Many people have planned trips for the coming months. However, the rapid spread of the corona virus and the associated worldwide travel warnings, border closings and exit restrictions mean that a large number of people have to cancel or postpone their trips. This development means a massive crisis for the travel industry.
"Please only move"
The tourism industry therefore appeals to customers to only postpone travel because of the corona crisis and not to cancel it entirely. "Our common goal must be to avoid bankruptcies and redundancies," said the German Travel Association (DRV) and the German Tourism Association (DTV).
What consumers need to know now
On the other hand, of course, consumers also have a legitimate interest in getting their money back for travel if they cannot or do not want to travel. We talked to RTL travel expert Ralf Benkö, known from the show "Urlaubsretter – wir retten Sie Urlaub", about what consumers should consider when canceling or rebooking their trips. He gives the following tips on some of the currently most burning travel cancellation and rebooking topics:
- Tip 1: Do not accept vouchers for canceled flights or trips!
- Tip 2: Do not let it get swept away due to force majeure, fight for his right!
- Tip 3: Better wait with cancellations if possible
- Tip 5: stick to the truth! … deceiving insurance = insurance fraud!
- Tip 6: When paying by credit card – check the bank reimbursement
- Tip 7: Take the global travel warning seriously …
Tip 1: Do not accept vouchers for canceled flights or trips!
"When customers now ask for their money back for canceled flights and trips, they often hear that you can tell them just a rebooking or a voucher to offer. From a legal point of view, however, customers are entitled to a full refund of the travel or ticket price, usually within two weeks!
It is understandable to me that many companies in the tourism industry are struggling to survive, that they try to avoid spending. But in my opinion, this should never be carried out in this form on the customer's back. Because accepting a voucher would risk that they might never be able to redeem it if the company did not survive the crisis and went bankrupt. And no one can currently say which alternative date to rebook.
The state has pledged to help businesses. Why should damaged customers now pay for the risk? You also suffer from the corona crisis. That is why I advise customers to be extremely cautious on this point, precisely because the tourism lobby is currently increasingly promoting a voucher solution. Decline! – I say. Aid for the tourism industry has been promised by the state, not by customers. They may need support themselves. "
Tip 2: Do not let it get swept away due to force majeure, fight for his right!
"It is often said by airlines that they should have canceled flights due to force majeure. That is why there is no compensation under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation – which applies to flights by EU airlines and to departures from the EU. Some may Cases of force majeure, but maybe not, because in order to be able to rely on so-called unavoidable extraordinary circumstances, the airline would have to be able to prove that this was really the case.
However, flights were often not canceled because airlines were no longer allowed to fly. How else can you explain that you cancel flights and then you or other airlines still fly to these destinations to pick up stranded vacationers. Yes, there are some destinations where airports have been closed.
In my opinion, however, the background is often that flights were no longer worthwhile for airlines because no more bookings came in and many cancellations due to the corona crisis.
But then economic reasons would be the background for the flight cancellation and not inevitable, exceptional. I know from many vacationer letters how hard airlines like to interpret the applicable rules when vacationers want to cancel free of charge due to exceptional circumstances. Then it usually says: as long as you can fly anywhere, you will not be canceled free of charge. Then this must also apply if customers demand compensation or compensation because, as an airline, you could and should have been allowed to fly.
This point is likely to be very competitive legally, as many airlines interpret it differently. And there has never been such a crisis. It can therefore be expected that judges will have to reevaluate some of these cases in the coming months and years.
In any case, it is conceivable that airlines do not get through with a reference to force majeure in every case. My tip would be to get legal advice in such cases, if it may be a lot of money. So: don't give up straight away if airlines try to throw you off.
And even in the event of force majeure, airlines owe support services and replacement transport according to the EU regulation, provided it applies to bookings. In order to be able to invoice costs here, one would have to be able to prove the expenses. My tip: tackle important communication in writing and among witnesses. "
Tip 3: Better wait with cancellations if possible
"The global travel warnings currently apply until the end of April. If you are already considering canceling trips in May or June, I advise you to wait and see. It is now difficult to estimate how long this state of crisis will continue and how long this travel warning will last. But you have to assume that this could be a little longer.
Even if an earlier cancellation would mean lower cancellation fees, I would have given away money if it became possible later, for example due to an extended travel warning, to cancel completely free of charge.
But even if you canceled early, there may still be hope for a refund.
