Personal Finance

How Will Lockdown In England Affect Travel In The UK And Abroad?

From 5 November, tougher national lockdown rules will be in place in England in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. These restrictions mean that everyone in England must stay at home, with a limited set of exemptions.

Other UK nations also have travel restrictions in place (see below).

The restrictions in England ban overnight stays and most travel, meaning that from 5 November until at least 2 December, holidays will not be allowed, including travelling to stay in a second home.

If you’ve got a holiday booked in the coming month, or are already away, here we look at what the new restrictions mean for you.

What do the new restrictions say about travel?

The new restrictions ban all leisure travel both within the UK and overseas. The guidance says: “Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed. This includes holidays abroad and in the UK. It also means you cannot stay in a second home, if you own one, or stay with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with.” 

There are limited exemptions such as travel for work and education.

You can see the restrictions here.

I’ve got a holiday booked in the next month – will it be cancelled, and can I get my money back?

Whether your holiday will be cancelled and what your rights are depends on the type of travel you’ve booked.

Package holidays

If you’ve booked a package holiday abroad, due to depart between 5 November and 2 December, your holiday should be cancelled and, if this happens, you’ll be entitled to a refund.

However, don’t rush to cancel the holiday yourself, wait until your travel company cancels your trip or contacts you with your options or you risk invalidating your cancellation rights.

TUI, as an example, is cancelling all package holidays departing from England and Wales, including those with third party flights, between 5 November and 2 December, inclusive. It says: “Impacted customers will be proactively contacted, in departure date order, and offered the option to amend with a booking incentive, receive an ATOL-protected refund credit note with a booking incentive, or cancel and receive a full cash refund.”

Flights

If you’ve booked flights and accommodation separately, your cancellation rights will depend on the terms and conditions of the company you have booked with as many flights will continue to run.

Ryanair, as an example, says: “Ryanair recently announced it is reducing its winter schedule taking capacity down to 40% compared to the prior year. Following these reductions, our revised UK schedule will operate as normal.”

It is, however, offering customers the option to change flights in November to a later date with no change fee so long as the change is made at least seven days before the departure date of the booking.

If you’ve booked independently, take a look on your airline’s website or contact its customer services team to find out what your options are. Be aware, though, that phone lines are likely to be very busy.

What about holidays within the UK?

If you live in England, from 5 November until 2 December, you won’t be able to travel to stay in a hotel or other accommodation within the UK as part of a holiday.

The government guidance says: “Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law.”

Again, accommodation providers will have different terms and conditions and approaches to the upcoming restrictions, so take a look at your travel company’s site and contact it if it hasn’t already contacted you.

Sykes Cottages, as an example, says: “Following the latest announcement by the Prime Minister regarding the four-week lockdown in England, rest assured we will contact all affected guests offering the choice of a change of date, or a refund. Please bear with us and await for us to contact you.”

Following the first lockdown, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the holiday accommodation sector after reports that businesses were failing to respect cancellation rights. It has also issued guidance around consumers’ rights when contracts are “frustrated” (can’t go ahead) due to lockdown laws.

It says: “In particular, for most consumer contracts, the CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where… a consumer is prevented from receiving any goods or services, because, for example, lockdown laws in the UK or abroad have made it illegal to receive or use the goods or services.” Find out more here.

I’m already on holiday – do I need to come home?

The government is not asking those who are already away on holiday to return home straight away but, with flight options likely to be reduced in the coming weeks, it’s worth keeping in mind that getting home may become trickier.

The government guidance says: “British nationals currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.”

Can I travel up to 5 November?

Holidays and flights are likely to keep departing up to 5 November and, if you feel comfortable, you can travel as planned.

easyJet says: “Following the Government’s sudden announcement, easyJet will operate its planned schedule until Thursday and will be reviewing its flying programme over the lockdown period.”

While TUI says: “All TUI holidays between Monday 2 November and Wednesday 4 November are due to operate as planned.”

However, keep in mind that flights home may be impacted or cancelled. If this worries you, check whether your holiday company is being flexible around changes or cancellations. For example, TUI is allowing all customers due to travel before Thursday to move their holiday to a later date without charge.

Will I be able to claim on my travel insurance?

If you bought your travel insurance policy after March 2020, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to claim for cancellation due to a lockdown as a number of coronavirus exclusions have been added into policies due to the pandemic being a known risk.

If you have exhausted other refund options, such as contacting your travel company, it is worth double checking your policy’s terms and conditions, though, as policies vary.

You stand more of a chance if you bought your policy pre-March but, again, talk to your travel insurance provider about your individual policy and read your documents carefully to find out exactly what you’re entitled to.

How have airlines and travel companies reacted to the restrictions?

