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Coronavirus: Why travellers need to be careful taking a refund amid flight cancellations

British Airways flights are seen grounded at City Airport in London, England as multiple European flights are cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

Consumer group Which? has warned travellers that accepting a refund if their return flight to the UK is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak might not be the best option.

In a Twitter post, Which? instead advises passengers to insist that the airline “meet its obligations to get you home on the earliest available alternative flight.”

If you accept a refund the airline may no longer be responsible for getting you home, leading to further costs for new flights or an extended stay in your destination country.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to more than 30 countries. This means it is likely you will have to cancel any trips coming up in the next few weeks. You will be able to get a full refund from your airline or travel company in these circumstances, according to Which?.

Read more: easyJet and BA shares crash amid major flight cancellations

If you want to cancel your travel plans due to coronavirus concerns but there is no FCO warning you won’t automatically be entitled to a refund from the airline, cruise company or travel agent. But Which? said that several airlines are allowing customers to rebook for a later date at no extra cost.

Which? advises to make sure you have travel insurance, even if you’re not travelling for a long time.

The four key areas to look out for in a policy are:

Travel disruption cover

This ensures you will be reimbursed for costs associated with delays, missed departures or if you are forced to stay at your destination for longer than planned.

This sometimes has to be added as an optional extra and can sometimes be called “cancellation due to FCO restrictions.”

Emergency medical cover

This is how much your insurer will pay for medical treatment. Which? advises that you take out £2m ($2.4m) for Europe and £5m for worldwide travel.

Which? also reminds passengers to follow local public health guidelines wherever you travel.

Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI)

Since the collapse of travel company Thomas Cook last year, Which? has encouraged all travellers to take out SAFI for their trips.

This will cover you if your airline goes bust before you fly. Coronavirus is putting pressure on airlines as flights are cancelled due to a huge fall in demand for bookings. Coronavirus pushed flagging airline Flybe into collapse recently, and other airlines could follow.


This is how much you’ll have to pay towards what your insurer pays out. Even if you are more worried about the level of coverage amid coronavirus concerns, you’ll still need to be able to afford the excesses.

Read more: Travel stocks among worst hit by coronavirus

Further advice for travellers can be found on the Which? website.

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