The Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly transformed our routines, especially travelling. Due to the global scope of the pandemic, governments around the world have issued mobility restriction rules that have impacted the sector, with the cancellation of the vast majority of trips : flights, trains, ships, buses, package tours, and the provision of services offered by companies.
What rights do you have?
Due to the extraordinary circumstances of force majeure, passengers are not entitled to the compensation set by European Regulation 261/2004. Passengers affected by flight cancellations as a consequence of the declaration of a health emergency ,have the right to information, assistance and reimbursement of the amount of the ticket, or if the client wishes to receive a voucher of the amount paid. Although the passenger may have the right to re-routing, in many cases it has not been possible, which will lead to a cancellation and refund.
What are the vouchers?
They must have a minimum validity of twelve months; and if the voucher is not exchanged within this period, the passenger will be entitled to the automatic return of the money within a maximum period of fourteen days from the expiration date of the voucher. It is also established that passengers can use it as a means of payment, ensuring that the contracted services have conditions equal to or greater than the initial ones.
What happens if you don’t want to accept the offered voucher?
Royal Decree-Law 21/2020, of June 9, modifies sections 1 and 4 of article 36, to combine criteria with the recommendation of the European Commission 648/2020 regarding the vouchers offered to passengers and travelers as an alternative to the reimbursement of combined trips and transport services canceled in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, modifying the article in a double sense, to circumscribe the possibility of issuing the vouchers to voluntary acceptance in advance by the passenger, and, to establish the automatic period of 14 days for the refund of the voucher amount at the end of the validity period, if it has not been exchanged.
Trains and buses in case of cancellation follow the same rules.
These regulations are also applicable to travelers who have contracted package tours, and who have not been able to do so due to containment and movement limitation measures However, he collection of this refund, may be subject to the service providers limitation of duty, in the sense of that they can only returned the amount corresponding to their services. If the agency only receives a partial refund from the other operators, the consumer will only be entitled to a partial refund for the amount of that specific service on which the agency receives the refund, in which case the agency must issue a substitute voucher for the rest of the amount, with one year of validity.
In the event that the company (transport company, hotel, travel agency or organizer of the activity) fails to comply with their obligations and do not respect your rights, you can file a claim to their customer’s complains department or go to Court. For court actions lawyers are not necessary if the amount to be reimbursed is less than 2,000 euros. Some companies are subject to arbitration, so the resolution plan may be less than that of claiming before the Courts.
Most of the travel assistance policies in epidemic situations have expressly excluded all benefits (health, transfers, family travel, etc.). Check your policy to find out if these circumstances are excluded and, if you have not yet started the trip, look for a policy that does provide assistance.
On the other hand, insurers frequently indicate in the policy that they are not responsible for assistance if you start a trip to an area not recommended by the authorities, due to health problems or others, such as areas where there is a warlike conflict, for example . And even if they did not expressly put it, they may not cover the insured if they think their decision to travel was reckless,
The risk areas may vary depending on the evolution of the situation and travel restrictions.
You can find out about the transport measures in the EU on https://ec.europa.eu/transport/coronavirus-response_en