by the airline and there is no legal obligation for it to be refundable on the expiry date.

If your transport is cancelled because of Covid-19, you cannot claim compensation because this is an exceptional event, unavoidable and external to the airline.

If your airline gives another reason for cancellation, check whether it is an exceptional circumstance.

Check your carrier's website for the exceptional measures offered and the refund procedures, there are usually dedicated forms.

In the event of a dispute with a European carrier that cannot be resolved amicably, contact us.

More information depending on your mode of transport:

If your flight has been cancelled by the airline due to COVID-19 and you have received a voucher or flight credits, you may be wondering what to do if you cannot travel before the validity period expires.

  • If the airline has not given you a choice between a refund of your ticket and a credit note for a future flight and your voucher expires without being able to be used, you still have the right to request a refund from the airline or the intermediary who sold you the dry ticket. Contact your carrier! If you have a dispute with a European airline that cannot be resolved amicably, contact us!
  • If you initially had the choice between a credit note or a refund and you chose the credit note, it will not be possible to demand a monetary refund afterwards. The conditions of use and duration of the credit note are set by the airline and there is no legal obligation for it to be refundable on expiry or to be renewed by the airline. 

If you did not buy your tickets on the airline's website but via a booking platform, price comparison website or online travel agency, you will have to apply for a refund or credit note to this intermediary first.

Legally, the airline is obliged to provide a refund, but in practice, you have to go through the intermediary to obtain it. The intermediary is a relay between you and the airline and must communicate the carrier's proposals to you. The intermediary is not obliged to reimburse in place of the airline and it is not the intermediary who decides whether to offer a refund or a credit note. 

If you are blocked, contact the airline to check whether your request for a refund has been issued by the intermediary, whether the refund has already been validated at that intermediary or whether the airline refuses the refund on principle. 

If you are considering legal action to get your tickets refunded, don't take the wrong person! You will have to take legal action :

  • against the airline if it is the airline that refuses to refund your tickets via the intermediary;
  • against the intermediary if the airline confirms that the refund has been passed on to the intermediary but not returned to you.

Each insurance has its own conditions. It is therefore important to check what it covers and especially what it excludes. Most insurances exclude pandemic situations in particular and therefore will not reimburse you for this reason alone. 

Cancellation insurance generally covers an event that is specific to you (health problems, loss of identity documents, cancellation of holidays by the employer, etc.). They do not cover travel restrictions imposed by a government or events that occur in the destination country (political crisis, natural disasters, etc.).

Good to know: some insurances provide "COVID" options which will mainly cover the case where you are tested positive at the time of departure, but not a lack of vaccination, PCR test, a new restriction or an increase in contamination at destination. 

Tip: Consider the flexibility options offered by the carrier when you book. They may allow you to get a credit note for whatever reason you are unable to travel.

Please be aware that if you purchased tickets only, the cancellation of your flight does not cancel your hotel, rental car or any other service you booked separately.

Check the cancellation conditions for your reservations to find out what amounts could be refunded. Contact the hotel owner, the vehicle rental company, the owner of the accommodation to at least negotiate a postponement if there is no provision for reimbursement.

Travel credit refunds: dry flights are not affected!

If you have received a credit note following the cancellation of your flight by the airline, you are not concerned by the announcements of reimbursement of credit notes covered by the French order of 25 March 2020. Indeed, this ordinance, which authorised tourism professionals to offer credit notes following the cancellation of trips or holidays due to Covid-19, did not cover dry flight cancellations. 

Tip: if the airline has not given you a choice between a refund of your ticket and a credit note and your voucher has expired,ask the airline or intermediary who sold you the dry ticket for a refund.

Package travel and Covid-19

A package travel is at least 2 tourist services (flight + hotel for example) purchased from a single professional in a single contract or separately, but from the same sales outlet. A cruise is also a package holiday.

If the travel agency cancels your trip, you are in principle entitled to

  • either an equivalent alternative trip (other destinations, other dates, etc.),
  • or to a refund of the sums paid.

Please note that in March 2020, in France, as in many Member states, it has been decided that in case of cancellation of a package travel due to Coronavirus, agencies and/or tour operators may offer a voucher instead of a reimbursement. For further information, please contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence.

In March 2020, during the 1st wave of Covid-19 in Europe, many countries had authorised tourism professionals to offer consumers a credit note for an amount equivalent to the trip, valid for several months, which could be reimbursed if not used within the set period. This was the case, for example, in Poland, Italy, Finland and France, which, in its order of 25 March 2020, authorised 18-month credit notes for any trip cancelled between 1 March and 15 September 2020 inclusive.

