COVID-19: Consumer advice on package holidays (June 2020)
Last updated: 22 June 2020
In light of the latest COVID-19 travel-related developments, the European Consumer Centre Ireland is looking at what rights have changed for package holidays to date.
Given the extraordinary volume of enquiries being made to holiday providers now, and the rapidly changing situation in Europe and globally, the best course of action if you are an Irish resident travelling on a package holiday abroad in the EU/EEA in the very near future is:
- Follow the most up-to-date advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for the destination you are travelling to here.
- Contact your holiday provider if the situation changes in relation to your holiday country or flight destination.
- Alternatively, wait for your holiday provider to contact you if the situation changes regarding your booking.
Many holiday providers across Europe and Ireland are working around the clock to support customers and doing their utmost to offer flexible booking policies and some form of redress currently. If, however, you are encountering difficulties in communicating with your holiday provider or are experiencing difficulties in securing a refund as a result of package holidays being cancelled or following your own decision to cancel your travel package due to national government travel advice in your country or the country of the destination, and other applicable guidance, this the our latest advice in relation to travel package rights at present.
Whether your booking is cancelled by either yourself, the traveller, or the package provider, it is important to check on whether the trip you booked is indeed a travel package / package holiday.
If you booked the various elements of your trip – the fights, the hotel, the rental car, transfers and any additional services – separately, your trip is not a package and you do not have the same level of protection as with a standard package holiday.
Your travel arrangements, when taken together, are considered a package if the contract covers a period of at least 24 hours or involves overnight accommodation and is a combination of at least two different types of travel services such as transport, accommodation, car rental, a tourist service (such as a tour guide), if:
- Travel services are put together by a holiday provider (e.g. tour operator, online or offline travel agent) under a single contract, or
- Separate contracts with individual holiday providers are concluded and one of the following conditions is met:
- you purchase travel services at a single point of sale and you select the services before agreeing to pay,
- travel services are sold to you at an inclusive or total price,
- travel services are advertised or sold as a “package” or under similar term,
- travel services are combined after the conclusion of a contract under which you are entitled to choose from a selection of different travel services, for example a travel package gift box, or
- you buy services from separate holiday companies through a linked online booking process where the first company transmits your name, email address and payment details to the second company and the second contract is concluded within 24 hours of the first contract.
Normally, package-holiday legislation entitles consumers to cancel their trip in the event of extraordinary circumstances* occurring at destination and they are entitled to a full refund. For package holidays involving a journey to or a stay in areas affected by travel restrictions due to COVID-19, consumers may terminate the booking contract without paying a termination fee due to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances* such as COVID-19-related restrictions.
* Please note:The unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances must occur at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity AND significantly affect the performance of the package OR significantly affect the carriage of the passengers to the destination. The unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances must affect the performance of the package not the use of the holiday – e.g. the flight may be operating and the hotel may be open so the performance of a package might not be affected even though a consumer may not be able to use/conduct their holiday at the location as planned.
Where COVID-19 impacts on your travel package, you should be able to cancel and get a refund without penalty. If this is refused to you, here are the steps you can take:
- Inform the holiday provider of the relevant Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland travel advice here. The Covid-19 Travel Advisory at present, 29 May 2020, advises against all non-essential overseas travel until further notice.
- Remind the holiday provider of their obligations under the Package Travel Regulations
- Seek advice from:
- ECC Ireland for complaints about holiday providers based outside of Ireland in the European Union (EU)** / European Economic Area (EEA)*** via the contact page here.
- Alternatively, consider pursuing the matter through:
- The European Small Claims procedure (for traders who provide holidays based elsewhere in the EU / EEA and claims up to €5,000) here.
If you wish to cancel a holiday outside of the current travel advisory information, you are not guaranteed a refund. In these circumstances you should:
- Check the terms and conditions and the cancellation policy of your travel package contract.
- Contact the business you booked the holiday with and ask them if they can accommodate you.
- Check with your travel insurance policy covers this scenario.
The latest package travel developments in selected European Union Members States
ECC Ireland notes that a number of EU Member States have already introduced recovery schemes as well as temporary emergency legislation aiming to support their travel package operators. This involves a derogation from the EU Package Travel Regulations whereby package travel operators can reimburse holiday-makers by means of vouchers and credit notes. Among the countries that have introduced such measures are: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain to date, with others to follow.
If you are based in Ireland and wish to clarify the status of your package travel booking with an operator in the EU or EEA, and redress options available to you following its cancellation, please contact us directly with the details of you query here.
The latest guidance on package holiday rights from the Irish Government
Legal provisions were enacted on 19 June 2020 by the Irish Government to ensure that special Covid-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish-licensed travel agents and tour operators will be protected by a state guarantee, in the event that the issuer becomes insolvent and goes out of business.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have issued updated guidance on the right of travellers to terminate package travel contracts due to the unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak on 26 May 2020 here.
As the Government Roadmap of 1 May 2020 envisages no lifting of the restriction on overseas travel before 20 July 2020, travellers will have the right to terminate package travel contracts due to start before this date on the ground of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances resulting from Covid-19 and to receive a full refund of payments made for the package. While the performance of some packages due to start after this date is likely to be affected also by unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances resulting from Covid-19, there may be other packages where this is not the case and where the right to terminate the contract and to receive a full refund of the price will not apply. This will depend on Government health and travel advice and other relevant factors as these apply to particular packages at the time of their performance.
Previously, in terms of updated package holiday rights specifically for Irish consumers who purchased a holiday from Irish holiday providers, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation issued guidance on terminating contracts up to 29 May 2020 due to extraordinary circumstances here.
If you are refused a refund, here are the steps you can take:
- Inform the holiday provider of the relevant DFA travel advice here.
- Remind the holiday provider of their obligations under the Package Travel Regulations, as per CCPC website here.
- Seek advice from CCPC for complaints about holiday providers based in Ireland here.
- Alternatively, consider pursuing the matter through the Small Claims procedure in the Irish courts (for holiday providers based in Ireland and claims up to €2,000) here.
Generally, keep in mind that most holiday providers and carriers still operate normally and some offer special conditions in the context of the Coronavirus travel disruption. You should keep up to date on their latest information and communications and check the latest general or special conditions of carriage.
If applicable, you can also contact your travel insurance provider to see what your level of policy covers in terms of package holiday cancellations.
For more information on travel package rights and protections, click here.
** The current member states of the European Union (EU) are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
** The current Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA) are: the EU countries above and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
*** The same rights are applicable in the United Kingdom until the 31st of December 2020.
If you are based in Ireland and encounter any difficulties with securing a refund in any of the above cases or you would like to make sure what your entitlements are, you are welcome to contact ECC Ireland via our contact page here. As part of the European Consumer Centres Network, ECC Ireland has access to multilingual, in-country teams that are able to liaise with traders on behalf of Irish consumers for these types of cancellations and not only. Click here to find out about our services and how you can submit a complaint.
The service of the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC Ireland) remains fully operational with the exception of our call centre. At present, we advise Irish consumers to contact us by e-mail only via our contact page here: eccireland.ie / contact-us. Our staff is collectively and individually doing their best to respond to all queries and complaints as quickly as possible, and within 5 working days. However, due to exceptionally high volumes, we cannot always guarantee this. We will keep the public informed of all relevant consumer news and the latest on Irish consumers’ rights via our website eccireland.ie and on Twitter here: twitter.com / eccireland.