Travel plans and COVID-19

Introduction

The Government has advised against all non-essential travel abroad to delay the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Flight, ferry and holiday cancellations have affected many travellers and are likely to continue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all cruise ship travel.

The Government has published a ‘COVID-19 green list’ of countries (also called ‘normal precautions’ listed countries) that you can travel to without having to restrict your movement for 14 days when you return home. The public health advice is that the safest thing to do is not to travel, even to green listed countries - see ‘When will it be safe to travel overseas again?’ below.

What should I do if I have travel booked?

If you are planning to travel abroad, you should follow the travel advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFA). You can do this using the DFA’s Travelwise app or you can phone DFA’s dedicated phone line on (01) 613 1733.

Should I cancel my travel plans or wait for it to be cancelled?

Since the DFA has advised against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice, you may have to cancel your trip if it is coming up in the next few weeks. You should check the DFA’s website for updates.

If you decide to cancel your travel plans without a specific DFA warning against travel, you may not get a refund, and normal cancellation charges will apply. You can ask your travel agent, airline or tour operator if you can rebook for a later date, or wait until the DFA travel advice is extended.

When will it be safe to travel overseas again?

Travel advice remains under constant review to ensure it reflects the latest assessment of risks.

The Government has published a ‘COVID-19 green list’ of countries (also called ‘normal precautions’ listed countries) that you can travel to without having to restrict your movement for 14 days when you return home. Countries on the green list are those with sufficiently similar low levels of transmission of COVID-19. The list will be reviewed every 2 weeks. The public heath advice is that the safest thing to do is not to travel.

The European Commission has recommended partial and gradual lifting of restrictions on international travel to the EU from 1 July. You can read more about current restrictions on the European Commission's website. You can check the website Re-open EU for real-time information on borders and available transport and tourism services in Member States.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have published a COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol. It covers health and safety guidelines for airlines once they resume regular flight schedules.

Stay and spend incentive

To encourage people to holiday at home, the Government has announced a new ‘Stay and Spend Incentive’. The scheme allows you to claim a certain amount of tax back on accommodation, food and non-alcoholic drink purchased between 1 October 2020 and 30 April 2021. Under the terms of the incentive:

  • You must spend a minimum of €25 per transaction on qualifying expenditure and submit the receipt to Revenue using a mobile app
  • You may submit receipts up to a total of €625, or €1,250 for a jointly-assessed married couple
  • Revenue will provide an income tax credit of €125 per taxpayer, or up to €250 for a jointly-assessed married couple

Further details on the scheme are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Package holidays and your rights

A traditional package holiday (also called a pre-arranged travel package) is advertised and sold as a whole and must last for more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay. It also must be made up of at least 2 of the following:

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Car rental
  • Other tourist services – for example, tours, excursions, guides or tickets for concerts or theme parks

If you want to cancel

Under the EU Directive on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements, you have the right to cancel your booking for free, before the start of the holiday, in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. This includes disease or serious conditions at the destination.

The Government has published advice on your right to cancel due to extraordinary circumstances resulting from COVID-19. The guidance was updated on 27 May 2020 (pdf).

At present, the following cancellation rights apply:

  • Package holidays due to start before 20 July – you are entitled to a full refund without paying a termination fee. Travel organisers can offer a refund or a State-guaranteed refund credit note where they are not able to provide a cash refund or a full cash refund – see more below. You do not have to accept a refund credit note and can insist on getting a full refund.
  • Package holidays due to start after 20 July – you are still entitled to cancel your booking and get a refund or a State-guaranteed refund credit note, but you may have to pay a termination fee to the travel organiser.
  • Package holidays due to start after 20 July that are already cancelled by the travel organiser - you are entitled to a full refund or a State-guaranteed refund credit note, without paying a termination fee to the travel organiser.

If the travel agent has to cancel the package

You still have rights if your travel agent cancels or makes a significant change to your package holiday, even if:

  • DFA has not restricted travel to your destination, or
  • DFA advice to avoid non-essential travel is lifted before you plan to travel

The travel agent can cancel a package holiday because of factors beyond their control but you are still entitled to:

  • A replacement holiday of equivalent or superior quality
  • A lower grade holiday, with a reimbursement of the difference in price
  • A full refund within 14 days

You should note however, that the current COVID-19 pandemic is causing problems for some tour operators in meeting this deadline.

You should discuss your options with your travel agent.

State-guaranteed refund credit note

On 8 May 2020, the Government agreed that tour operators and travel agents can offer customers a State-guaranteed refund credit note for package holidays, where they are not able to provide a cash refund or a full cash refund.

The refund credit note will work as follows:

  • You are still entitled to a cash refund: the refund credit note will have a future date (the redeemable date) that it can be exchanged for a cash refund or to book a replacement holiday
  • It can be for the full value of the refund or for part of the refund, along with part cash

The refund credit note is State-guaranteed. This means that your refund is protected if your travel agent or tour operator goes out of business and cannot pay back its customers.

You do not have to accept a refund credit note and can insist on getting a full refund.

You can read more about consumer rights and package holidays.

Flight cancellations and your rights

If you have booked a flight directly with an airline and you are concerned that the flight might be cancelled, you should contact the airline. If you do not receive a response from your airline within 6 weeks, you can escalate the issue to the Commission for Aviation Regulation using this complaints form.

If the flight is cancelled

A number of airlines including Aer Lingus and Ryanair, have cancelled most flights until further notice.

Where your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a choice of:

  • Refund of the cost of your ticket within 7 days or
  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or
  • Re-routing at a later date at your convenience, subject to availability of seats

These rules are set out in EU Regulation 261/2004. Airlines still need to meet their obligations under the law but it might take longer to get your refund because of current circumstances.

