Following the news that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has extended its travel warning indefinitely, Martin Lewis and his Money Saving Expert team have stepped up to help Britons who are concerned about future holiday plans they may have. On March 17 the FCO advised Britons against all but essential travel for the next 30 days, which would have seen the warning removed in April. However, over the weekend this time period was changed, and now it is unknown when travel will resume.
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The most up to date travel advice on the FCO website states: “As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.
“Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.
“If you live in the UK and are currently travelling abroad, you are strongly advised to return now, where and while there are still commercial routes available.
“Many airlines are suspending flights and many airports are closing, preventing flights from leaving.”
As a result, many would-be holidaymakers are now concerned about the fate of their holiday plans and considered whether they should cancel flights, hotels and other bookings now.
Though every situation is different, the FCO travel advisory does benefit holidaymakers who are hoping for a refund or for their travel insurance to payout.
Will I get my money back for cancelled holiday plans?
If coronavirus forces the cancellation of your holiday by your flight or holiday operator in almost all cases travellers will receive refunds.
Martin Lewis explains: “If your flight has been cancelled, providing it is an EU flight, then you are entitled by law to a refund, not vouchers.”
An EU flight is any flight covered by EU Regulation 261/2004, which is all journeys leaving from or returning to the EU or UK.
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However, across the board airlines who are cancelling flights appear to be offering refunds or vouchers for future travel to affected customers.
The rules surrounding hotels varies a little, and it is best to speak to your hotel booking operator or accommodation directly to find out what options are available.
Though some are offering full refunds, others are asking guests to move their booking to a later date or accept a voucher for future stays.
While you are entitled to your money back, Mr Lewis says asking for a cash refund should be done “ethically and morally”.
Speaking on the Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live, Martin said: “I would say in this day and age we are trying to keep as many companies surviving as we can.
“If you can take the voucher and that wouldn’t compromise you and your finances, taking that voucher from this company may just be what keeps this company going and keeps its staff in a job.
“So I’m not telling anybody to do that, I’m saying we must all look at our own personal, ethics, morality and situation which is very important to decide how hard we are going to push in these unprecedented times.”
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Will my travel insurance payout?
As the FCO is now warning against travel to all international countries indefinitely, almost all travel insurers will now have to payout.
According to the Money Saving Expert website: “If there’s an FCO travel advisory for a country you’re set to travel to in the near future, you will be able to claim on most, but not all, travel insurance policies, even if your flight and hotel are still available (though you should go to the airline or hotel for a refund first).”
However, it’s vital you check the terms and conditions of your policy, as well as the date of purchase.
Many big-name insurers have amended their policies to only provide coverage for COVID-19 related cancellations to those who purchased their insurance prior to the World Health Organisation naming the virus a pandemic.
Money Saving Expert continues: “If you have a holiday booked but no insurance, then sadly it’s likely too late.
“We don’t know of any policies offering cover for coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims, and even if you have an annual policy, most are now excluding coronavirus cover for newly-booked trips.”
Should I cancel any travel plans for later in the year?
Though the FCO has implemented a warning “indefinitely” there is every chance it could be lifted in time for summer holidays.
Mr Lewis has advised holidaymakers to leave any plans in place until the travel firm cancels them, as insurance will not pay out should the FCO ban be lifted.
“If you can’t cancel for free and you will lose all your money, don’t cancel,” clarified Martin.
“Then leave it and if you can’t go hope that by that time the Foreign Office has said you can’t go so your travel insurance will be impacted.” Luckily, many airlines are allowing passengers to cancel or amend travel dates free of charge.
Mr Lewis additionally urges Britons still paying off holidays to continue to do so.
“Talk to your travel insurance company and see what they say and see what the prediction would be,” the Money Saving Expert advised.
“You have to balance up what’s more important to you. Are you actually going to go?
“If you’re not going to go even if they don’t extend the advice I would take the hit and lose the money,” he said.
However, Martin added: “If you are going to go, then pay it.”
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