Lawyer Farina Azam examines the implications for the travel industry as the coronavirus crisis grows.
The first point to consider is whether the Covid-19 coronavirus is considered an unavoidable and extraordinary circumstance (UEC).
This will depend on the advice being given by various governments relating to the coronavirus. If the UK Foreign Office (FCO) advises against travel to a particular country due to coronavirus, then it will be considered a UEC.
If the change in FCO advice means that customers can no longer travel to their chosen destination, where the customer has booked a package holiday, under the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), customers are entitled to cancel their holiday and receive a full refund of monies paid if they are due to travel imminently*.
However, my advice to agents or package organisers would be to offer the following options first:
Package organisers may also be affected where the governments of other countries place restrictions on who can travel there. This is a change of government advice/entry requirements for a destination. If this means that certain customers no longer meet the entry requirement for their booked destination, there is an argument that this falls within the scope of UEC and customers have an automatic right to cancel their booking. However, this is a grey area and arguments can be made either way. For example, where a tour operators booking conditions state that entry requirements for the destination are the customer’s own responsibility, you could argue that customers are liable for any failure to meet such entry requirements, and as such do not have the right to free cancellation.