The organisation said it may be possible to annul an already booked holiday without paying cancellation charges under certain conditions, although there is no blanket guarantee.
In its communiqué, the ECCL stated that packaged holidays can be cancelled under very specific circumstances. The first consideration is if a ministry of foreign affairs or the World Health Organization has issued a travel warning. According to the ECCL:
“A travel warning is a strong indication that there are exceptional circumstances that give the right to cancel the travel.
“In principle, you can only cancel the package tour without cancellation fees if the travel warning was issued prior to the start of your holidays, but after the booking. You can invoke unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances or force majeure.
“If the package travel was cancelled by the tour operator himself, you have the right to get your money back.”
Directly booked travel operates on a much more case-by-case basis. The ECCL stated that:
“... the cancellation of the flight or the hotel is only possible as a gesture of goodwill by the airline or the hotel. Travellers should contact the airline or the hotel immediately and ask for the conditions of cancellation. At the moment, many airlines provide the possibility to cancel or rebook flights without paying cancellation charges. If your flight was cancelled by the airline they either must refund the money or they must provide another means of transport if you still want to travel to this area.”
Indemnification and reimbursement
EU rules that require carriers to compensate passengers for axing flights do not apply in all circumstances. For example, the ECCL explained:
“You will not receive compensation when the airlines cancel the flight 14 days prior to departure - as they currently often do.”
Airlines stopping flights to comply with local public health instructions might not be required to provide an indemnity.
As for travel insurance, many policies will not cover consumer-made cancellations, especially those that are based on “fear” and not official measures.
How to get help
The European Consumer Centre Luxembourg is a not-for-profit outfit funded by the European Commission, Luxembourg’s consumer protection ministry and Luxembourg consumers union (ULC). It is part of a European network of 30 consumer protection centres called ECC-Net.
A spokeswoman told Delano on Wednesday that the ECCL had recorded more than 30 cases of coronavirus-related travel issues, including both formal complaints and requests for information. Altogether, ECC-Net members across Europe have received “1,357 requests in relation to the coronavirus in the last 30 days,” she said.
The ECCL press release stated: “Our services are free of charge.” Consumers who need help with travel rights can telephone +352 26 84 64-1, email info[at]cecluxembourg[.]lu, consult its website or attend its consumer rights luncheon in Luxemboug City-Centre on Friday 13 March, 12:30pm-1:30pm.