If you have a holiday booked from 5 November to 2 December, check the latest advice on your travel company’s website if it hasn’t contacted you already.

We’ve listed the advice from some popular holiday companies and airlines below.

British Airways

On its site, British Airways (BA), says: “The latest UK government announcement may have caused uncertainty around your travel plans in November.

“If your flight is cancelled, please rest assured that we’ll contact you. We’re currently experiencing extremely high call volumes. Please don’t call or message unless you’re travelling in the next 72 hours so we can help those needing urgent rebooking.”

BA also has an existing “book with confidence” commitment which gives customers who booked from 3 March the option to change the dates and destination of bookings without a change fee for journeys due to be completed by 31 August 2021 (but you’ll have to pay any difference in price) or cancel and receive a voucher to the same value for a future booking.

Find out more here.

easyJet

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, issued the following statement: “Following the Government’s sudden announcement, easyJet will operate its planned schedule until Thursday and will be reviewing its flying programme over the lockdown period. It is likely that much of the UK-touching schedule will be cancelled during lockdown with our planned flying set to resume in early December.

“We will advise customers who are booked to travel over the next month of their options with a view to assisting customers to return to the country in the coming days.”

You can see the latest travel information from easyJet here.

The airline also has a “flex guarantee” which allows customers to change flights to any destination or date without paying a change fee up to 14 days before departure (although you’ll have to pay a change in fare if the new flight costs more) and a refund promise allowing you to request a cash refund or voucher online if your flight is cancelled. Find out more here.

easyJet holidays 

easyJet holidays says that it is contacting the thousands of customers with bookings up to 2 December about their options.

It says: “easyJet holidays is proactively contacting all customers who are affected by the recent government announcement which bans all leisure travel, and sadly means holidays up to 2 December 2020 cannot go ahead as planned.

“We’ll be in touch to discuss options which include changing holiday dates (with no change fees), receiving easyJet holidays credit to use against a future holiday when the time is right, and receiving a full refund back to original method of payment for the booking. While outside of our control, we’re really sorry that so many customers are having their holiday plans disrupted and thank customers for their ongoing patience and understanding.”

Find out more here.

Jet2holidays

Jet2holidays says: “Following the UK Government announcement on 31 October about additional restrictions, we are in the process of reviewing and adjusting our flights and holidays programmes.

“For customers due to depart up to and including Wednesday 4th November, and who do not wish to travel, they can amend their booking to a later date with no admin fee.

“If flights or holidays are affected by any changes, we will contact customers to advise them of their options. Customers in resort should continue to enjoy their holidays as planned.

“Our contact centre is receiving a high volume of enquiries at the moment, so we remind customers that they do not need to contact us. We will be in touch with any updates.”

Find out more here.

Ryanair

Ryanair says: “Ryanair recently announced it is reducing its winter schedule taking capacity down to 40% compared to the prior year. Following these reductions, our revised UK schedule will operate as normal.

“Customers who do not wish to travel can change their November flights to a later date with no change fee”.

If your flight is running, you are not automatically entitled to a refund, but you can change flights in November with no change fee as long as you make the change within seven days of your departure. At the moment, if your flight is in December, you’ll have to pay a change fee if you’d like to move it.

You can find out more about changing November flights here.

TUI

On its travel alerts page, TUI says: “Following the UK Government’s recent announcement regarding additional restrictions, TUI UK will not operate flights and holidays departing from England and Wales from Thursday 5th November up to and including Wednesday 2nd December 2020.

“Impacted customers will be proactively contacted, in departure date order, and offered the option to amend with a booking incentive, receive an ATOL-protected refund credit note with a booking incentive, or cancel and receive a full cash refund.

“All TUI holidays between Monday 2 November and Wednesday 4 November are due to operate as planned. Customers due to travel before Thursday are able to amend their holiday to a later date for free. Customers currently on holiday can continue to enjoy their holiday as planned.

“As the current regulations have been implemented in England and Wales only, all holidays departing from Scotland will continue to operate as planned, unless customers are proactively contacted and told otherwise.”

Find out more here.

What about the rest of the UK?

The new restrictions only apply to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently have their own travel restrictions in place to tackle coronavirus.

Scotland has introduced a tiered regime of restrictions with different travel restrictions depending on the tier you live in. Find out more here.

Wales is currently in the second week of its “firebreak” restrictions and, when it emerges on 9 November there will be a new set of national rules, including some around travel.

The rules state: “As part of keeping our risks to a minimum, people should avoid non-essential travel as much as possible. There will be no legal restrictions on travel within Wales for residents, but international travel should be for essential reasons only.”

Restrictions have been in place in Northern Ireland since 16 October and will be in place for four weeks. Under these restrictions, the advice is to “avoid all unnecessary travel”.

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