These are uncertain times for UK vacationers as airlifts are being destroyed left, right and center by the UK government in response to soaring coronavirus infection rates abroad.
As a result, some understandably drop all overseas travel plans and fear that if they are forced to cancel a booking they will be left out of their pockets – they cannot request a refund or they may stick with a travel voucher they don't have. I do not want.
However, there is a way to significantly improve the chances of getting a refund – by making sure the trip is officially classified as a package tour. Because package tour operators are required by law to offer refunds if a trip is canceled within 14 days.
These are uncertain times for UK vacationers as airlifts are being destroyed left, right and center by the UK government in response to soaring coronavirus infection rates abroad
This is still the case if the traveler cancels the trip when a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warning is applied.
As moneysavingexpert.com says, & # 39; If an FCO warning is introduced on package tours – as has now been done in Spain (and now in Belgium and the Bahamas) – you should have one within 14 years according to package travel regulations Refunds can be given days – even if the trip has not been canceled.
Even if you only need to rent a car for an hour or a hotel for a night, adding a hotel or car to a flight booking can make the ultimate refund claim
Travel expert and frequent flyer Gilbert Ott
& # 39; The rules state that if "unavoidable and exceptional circumstances" arise that "materially affect the performance of the package" you will receive a full refund if you cancel. And while they don't specifically state that an FCO warning would count as any of those circumstances – though they cite "a serious illness outbreak at the destination" as an example – Abta says in practice that companies will have to reimburse you if the FCO warns against travel and you cannot get a vacation without a "major change". & # 39;
The most obvious route to a refund-friendly trip is to book a complete package holiday through an Atol-approved tour operator. Tui, for example.
But there is also the option of converting a flight-only booking into a package tour by using the airline with an additional offer such as a car rental or a hotel.
As a travel expert and frequent flyer, Gilbert Ott, who runs the God Save The Points flight tips website, writes: “Even if you only need to rent a car for an hour or a hotel for one night, add a hotel or a car to a flight booking make all the difference if you're eligible for a refund or if you get a voucher at all. & # 39;
The most important thing, however, is that the travel services are purchased from a single point of sale where all items are paid for at once for one inclusive price.
A real-world example can be found on the British Airways website.
British Airways offers travelers the option of booking a package tour – all they have to do is choose flight + hotel or flight + car
At the top of the homepage, travelers have three options – to book a flight, a flight + hotel or a flight + car.
If you choose either of the latter two, you are booking a trip that is classified as a package tour.
An "Atol-protected" sign appears next in the booking, followed by the following explanation of the reimbursement rules: "The combination of the travel services offered to you is a package in the sense of the provisions for package tours and linked travel arrangements. You therefore benefit from all EU rights that apply to packages. & # 39;
If the traveler is redirected to a third party website during a booking to pay for the hotel and / or car rental, it is not a package booking but a Linked Travel Arrangement (LTA) that offers less protection.
For example, Skyscanner only offers linked travel arrangements.
Another point to note is that some companies falsely claim to have Atol protection.
Visit www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk to review a company's claims.
Martin Nolan, Senior Legal Director at Skyscanner, said, “Atol Protection is a system operated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority that is designed to protect travelers in some limited situations. The primary protection is a supplier going broke as part of your trip, to give you the protection that you either get all your money back or you can still go on your trip as planned.
Decide on a flight + hotel on the BA website and the Atol-protected symbol will appear (above). This indicates that your booking is screened
BA declares here that the flight + hotel offer is classified as a package tour
ATOL & # 39; S BOOKING TIPS
- Look for the Atol logo. You can usually find this on your travel company's website, brochure, or shop front.
- Check with the travel company to make sure Atol protection is legitimate. Some companies may falsely claim to have Atol protection in order to appear more reputable. Visit www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk to check Atol protection.
- Watch out for hidden costs. Baggage and transfer fees that may not be included in the final invoice and, taken together, can make your vacation significantly more expensive.
- Check financial protection when booking with a company outside the UK. There are some travel companies outside the UK that offer travel to UK consumers, but these are often not protected by Atol. Do your research and see what financial protection they offer and if in doubt, book with a credit card to ensure you are protected up to £ 30,000 under UK law.
- Get travel insurance as soon as you book. You should consider taking out a policy as soon as you have booked your trip to make sure you are covered in case something goes wrong before you set off.
'When booking a' package tour 'in the UK, you will normally have Atol protection and will receive an Atol certificate at the time of booking. With package tours, you have booked a package deal from a single provider at once, including through online travel agencies.
& # 39; A new protection for "linked travel arrangements" was introduced in 2018, which does not offer the same protection as a package, but offers a little protection.
& # 39; If you make a booking that constitutes an LTA you should be informed – in the Terms and Conditions or elsewhere in the booking process – that you may be booking an LTA. There are also requirements for the provider of the LTA to take out bankruptcy protection to cover their own bankruptcy.
"This is a very reduced protection compared to packages."
Andrew McConnell, spokesman for Atol, said, “The easiest way to protect yourself financially when booking a vacation is to confirm that the vacation is Atol-protected. You can do this by searching for the Atol logo on the web or online, checking the booking details for Atol protection and researching the company on our website.
"Atol protection applies to package tours including flights. So if you book flights and hotels separately, you can better control your vacation. Without financial protection, however, you could make yourself vulnerable."
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