Consumer – Travel
I am due to go on a package holiday between now and 20th July – am I entitled to cancel and get a refund?
A package holiday, under consumer protection law, is a pre-arranged holiday or trip that is sold at an inclusive price, in one transaction, which must last more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay. It must also include at least two of the following:
- car or other vehicle hire
- A tourist service or activity – for instance, golf or hill-walking.
Package holiday legislation allows you to cancel in the event of extraordinary circumstances occurring at your destination and you are entitled to a full refund.
If (due to COVID-19) you wish to cancel your package holiday and it is due to start before 20th July 2020, you have the right to cancel it and get a full refund of all payments that you made for the package. You should not be charged a fee for this.
If your package includes a travel component (e.g. a flight or accommodation) or a tourist component (e.g. attendance at a sporting or cultural event), and if either the travel or tourist component is cancelled before 20th July 2020 (due to COVID-19) you are entitled to a full refund, with no termination fees.
The current 20th July 2020 date may change in the light of changing circumstances and evolving official health and travel advice.
I want to cancel my package holiday but the travel agent I booked with will not give me a refund?
Travel before 20th July
If your package holiday is due to start before 20th July and the travel agent will not give you a refund here are the steps you can take:
- Refer the travel agent to this guidance on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s website and a link to this page on the CCPC website – which outlines their obligations under the Package Travel Regulations.
- You can seek advice from ECC Ireland for complaints about traders based outside of Ireland in the EU/EEA. In some cases, ECC Ireland may liaise on your behalf to seek a solution with the trader through the European Consumer Centre based in the country of the trader.
- Or you can pursue the matter through the Small Claims Court (for traders based in Ireland and claims up to €2,000) or the European Small Claims procedure (for traders based elsewhere in the EU/EEA and claims up to €5,000), or check your contract for information about arbitration.
If I cancel my package holiday, am I obliged to accept a refund credit note from my travel agent or am I entitled to a cash refund?
Where a package holiday is cancelled due to restrictions arising from Covid-19, your travel agent or tour operator may offer you a refund credit note of an equivalent value. The refund credit note should be redeemable for its cash value at a specified date, or can be used to book a replacement holiday. Although your travel agent may offer you the option of a refund credit note, you do not have to accept it and can opt for a full cash refund.
If I choose to accept a refund credit note in place of a cash refund, what happens next?
If you agree to accept a refund credit note for a booking which has been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, your travel agent or tour operator will send you an email or paper document with details of your refund credit note within 14 days. The refund credit note should outline your original package travel booking, the relevant booking details and a unique booking reference.
How long do I have to use my refund credit note?
Your refund credit note is valid for 24 months from the date it’s issued to you. This means that you have 24 months to book a holiday with your travel agent or operator for future travel.
Could I lose money if travel restrictions continue and I don’t use it in time?
The government has made special legal provisions, meaning that all COVID-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators are protected by a State guarantee.
Therefore, if by the end of the 24 month period you haven’t used your refund credit note, you will be entitled to a full cash refund, or, if you have used only some of the credit note value, you are entitled to a cash refund of the remaining balance.
Note: If you find yourself in a situation where your personal circumstances have changed, it’s important to know that the refund credit note can be redeemed for its cash value nine months from date of issue, provided it has not been used to book an alternative holiday.
It is also important to note that the refund credit note is transferable to another person, and your travel agent or tour operator must facilitate this transfer free of any charges.
Do I have to follow up with my travel agent directly or will they automatically provide me with a cash refund at the end of the 24 month period?
If you hold a refund credit note, your travel agent or tour operator must contact you no less than 4 weeks before your credit note is due to expire to advise you of your options to either use it (if it has not been redeemed) or opt for a cash refund. If you choose a cash refund, it is expected that travel agents and tour operators will provide your refund no later than 14 days following your request.
What happens if my refund is delayed and is not paid to me before the credit note expiry date?
If for any reason your cash refund is delayed after the expiry date, your right to a cash refund remains in place to any point in the future after the expiry. In addition the value of your refund credit note remains the same until it is cashed in.
What happens if I choose a refund credit note and my travel agent goes out of business?
COVID-19 refund credit notes provided by Irish tour operators and travel agents are protected by a State guarantee. This means that if your travel agent or tour operator goes out of business and you have a refund due, you will get your money back.
I am due to go on a package holiday after 20th July – am I entitled to cancel and get a refund?
For packages that are due to start after 20th July 2020, you are entitled to cancel the package at any time before the start of that package but you may have to pay an appropriate termination fee. Check the terms and conditions of your contract to see what fee will need to be paid. For details of how that termination fee is calculated see here.
If needed you can also check with your travel insurance provider if your policy has cancellation cover.
What are my rights if COVID-19 restrictions are put in place in my destination when I am on my package holiday?
If you are on a package holiday which is affected by COVID-19 you have rights under package holiday legislation. The travel agent is responsible if something goes wrong, even if another company carries out the services. If significant elements of the package are not as agreed, suitable alternative arrangements should be made at no extra cost to you. Additionally if you are in difficulty the travel agent has to assist you.
To ensure your safety and the safety of those travelling with you, your first action should be to contact the Irish Embassy in the country you are located. You should provide them with details of your situation and stay informed of any local arrangements that may be in place for citizens. Contact your travel agent directly to discuss your situation and confirm arrangements for transport home. Your original flight may have been cancelled so an alternative may have to be sourced.
If it is not possible to make your original departure flight because of unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances the travel agent must bear the cost of up to three night’s additional accommodation in similar accommodation if possible.
Find out more on your rights should something go wrong during your package holiday.
What happens if a travel agent goes out of business?
