ABTA clarifies rules for travel to amber countries

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By Linsey McNeill
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ABTA says travel companies aren’t obliged to refund customers who want to cancel holidays to countries on the UK ‘amber’ travel list, even though the Government says people shouldn’t go.

The majority of holiday destinations have ‘amber’ status, which means that holidaymakers will have to self-isolate at home for up to 10 days when they return.

But ABTA said holidaymakers aren’t entitled to a refund unless the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against non-essential travel to a country on the amber list, or it is barring British holidaymakers or they must quarantine on arrival.

In a statement, an ABTA spokesperson said: “The new traffic light system only deals with inbound travel and what a customer must do when they return home and does not constitute a significant change to a customer’s holiday itself.

“As such, there are no automatic rights to a refund due to a country’s green, amber or red status under the traffic light system.”

The FCDO is advising against travel to many countries on the ‘amber’ list, with the notable exceptions of the Canary Islands and Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zante. And the Government says: “You should not travel to amber list countries or territories for leisure purposes,” but this is only advisory and it will no longer be illegal to travel anywhere on holiday from 17 May.

“Generally, customers will be entitled to a refund if the Foreign Office is advising against travel, if the destination isn’t allowing visitors in or if there is a significant change to the holiday e.g. the destination requires visitors to quarantine for a period of time when they arrive,” said ABTA. 

“If a country is on the amber list and the Foreign Office is not advising against travel, the destination is allowing visitors to enter and there are no significant changes e.g. quarantine requirements on arrival, then there is no obligation for travel companies to offer a refund.

“However, some travel companies have chosen to offer flexible booking conditions and rebooking policies which allow customers to rebook for a future date if their country is on the amber list.”

Jet2holidays has already taken the decision not to operate any holidays until 24 June, by which time some countries could have moved from amber to green following the Government’s first review of the traffic light lists, which is due to take place on 7 June.

TUI confirmed this week that it plans to operate holidays to destinations on the amber list, with its Chief Executive Fritz Joussen saying it was offering people choice. If booked customers don’t want to travel to an amber country, it is giving them the option to change their date or destination.

“For future departures to destinations that are currently on the amber list, the Government has advised that it will review the green, amber, red country lists every three weeks, so customers will need to wait and see which category their country is in closer to their departure date before a firm decision about their travel plans can be made,” added the ABTA spokesperson.

“ABTA members can find our full guidance via our coronavirus advice for members page in the Member Zone.”

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