Coronavirus Declared a 'Force Majeure' by Some Travel CompaniesDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links & I may earn commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Booking.com, AirBnB, and TUI have recently announced that they will be treating the coronavirus outbreak as a Force Majeure incident, meaning thousands of holidaymakers who had purchased non-refundable holidays can get their money back.
This is a very welcomed announcement, as millions of travellers in the UK were set to lose the entire cost of their booking - through no fault of their own, as travel throughout certain areas is heavily impacted or forbidden at this time due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Force Majeure/Forced Circumstances
It has been a terrible year for holiday disruption, with Thomas Cook collapsing, followed shortly by Flybe and now a global pandemic. At present, only a few tour operators have declared the Force Majure / Forced Circumstances - But we are certainly hoping that other travel providers follow suit.
What is Force Majeure?
Force majeure (also known as 'forced circumstances' ) is an unexpected external circumstance that prevents a party from meeting its contracted obligations.
The underlying event must be unforeseeable and not the result of any actions taken by either party invoking force majeure. Natural disasters, strikes, and terrorist attacks are all classed as force majeure events - pandemics are not outlined but are down to circumstances and the tour operator's discretion.
If an event occurs that invokes force majeure, it must be one that has a significant impact on the tour operator’s ability to provide the package before the customer can exercise the free cancellation rights.
It also gives relief for the tour operators as no compensation claims can be taken out against them when a force Majeure event is taking place. They are also able to make significant changes to a package holiday pre-departure, or to cancel, without having to compensate the customer - you will, of course, receive a refund though.
This will only affect bookings to countries that have mandatory quarantine on arrival, bans on entry, or the suspension of on-arrival visas.
It's great news for those who have purchased non-refundable hotels and flights as these are now fully refundable.
Here's the full explanation from ABTA
Travel Companies that have Issued a Force Majeure
We will update this list as soon as we have word that a Force Majeure has been issued. So far, confirmed holiday retailers include...
How To Cancel for a Full Refund
Guests with reservations in the countries/areas that are affected can use the ‘self-service cancellation’ button on your booking confirmation page. This will only be activated for eligible guests, if you think you are eligible but don't see the option, you will need to call your travel operator's customer service line.
Please note: All booking will have the option to cancel, please ensure yours has changed to the 'Free Cancellation' option - otherwise you will not get a refund.
At present, this is only being offered to customers that have a holiday booked in the next 30 days, in areas that have travel restrictions. This will no doubt update throughout the coming weeks. (I hope so as mine was booked for the 16th of April in Prague so I am a few days out of the Force Majeure clause at the moment)
Other Ways to Get a Refund
Go Direct - Some people are contacting hotels directly and getting refunds secured. I tried this myself and was told no, but this was last week, so I may push them again for cancellation now that the situation in Prague has gotten worse.
Chargeback - People are also having success with their credit card companies. I used my debit card and was told that they wouldn't be able to help me, but the money-saving community over on Facebook are reporting that they have easily got their money back from credit card transactions.
Travel Insurance - If you took out travel insurance, or a lucky enough to have yearly multi-trip, then you will also be covered - even for non-refundable rate bookings.
If you have any comments or questions regarding this article, please let us know in the comments and we will do our best to assist you.