By law, all package holiday providers in Ireland must have arrangements in place so that if they go out of business your money and bookings are protected.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) grants licenses to both tour operators and travel agents in Ireland. A full list of licensed and bonded travel agents and tour operators can be found here.
Tour operators and travel agents who arrange travel out of Ireland, for example, flights, must be licensed by the CAR and enter into a bond. A bond is a sum of money that is used to refund or reimburse consumers if the company goes out of business. If this happens, CAR assesses your claim for a refund, or arranges to get you home if stranded abroad.
All organisers of packages must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and repatriation in case organisers go bankrupt.
DIY Holidays (flights, accommodation, etc.)
If I book a flight directly with an airline and it is subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19, am I entitled to a refund?
If you have planned a trip where you booked the various elements individually, such as flights or a hotel, you do not have the same level of protection as with a package holiday.
If your flight is cancelled, regardless of when you are told about the cancellation, your airline must offer you the choice between:
- Re-routing as close as possible to the original departure time
- Re-routing at a later date, or
- A refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket.
If you want to change your flight to a later date you can do so by using the link provided by the airline and remember that the availability of flights could be limited. It may also be the case that the price of your re-routed flight may be different to the cost of your original flight.
We are aware that currently many airlines are offering consumers vouchers to use in the future as an alternative to a refund for cancelled flights. If you are not happy to accept the voucher you can seek a refund. More information on your rights is below.
If you want a refund you do not need to urgently contact the airline. Airlines are required to refund passengers within seven days of the flight cancellation. If you do not receive a refund within this timescale you should submit a complaint to the airline. If you do not receive a satisfactory response to your complaint after six weeks you can escalate it to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
You can contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation for flights out of Ireland that have been cancelled. If the cancelled flight started in another EU country, you need to contact the enforcement body for that country. Click here for contact details of national enforcement bodies.
You can get more information on www.flightrights.ie.
I am having difficulty getting a refund from an airline as a result of my flight being cancelled what can I do?
Flightrights.ie provides more information about the steps that you can take, in general they say to raise the matter with your air carrier first. If your air carrier does not resolve the complaint then you should forward it for the attention of the appropriate enforcement body. The appropriate enforcement body is the one based in the EU Member State (or Iceland, Norway or Switzerland) from where the disrupted flight was due to depart. This means for example, if you booked a return flight from Dublin to Malaga and the outbound flight (i.e. the Dublin to Malaga flight) was cancelled then you should contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
I had a flight booked to the USA, who have now banned travellers from entering, but my airline is refusing to refund me as the flight wasn’t cancelled.
When booking a flight you should always carefully read the terms and conditions before you complete the booking. If you agree to a service without making yourself aware of the conditions, you are still bound by them.
In general, once you enter into a contract, you are not automatically entitled to a refund if you are unable to avail of the flight. Your right to cancel will generally be outlined in the terms and conditions, otherwise known as ‘conditions of carriage’ so you should review these to see what the cancellation procedure is, and if you are entitled to any refund. If you are not entitled to a refund, at the very least you may be able to apply for a refund of the taxes and charges you paid (however the airline may charge an administration fee for this).
After reviewing the terms and conditions, if you feel that the airline is acting outside their own conditions of carriage, and also due to the exceptional circumstances arising from COVID-19, we would suggest submitting a formal complaint to them. You could include the advice about travel to the USA on the Department of Foreign Affair’s website to support your claim. Another option that may be open to you is the Small Claims procedure.
What are my rights if I choose not to fly because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation?
If you decide not to fly because you are concerned about COVID-19 you may lose the money you paid if the flight has not been cancelled by the airline or if you have not booked it as part of a package holiday. If you booked the flight yourself you have no entitlement to re-routing or a refund. It could still be worthwhile contacting your airline as some airlines are offering other options such as a voucher/credit note. Find out more about your rights as an air passenger at www.flightrights.ie. You should also contact your travel insurance provider to see if you can claim on your policy.
I have booked a ferry for the third week in April however, the information from the Department of Foreign Affairs says only essential travel should be made. According to the company’s website the ferry is still travelling. What are my rights?
In the first instance we would suggest that you check the terms and conditions of your contract to see what is outlined if you cancel your contract. If it is not set out in the terms and conditions that you are entitled to a refund in these circumstances we would suggest that you contact the ferry company and try and negotiate with them to get a remedy that you are happy with. You should outline that the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against non-essential travel. Please be aware that the ferry company is under no obligation to negotiate with you in the case where you cancel your booking.
If you do not get a remedy from the above you could contact your travel insurance provider to see if your policy has cancellation cover in this circumstance.
My ferry company has cancelled my ferry trip which was booked for May. They have provided me with a voucher to the value of the booking. I would like a refund as I don’t know when I will be able to travel again and I need the money now. What are my rights?
If the ferry company is an Irish company
If the ferry company you booked with is an Irish company and the ferry is cancelled or delayed by more than 90 minutes then the company must offer you a choice between:
- Rerouting to your destination at the earliest opportunity, at no extra cost or
- A refund of your ticket price (within 7 days).
If you request a refund but the company is not willing to provide it, you should make a complaint to the company in writing. Each ferry company must have a complaint handling process in place and they must respond to you within one month to tell you whether your complaint has been accepted, rejected or is still being considered. They must give you a final response within two months.
If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint, you can appeal it to the National Transport Authority.
If the ferry company is based in another EU/EEA country
If the ferry company you booked with is based within another EU county and the ferry is cancelled you should contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC). ECC Ireland provides information on EU consumer rights and assists with cross-border complaints arising from a purchase in another EU/EEA country and the UK. The following is a link to their complaint procedure: https://www.eccireland.ie/contact-us/