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How to Mitigate Your Losses for a Cancelled Event or Holiday

May 13, 2020

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Having recently heard the news and seen the statement from the Afro Nation organisers that no refunds will be issued for the widely anticipated, but now cancelled, Portugal festival, it brings to the forefront the fine balancing act that many travel businesses are facing in providing good and safe customer service during this Pandemic while at the same time trying to sustain their business.

Alice Ogeh

FOUNDER & EDITOR

A Lawyer in her previous life, the copious hours of scrutinising law text books, case law and wikipedia have resulted in the birth of a creature, whose capability to research into the paths less trodden, surpasses most seasoned travellers.

While we believe it's unfortunate the stance that Afronation has taken and we don't necessarily agree it's the best stance to take, especially with the amount of government incentives, loans etc. available for businesses to take advantage of, their stance is not uncommon and as usual this leaves us as consumers (and supporters of their business) grabbing the short end of the stick!

If you are one of the unfortunate that have found yourself in this predicament, where your travel plans have been cancelled by the travel provider, there may be a few ways that you can mitigate or reclaim your losses:

1. Insurance

Whenever I book anything travel related - a hotel, airbnb, flights domestic travel etc. - I always ensure to obtain travel insurance as soon as I have booked. I do not wait until the day before or a few days before travelling before taking out insurance, the main reason being because I may need to claim on my insurance before I have even travelled e.g. in the case of a cancellation or in case I am unable to travel for a reason covered by my insurance. If you hold insurance already and you are being refused a refund from your travel or event provider (if the event was meant to be taking place abroad), you may be able to claim some or all of your costs from your insurer.

Having insurance is only half the battle as you will still need to find out what your particular policy covers and most standard policies are pretty nifty with their wording. See our article here which goes into the top clauses to look out to check whether you are really covered. In relation to any corona virus cancellations, you will want to check whether your policy covers you if you are unable to travel because of FCO advice and/or because you are unable to travel due to flight/hotel cancellations.

Unfortunately if you don't already have travel insurance, it's likely too late to purchase travel insurance and make a claim as many, if not all, travel insurers are not accepting or covering coronavirus-related claims (which covers a wide variety of potential claims).

2. Did You Spend Over £100 On Your Credit Card?

A possible lifeline where insurance fails is to look to rely on section 75 or the chargeback scheme. Where you spend over £100 on your credit card, you can benefit from free protection under section 75 not only in the case where a service or product hasn't been supplied because the supplier has gone bust, but in other scenarios too. This is because the law makes clear that the credit company is jointly responsible, so instead of going back and forth with your supplier where you may due a refund, it might be easier to claim via your credit card company.If you are claiming from the credit provider, be firm but polite, and request a claim form. You may be met with resistance and advice from your credit card firm that it is an issue for your supplier to deal with, but be firm in your request as due to the law, you have a choice whether to claim from the supplier, the credit card company or both at the same time! You do not have to deal with one or the other first.

A word of warning though, where you have bought via an intermediary such as a travel agent, online booking platform e.g. booking.com, it may be argued that there isn't a direct relationship with the supplier that was meant to supply the services and as such your credit card company may refuse a claim. However there has been recent case law to suggest that indirect relationships are also covered, so you may find its worth the fight.

The chargeback scheme in comparison to section 75, is not a legal right, but a discretionary scheme adopted by some card companies, but otherwise works in a similar way to section 75 and includes debit cards, not just credit cards. You can find out more here

3. Did You Book A Holiday As A Package

Under the Package Travel Regulations, if a tour operator makes a 'significant change' to the original arrangements, you aren't obliged to accept the alternative and are entitled to a full refund of the package price. However, what might be considered a significant change is debatable and it may be an uphill battle to argue if for example, the event that you planned to attend abroad is cancelled, but your flight and hotel reservations have not yet been/were not cancelled and there was no FCO guidance at the time restricting travel abroad for the dates of your travel. Currently with FCO advice being to avoid all travel unless essential indefinitely (i.e. until they say otherwise), you may want to wait until closer to the dates of your travel to see whether your package holiday or tour provider cancels the whole trip if they haven't already done so.

Currently, package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are entitled to all their money back within two weeks under the Package Travel Regulations.

4. Don't Accept A Voucher, Where You Don't Have To

Under EU flight delay rules (which cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline), you're entitled to choose between either a refund for the flight that was cancelled or an alternative flight. While most UK and EU airlines have adhered to this, there have been a notable few (ahem Ryanair ahem) who have been said to be making it extremely difficult for customers to obtain refunds, instead offering vouchers. Note that your ability to obtain a refund for a cancelled flights on a UK/EU airline, is a right which the airline cannot argue against. Having said that, if you're having trouble even getting through the airline provider to obtain a refund, we would suggest exercising a tad bit of patience and trying again during times that may be less busy, just because of the sheer amount of havoc that has been reeked by this virus.

Note that you may also be able to claim a refund for cancelled flights for non-EU airlines where the departure/arrival was due to take place from the UK/EU as the regulation also extends to them in such scenarios.

If you accept a voucher, then note that you are wholly reliant on the liquidity of that travel provider staying afloat and unless the travel provider is ATOL/ABTA protected, you risk loosing the whole value of your voucher if the travel provider goes bust! Also double check whether the voucher has been provided in full and final settlement of all claims as if for instance there are other losses associated with the cancellation which are note covered by the voucher, such a statement may pre-empt you from claiming.

5. What Do The Terms & Conditions Say?

The very last resort is to rely on consumer law and whatever is stated in the terms and conditions. If it says that you will be due a refund under certain circumstances or where you need to cancel due to certain circumstances and this is not provided, the first avenue is to contact the supplier in writing to notify them of their breach of contract. Now the problem lies where they simply do not reply or remain adamant on their position, the next step may be to seek legal redress, which will undoubtedly cause a further outlay in money (i.e. getting advice and paying court fees). However, in recent years what has been more effective is peer-pressure or crowd pressure. Through the use of social media, online petitions etc. it has been easier to influence a company to offer a refund, either to preserve any good PR that they can or as a goodwill gesture.

Unfortunately for the majority of us tend to book our travel via intermediaries, where the majority of the time they will deny any accountability for lost funds or cancellations and instead direct you back to the end supplier. Unless you bought a package holiday with/via the intermediary or you booked flights and accommodation or car hire booked from the same company within the same website visit (even if not part of a formal package), the booking may be covered by ATOL. If the worst happens, under ATOL you'll get a refund for your holiday or an alternative holiday/transport. It doesn't apply to non-UK companies though. 


Please note that the above points are not to be taken as legal advice and that you should rely fully on your own investigations and research in this area.


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