South Africa back on red list: What are your travel rights? Can you get your money back?

Boris Johnson 'won't hesitate' in adding countries to red list

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South Africa, along with Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, have returned to the UK’s red list for travel as concerns over Variant B.1.1.529 is declared a Variant under Investigation (VuI) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The news sparks fresh travel chaos for those with plans to visit any of the new red list nations in the coming weeks.

A swell of cancellations is likely to follow the announcement.

As with all red list changes, though, in the majority of cases, travellers’ money and rights should be protected if their plans are axed by the travel provider.

Can I get a refund?

Refund rights often depend on what the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) travel advisory is at the time of travel.

If the FCDO advises against travel, then travel firms and airlines should cancel the trip.

However, whether or not they offer a full refund depends on their personal policy.

Most cancelled flights that are axed by the operator should offer either a refund, or the option of an alternative flight.

During the pandemic, many airlines have favoured vouchers towards future travel bookings instead, though.

In the event you are offered a refund by your airline, it should be paid in seven days.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) though, it has been “very challenging” given the sudden changes and volume of cancellations throughout the pandemic, so it could take a bit longer.

Package holidays are legally obliged to refund the full amount of money to customers if the trip is cancelled under Package Travel Regulations.

According to ABTA, the association of travel agents and tour operators, if your package holiday is ABTA-protected then you should be due a refund.

ABTA stated: “Generally, you will be entitled to a refund from your tour operator if they cancel your holiday, or your holiday is significantly changed or the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is advising against all but essential travel to your destination at the time you’re due to travel.”

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Can I claim on my travel insurance?

Whether or not you are eligible to make a claim on your insurance policy depends on the specific details of the insurance you chose.

In most cases, customers are advised to try to obtain a refund from the airline or travel firm before trying to claim on your insurance.

As the FCDO advice has changed for South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, your policy will no longer be valid if you still choose to travel.

What are my options if I can’t get a refund?

Some airlines may not offer a full refund, but they must provide another alternative.

Airlines are only legally bound to refund policies for cancelled flights if they cancelled the flight themselves, the airline is headquartered in the European Union (EU) or the flight was due to take off or land in the EU.

You might be offered a voucher towards future travel as a replacement for cash.

In the event your flight is still going ahead, but you choose not to fly, you may not be entitled to a refund.

Passengers are advised to speak directly with their travel provider, check the terms and conditions thoroughly, check their travel insurance policy, or see if they are able to change the date of their booking for free.

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