Cancellations, quarantine and insurance – what are your rights around travel to France?

Cancellations, quarantine and insurance – what are your rights around travel to France?
What are your rights if restrictions change your travel plans to France? All photos: AFP
The health situation had already made travel an uncertain business, but possible second waves and the UK's sudden introduction of new quarantine rules have made things even more uncertain. So what are your rights if your trip is not possible?

The UK has now added France to its quarantine list, meaning that anyone who arrives in the country from France after 4am on Saturday must face a 14-day quarantine period.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the UK and France's quarantine rules

While the situation affects people hoping to holiday in France this year it also has serious repercussions for business travellers and people travelling to see friends and relatives in other countries, possibly after a long separation during lockdown.

So what's the situation if you are on holiday or planning a trip?

Going home early

The measure was announced late on Thursday night and comes into effect at 4am on Saturday, giving holidaymakers just over 24 hours to get home if they want to beat the quarantine.

The UK is not guaranteeing sick pay for workers forced to self isolate, so those whose jobs cannot be done from home face a choice of either cutting short their holiday or not being able to work for two weeks on their return.

If you need to leave a hotel, gîte or campsite early you will almost certainly not be entitled to a refund, while the cost of rebooking travel back to the UK could also be high unless you reserved a flexi ticket.

One British travel operator estimated that there were half a million Britons currently on holiday in France. Of course not all of them will chose to come back early, but travel services between France and the UK are expected to be busy on Friday.

But what about if you have a holiday booked for later in the summer?

Cancelled flights/ferry crossings

If the flight or ferry crossing you have booked has been cancelled then you are entitled to a refund. After the UK announced its Spain quarantine, package holiday firm Tui announced it was stopping all flights to Spain.

However just because you are entitled to a refund don't expect it necessarily to be quick or easy. Many travel firms have been pushed into desperate straits by the lockdown, and are doing their utmost to offer customers vouchers or credit notes for travel at a later date, rather than a cash refund.

While an EU directive has confirmed that you can insist on your money back, the process for this is likely to be more complicated than accepting a voucher.

Flights/trains/ferries still running

While some airlines have cancelled flights others have not and many are continuing to operate the routes into countries on the UK's rapidly expanding quarantine list.

Eurostar and Eurotunnel both ran throughout the lockdown, so although they may well reduce services in the light of the latest decision, there are highly likely to be some services still running.

This is difficult for passengers because if the flight/train/ferry that you booked is still running, you will almost certainly not be entitled to a refund from the transport operator, although you may be able to claim on your travel insurance (see below) or, in some cases, if you booked the holiday as part of a package deal.

For many people having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the UK makes the trip impractical or impossible, but this alone does not entitled you to a refund from your transport operator, unless they were offering a free cancellation option when you booked.

Hotels/accommodation

The same applies to any accommodation you might have booked in either France or the UK, as long as the hotel/gite/campsite remains open, it is not legally obliged to offer you your money back if changed travel rules mean you cannot go. The exception to this is if the site was offering free cancellation when you booked.

Package holidays

France in general is not a big package holiday destination, but if you did book your holiday in this way then you may have more luck getting a refund.

The UK's largest association of travel agents and tour operators, Abta, released a statement before the quarantine rule was imposed from its chief executive, Mark Tanzer, who said: “Package holiday customers should be offered a full refund in the event of Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel to a destination at the time the customer is due to travel.”

Change the dates

If you can't cancel your trip you may be able to postpone it.

Many travel firms, desperate to lure customers back once international travel started up again, have been offering free alterations to tickets or bookings, so check the small print of your booking and see if changing the dates is an option.

This is better for tourist businesses – especially small or family-owned firms – as it means they can keep a better control of their cash-flow in what is an exceptionally difficult time for tourism operators.

Travel insurance

As well as imposing a quarantine, the UK has also advised against all but essential travel to France, and this is important because in most cases it invalidates your travel insurance.

People faced with not being able to get a refund may be tempted to travel anyway, but if your government is officially advising against travel then almost all travel insurance policies will not pay out if you have an accident, fall ill or are victim of a crime while travelling. Check the small print on your policy carefully before travelling.

Claiming on travel insurance

If you cannot get a refund direct from your travel operator or hotel, the other possibility is claiming on your travel insurance.

However this too is complicated and depends on when you booked the holiday, when you bought the policy and what the government advice is.

All travel insurance policies are different and you really need to check the small print, but as a rough guide:

  • If you both bought the travel insurance policy and booked the trip before March, when the pandemic first hit Europe, then you are likely to be able to claim the cost of the trip.
  • However, policies bought after March generally don't offer refunds for this type of travel disruption. Likewise if you booked the trip after March it is likely that you won't be covered, even if the government was advising it was safe to travel at the time when you booked.
  • If you encounter a situation where a government imposes extra regulations such as a quarantine but doesn't issue advice against travelling, it's unlikely that you will be able to claim on any type of travel insurance.

Member comments

  1. My wife and I had a now cancelled vacation planned for Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyon in September. We found hotels to be generally flexible in returning our money or offering a credit for a set period and then a refund if we didn’t use it. A particular shout-out to Radisson Blu Part-Dieu in Lyon and Le Clos Saint-Martin on Ile de Rea who both promptly refunded our money even though our reservations were non-refundable.

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