To date, the scheme in most countries has not been extended and if your travel agent cancels your trip, you are entitled in principle to a refund or an equivalent alternative trip. 

If your trip with a European travel company is cancelled and you are offered a credit note, please contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence! It will check that the offer complies with the law applicable to your booking. 

If you have booked your trip with a voucher received in 2020 and your agency cancels your trip, contact them to request a new trip postponement.

For assets covered by the French ordinance of 25 March 2020 (cancellation between 1 March and 15 September inclusive), the full refund of the trip could only take place after the 18-month period from the first cancellation.

If it was a credit note proposed by a European tourism professional, contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence to check the conformity of the proposal with the law applicable to your booking. 

When you book your trip, you can take out cancellation insurance. This can cover you in the event of serious illness, redundancy or the death of a relative. Read the clauses of the insurance contract you have signed carefully to check whether the reason for your cancellation will allow you to obtain a refund of the sums paid. 

Be careful! In most cases, climatic risks (cyclones, tsunamis, etc.), health risks (dengue fever, etc.) and political risks (terrorist attacks, civil war, etc.) are excluded from these insurance policies.

When booking, some travel agencies offer a Covid-19 supplementary insurance that covers Covid-19 related situations. Examples: you contract the virus before or during the trip, you are in contact and have to isolate yourself, or the airport staff refuses to let you board the plane because your temperature is too high.

Beware! The simple fear of falling ill, the adoption of new health restrictions in the country of destination, border controls or travel bans issued in France are not sufficient reasons to cancel your trip free of charge.

Benefits differ from one insurance policy to another. Before you sign, read the policy carefully to see if, for example, the insurance will reimburse your trip if you test positive after departure, if it will reimburse your costs for quarantine on the spot, or even your hospitalisation costs. You should also check who to contact in the event of a problem, because even if it is the travel agency or the company that sold you the insurance, the trip and the insurance are quite distinct contracts and the people you have to deal with may be different.

Good to know: you must take out Covid-19 travel insurance to travel to a number of countries such as Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, etc. Check whether the country you wish to visit requires Covid-19 insurance.

Can I claim a refund for a voucher covered by the French ordinance?

If you received a voucher following the cancellation of your trip or stay between 15 March and 15 September 2020 and you have not yet used it, you may soon be able to request a refund.

Indeed, the vouchers covered by the French ordinance of 25 March 2020 are in principle valid for 18 months (or a maximum of 21 months, since the tourism professional (travel agency, hotel, tour operator, etc.) had 3 months from the date of cancellation to offer you this voucher). At the end of this period, if you have not used it, you are entitled to a refund of the amounts paid. 

Tips:

  • contact the tourism professional in writing to ask for a refund of your cancelled trip within a reasonable period of time (14 days for example). Don't forget to enclose the voucher you received.
  • If you do not receive any answer or a negative answer from the hotel owner or travel agency, contact the European Consumer Centre of your residence.  

Covid-19 and accommodation

First contact the French hotel owner or the owner of the accommodation and try to negotiate a postponement of your stay or a credit note. Then contact the platform on which you made your reservation.

The intermediary platform can help you to facilitate the cancellation of the reservation with the hotel or the owner of an accommodation (cancellation free of charge, modification of your reservation ...).

But be aware, these online platforms remain intermediaries that connect a buyer and a seller so they have no obligation to refund the price of your reservation. Find out about the support and reimbursement policies implemented by the platform used for your reservation.

Please note that in France, as in many Member states it has been decided that in case of cancellation of touristic services due to Coronavirus, companies may offer a voucher instead of a reimbursement. For further information, please contact the European Consumer Centre of your country of residence.

If you cancel your hotel, campsite or holiday rental, you cannot be sure of a refund, whatever the reason given (fear of the virus, medical reasons, professional impediment...).

The reimbursement of your accommodation will depend solely on the conditions of your reservation (cancellable AND refundable) or on the goodwill of the hotel or accommodation owner.

If you have not used the voucher you received after cancelling your booking, you are not sure you will get your money back. In the absence of European harmonisation on accommodation rules, your credit note will depend on the legislation of the country where your accommodation was located.

  • If local law allows you to get your money back when the credit is due, contact the hotel or accommodation owner in writing.
  • If the law of the country in which your accommodation is located does not allow for a refund, contact the hotel or accommodation owner to try to negotiate an extension of the credit as a commercial gesture.