You may be able to submit a claims form online, to request a refund if your flight has been cancelled - see forms for Ryanair and Aer Lingus. Alternatively, you can contact Ryanair on 0818 30 30 30 (local call costs) and Aer Lingus on 1890 800 600 (Lo-call).

My flight has not been cancelled but I no longer want to travel

The travel advisory is currently until further notice. A decision on easing travel restrictions to some countries is expected after 20 July. If you have booked a flight that has not been cancelled yet, check guidance from your airline. You should contact your airline directly if you want to cancel your flight because you are ill or following government advice.

In general, if the airline has not cancelled the flight but you no longer want to fly, you are not entitled to re-routing or a refund. However, some airlines may offer you alternatives such as a voucher or allow you to rebook your flight for later in the year.

You can read more in our section on air travel.

Ferry and cruise ship cancellations and your rights

Under EU law transport companies that run ferries and cruise ships (travel operators) must resolve issues caused by cancellations. The rules are set out in EU Regulation 1177/2012.

If the ferry or cruise ship is cancelled

If your ferry or cruise ship departure is cancelled, you are entitled to the choice of a refund or an alternative journey.

My booking has not been cancelled but I no longer want to travel

Not all ferry services have been cancelled. This means you might be charged a cancellation fee if you decide not to travel. If your departure is in the coming weeks, your tour operator may offer additional flexibility to cancel bookings without incurring a cancellation fee. This option applies to ferry crossings due to depart up to end-June or mid-July 2020. Dates vary, so check with your travel operator directly.

If you want to cancel a booking that is for a date later in the year, normal cancellation terms and conditions apply. You should contact your tour operator directly.

You can read more in our document on your rights when travelling in the EU by ship or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport's Maritime Sector COVID-19 FAQ (pdf). Contact the National Transport Authority (NTA) (or phone 01 8798300), if you have queries or complaints about your rights as a ferry or cruise ship passenger.

What about my accommodation booking?

You may be entitled to a refund of your accommodation costs.

If your hotel or other accommodation is part of a package holiday, it is covered under the cancellation rules for package holidays (explained above).

If you cannot get a refund from your hotel or booking website, you may be covered on your travel insurance, if you have some - see ‘Is coronavirus covered by my travel insurance?’ below.

My hotel is in an area under lockdown

If your hotel has closed because it is in an area under lockdown, you are entitled to a full refund. You may also be offered the option to rebook at a later date.

Non-refundable bookings

If you have a non-refundable hotel booking, you will need to check your terms and conditions to see if it covers circumstances where the hotel cannot honour your booking. Most terms and conditions address situations where you cancel, as opposed to the hotel. However, some contracts contain force majeure terms and this may cover hotel closures that are enforced by a government order.

In general, if you booked with a booking website, your contract is with the hotel and not the booking website. You may need to go to the hotel directly to ask for a refund.

If a hotel is refusing to refund your booking, despite being closed and you paid by credit card or debit card, you may be able to get your money back using chargeback. Contact your card provider to see if this is covered under their chargeback scheme. Whether you can get a refund depends on the terms of each card provider’s chargeback policy.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information on chargeback .

My hotel is still open but I no longer want to travel

If the hotel has not closed and your booking is non-refundable you may lose out. The terms and conditions set out at the time of your booking will apply. You are reliant on the goodwill of the hotel or the website that you booked with.

I booked self-catering accommodation through Airbnb

Airbnb and some major hotel chains are removing their cancellation fees if you have travel plans cancelled because of the pandemic. You should contact the booking site directly if you want to cancel.

Your rights if you are stranded abroad

If you are abroad, you should stay vigilant and follow the instructions and advice from the local authorities.

Check if your flight is still going ahead if you are due to return home. Delays can be expected at airports as passengers are screened for coronavirus.

You should register your contact details with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on their Citizens’ Registration site. They can then contact you and provide help if there is an unforeseen crisis or family emergency while you are overseas.

If you are not allowed to leave your current location because you are in a COVID-19 quarantined area, contact the Irish Embassy in the country in which you are located. These contact details are available on the DFAT website.

Is coronavirus covered by my travel insurance?

Whether you can make a claim against your travel insurance depends on the terms and conditions of your travel insurance and when you bought it.

If you took out a policy with ‘disruption cover’ (also known as ‘catastrophe’ cover) before the DFA travel advice came into effect, you should be able to claim any costs not refunded by your travel provider from your insurer. Disruption cover is usually an ‘optional extra’ to your insurance policy and is generally not included as standard in most travel policies.

If you take out travel insurance after the Irish Government has advised against travelling to your destination, it is very unlikely that your insurer will consider any claim you make. Many insurers have changed aspects of their travel insurance policies or have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers.

The Central Bank has said that insurers must:

  • Handle claims effectively and properly
  • Interpret terms in your favour, where there is a doubt about the meaning of a term or what cover is provided and what is included
  • Accept and pay claims promptly, where there is insurance cover in place
  • Make sure that any settlement offer made you is fair and takes into account all relevant factors

The CCPC have more information about travel insurance in their COVID-19 Consumer Rights FAQ.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Under EU rules, you may be entitled to compensation in certain circumstances, when your flight, ferry or cruise is cancelled.

However, you are not entitled to compensation for a cancellation caused by an extraordinary circumstance. A pandemic is considered an extraordinary circumstance and is outside of the control of the travel organiser.

The rules on compensation rights are:

Further information

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has information on travel rights in a COVID-19 Consumer Rights FAQs.

The European Consumer Centre has information about holiday cancellations and other related issues.

The Central Bank has information about travel insurance in its COVID-19 Consumer FAQ.

You can also get more information on:

Page edited: 5 August 2020