Coronavirus: should you go on holiday?

If the coronavirus breaks out at your holiday destination, what are your options when it comes to compensation?

Around 700 people are trapped at their hotel in Tenerife
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2020 Shutterstock. No use without permission.)

Picture your next holiday and you probably don’t envision being trapped in your hotel receiving notes under the door from staff and being told you have to stay quarantined for two weeks. But that is exactly what has happened to around 700 guests at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife. After fellow guests were diagnosed with the coronavirus the hotel was put in quarantine. As the virus spreads across the world millions of travellers are wondering if it is safe to proceed with their trips.

If you have decided you don’t want to go on your next holiday because you are worried about the virus, you may be able to get a refund, but this is far from guaranteed. Your first port of call should be the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) website.

Start with the FCO

“If it has warned against ‘all travel’ to a destination, then airlines and package holiday providers must provide a full refund,” says Marianna Hunt in The Daily Telegraph. So far, the FCO has only warned against all travel to parts of China. The FCO is also advising against all but essential travel to all of mainland China, parts of South Korea and parts of northern Italy. In this scenario airlines and holiday firms can decide for themselves whether or not to offer a refund.

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When there is no FCO advice against travel, then your next option is to raise an official complaint with your holiday provider. “Package holiday firms may offer an alternative trip to a ‘safe’ location, but customers do not have to accept,” says Hunt.

You should also contact your travel insurance provider to see if you are covered. Where there is FCO advice against all travel, most will pay out. When it is a case of “all but essential travel”, you may also be covered.

“If you are worried about trips to other areas where the virus has been reported, such as Tenerife… it might be possible to claim compensation even without an FCO warning,” says Kenza Bryan in The Times.

“If your doctor tells you not to travel or if you have a note saying that your health would be at risk if you did so, insurers say they will consider your claim.” Anyone booking their summer holidays should buy travel insurance at the same time as their holiday. If the FCO changes its advice for your destination before you buy an insurance policy, your insurer won’t pay out.

The effect of coronavirus on work and schools

Will I get sick pay if I quarantine myself?

If you have travelled from an affected area and your employer or the government advises you to self-isolate, you are entitled to full pay.

“Even if employers do not offer sick pay, workers are entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. It amounts to £94.25 per week and is paid from the fourth day of sickness,” notes Anthony Cuthbertson in The Independent.

My child’s school has closed and I have to stay home to care for them. Will I be paid?

“You have the right to reasonable time off to deal with... the care of your child,” says David Byers in The Times. But this kind of absence is unpaid unless you ask to use your annual leave.

I have tickets for an event that has been cancelled. Can I get a refund?

“You are covered if you bought the ticket from a primary seller such as Ticketmaster or the venue itself,” says Byers. You’ll only get the value of the ticket back, not the fees. You can also ask your card provider. You can use Chargeback to reverse the amount you paid on your debit card. If you paid by credit card – and spent over £100 – you can get a refund from the card issuer.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.