There are also vacationers who canceled their trip a few days before a published travel warning. You guessed what was coming and from today's perspective you would say: acted correctly.
Nevertheless, they may get the answer from the organizer: Yes, you could have canceled free of charge from the day of the travel warning, but two days before that wasn't that far, so you won't get any money back. That is an argument of many organizers.
You have to say: This question will surely be part of legal proceedings, because the question is whether the holidaymakers had not already had a situation a few days before where the trip was no longer reasonable for them, where there were already extraordinary circumstances. The travel warning itself is not the only possible indication of this. Eventually, organizers will have to accept such cancellations as 'free of charge' and pay back the travel price in full. But that is not certain.
The situation worldwide is just so tense when it comes to travel, so that for the foreseeable future no tour operator can insist that you have to take a booked trip, at least in the next few weeks. But it will probably be so much longer. "
Tip 4: Check reimbursement opportunities even for individual bookings
"Anyone who has booked individually does not enjoy protection comparable to vacation packages. Usually, customers stay here at most costs if they cancel because of Corona, unless they were not allowed to enter the holiday country at all, then one can Airline-affected customers actually do not need to be transported and would normally have to reimburse the ticket fee because the customer cannot do anything about an entry ban based on an epidemic and his nationality.
But even if the booked hotel is in a restricted area, is placed in quarantine so that I cannot get there at all, then the hotel should actually allow free cancellations.
In such cases, you should be careful with a lawsuit, because foreign hotel laws usually apply to hotel bookings abroad and a lawsuit abroad is often expensive and risky.
However, the customer has an advantage if he has booked through German hotel portals. Then it could be that this portal may have to compensate under German law.
Tip 5: stick to the truth! … deceiving insurance = insurance fraud!
"Travel cancellation insurance does not cover cancellation costs when it comes to the fear of a pandemic. So who should consider getting the money back for a canceled trip by trying to report their own illness to a travel cancellation or cancellation insurance that it did not exist that way: it would be insurance fraud!
Even if vacationers should try to refer to their own psychological reactions that arise from the fear of an illness, then this should not be successful in most cases.
In connection with Corona, foreign health insurance is particularly important if you are already on the road and sick. Then you really need this insurance cover. Cancellation insurance covers the risk related to the traveler, but not the risk of a general crisis that affects everyone.
Therefore, insurance should not be of much help to many Corona holidaymakers, unless it is medical care from a foreign health insurance company that should be standard for every holidaymaker. "
Tip 6: Check the bank refund for credit card payments
"If a booked, paid travel service fails without being able to do anything for it, the card-issuing bank of some credit card companies could help maybe the bank will refund the amountif you can prove that the travel company refuses to provide services and refuses to reimburse you despite the payment being received.
Visa and Mastercard, for example, also helped in the event of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy. This rule should normally also apply in the Corona case, but it is still not certain how willfully the banks will accept such claims, because in this case very large sums could come together.
I have received feedback from Visa that they will shortly be making a statement on this. It is worth checking this option for a refund – at least for canceled or canceled flights, for example, if the airline refuses to reimburse the ticket fee and fees.
It is also important here: document all steps precisely so that a loss of performance and repayment can be demonstrated.
And from the experience of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy I can only say. At the beginning, various banks had refused to post amounts back. They did it later when the pressure on them grew. "
Tip 7: Take the global travel warning seriously …
"As much as holidaymakers were looking forward to their trip, the worldwide travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office is not in vain. We are just getting a lot of calls for help from holidaymakers who have very big problems coming back to Germany.
Anyone who is still traveling as a holiday maker should not hesitate, but should take care of return flights as soon as possible.
Because in some countries the situation is getting worse, not only with curfews but also with airport closures. You should get information on the website of the Federal Foreign Office, register on rueckholprogramm.de, and Condor also offers a registration option on the website.
Also important: read on the pages of the German embassies when return flights are expected. There are no return flights in some countries because some airlines still offer regular flights.
My tip: Check before booking whether these flights will last longer or whether the airlines will continue to operate in times of crisis. For this purpose, some airlines have published lists on the Internet. Because some vacationers got a cancellation immediately after booking replacement flights, only the money for it, some of it thousands of euros, was then gone again.
If you don't take care of your return trip immediately, you risk having to pay higher and higher prices for return flights or simply not getting any for a long time. "
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Sources used: Interview with Ralf Benkö, Spiegel.de