Consumer – Travel
Package Holiday - Travel & cancellations
I am due to go on a package holiday next month to one of the countries listed on the Government’s ‘green list’. Does this mean that if I cancel my trip, I will have to pay a cancellation fee?
According to official advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs from 21 July, a list of a very limited number of locations have been changed to a ‘green’ rating, which means that non-essential travel to these destinations can resume with the relevant health and safety precautions, as outlined on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.
If you are due to travel to one of the locations listed, the first step is to check the Department of Foreign Affairs website for the official advice on travel to your holiday destination, to see if there is any travel advice or restrictions which may affect your holiday plans.
As a result of the new government guidance regarding travel, you may not be automatically entitled to cancel your package holiday and obtain a full refund, without penalty. However, it’s important to note that this does not mean that a cancellation fee will apply in all circumstances, including travel to green rated countries.
Consumer legislation protects your right to a refund in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at (or in the vicinity of) your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination. In such circumstances, you are entitled to a full refund of the package. It also protects your right to refund where the performance of your package holiday is significantly impacted.
|If a significant part of your package holiday involves participating in an activity / attending an event that is now cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19, then that may constitute a right to cancel without having to pay a cancellation fee.|
Check the terms and conditions of your contract before you contact your package travel organiser to discuss the options available to you. Set out what you would like to happen and be sure to provide any official guidance to support your request.
If a cancellation fee applies, ask your package travel organiser to provide you with details – for example, what circumstances the cancellation fee applies to and how much you are being asked to pay? Be sure to ask about your rescheduling options, or if your package travel organiser would be willing to provide you with a credit note to be redeemed at a later date.
You can cancel your package holiday any time before the start of the package but you may have to pay an appropriate and justifiable cancellation fee depending on the circumstances.
I have a package holiday booked through my local travel agent travelling to London next month. Great Britain is not on the Government’s ‘green list’ and I have been told by my package travel organiser that the flight is still operating and the hotel is open, so I will lose my money if I cancel. Can I still cancel my package holiday as the official advice is that there be no non-essential travel to Great Britain?
Package holiday legislation allows you to cancel in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at (or in the vicinity of) your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination. In such circumstances, you are entitled to a full refund of the package. A number of different factors are considered when it comes to availing of your right to cancel, including the official health and travel advice in Ireland, as well as in the destination country.
Therefore, your next steps should be to:
- Review your T&Cs: To confirm what provisions are in place around cancellations in your existing contract.
- Contact your package travel organiser: to discuss the options available to you. Set out what you would like to happen and be sure to provide any official guidance to support your request – for example; the official guidance on the Department of Foreign Affairs website advising against “non-essential travel” to your holiday destination.
Be aware that new information and official guidance may be made available relating to your situation. Continue to check this website regularly to see the latest updates.
I have contacted my package travel organiser about the Government’s advice against non-essential travel to my holiday destination, however as the flights are still operating and the hotel is still open, they are refusing to provide me with a full refund. What are my rights?
Package holiday legislation protects your right to a full refund in certain circumstances that may apply. They are as follows:
- In the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at (or in the vicinity of) your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination.
- Where a significant part of your package holiday has been affected, for example, a sporting or entertainment activity which has been cancelled etc.
If you feel that one or more of the above applies to your package holiday, contact your package travel organiser to explain your situation and reiterate the official advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs to help support your position. Set out what you would like to happen. Ask about your rescheduling options, or if your package travel organiser would be willing to provide you with a refund credit note to be redeemed at a later date.
If you feel you have strong grounds for a full refund and your package travel organiser continues to refuse, you may wish to seek legal advice or follow the Small Claims procedure if your claim is for €2,000 or less.
Be aware that new information and official guidance may be made available relating to your situation. Continue to check this website regularly to see the latest updates.
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. Your package travel organiser 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 package travel organiser has to assist you.
If you find yourself in circumstances where you have concerns for the 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 package travel organiser 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 package travel organiser 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.
Package Holiday - Refund credit notes
If my package holiday is cancelled, am I obliged to accept a refund credit note from my package travel organiser or am I entitled to a cash refund?
Where a package holiday is cancelled due to COVID-19, your package travel organiser may offer you a refund credit note of an equivalent value. The refund credit note should be redeemable for its cash value nine months from date of issue, or can be used to book a replacement holiday. Although your package travel organiser 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 travel restrictions, your package travel organiser 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 package travel organiser for future travel.
Could I lose money if travel restrictions / advice continues 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 package travel organisers 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 package travel organiser must facilitate this transfer free of any charges.
Do I have to follow up with my package travel organiser 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 package travel organiser 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 your package travel organiser 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 package travel organiser goes out of business?
COVID-19 refund credit notes provided by Irish package travel organisers are protected by a State guarantee. This means that if your package travel organiser goes out of business and you have a refund due, you will get your money back.
What happens if a package travel organiser goes out of business?
By law, all package travel organisers 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 travel agents and tour operators in Ireland. A full list of licensed and bonded travel agents and tour operators can be found here.
Package travel organisers 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 package travel 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 decide not to fly because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation?
If you decide not to fly because you are concerned about COVID-19 or because of Government restrictions, 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 a trip next week 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 cancelled my ferry trip which was booked for May. They 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/