Updated April 5.
If you’d already booked a summer holiday before the coronavirus turned all of our lives upside down, you’re probably wondering if it will still go ahead and even if it does, do you still want to go? Can you even afford to go now? So, should pay the balance, or cancel and risk losing the deposit?
Your travel company will usually expect the balance to be paid 8 to 12 weeks before departure, so anyone who booked a trip departing from the beginning of May onwards can expect to get requests for payment of the remainder of the holiday any time now. That’s despite the fact that many of these holidays won’t be going ahead because it’s highly likely there will still be travel restrictions in place during May and possibly even later.
While some travel companies have already cancelled holidays at least until the end of May, many are playing a waiting game, partly because they’re hoping travel restrictions will be lifted soon and partly because they want to delay refunding deposits as long as possible to protect their own cash flow.
TUI, the biggest travel company, is offering anyone who booked before March 17 for trips due to part up to June 30 the option to change their booking up to seven days before departure. You can even delay your holiday until 2021, free of any amendment fees. If you switch to a holiday that is more expensive, you’ll have to pay the difference, but if you switch to a cheaper holiday, TUI will refund you the difference.
However, you will be charged a cancellation fee if you choose not to travel at all, which means you could lose your entire deposit, depending on far in advance of departure you cancel. You can find further details from TUI here.
Jet2holidays, the second biggest tour operator, has suspended all holidays until April 30 and it is allowing free changes to any holidays due to depart up to May 1. You’re within your rights to claim a full cash refund instead since the holidays have been cancelled but Jet2 is offering a £100 incentive to get you to re-book instead, so it’s worth considering if you’re able to delay your holiday, but remember you can still go for the cash instead if you prefer to get your money back.
Other operators have different policies, so you need to check how far ahead they’ve cancelled departures and what they’ll charge you if you cancel or rebook to a later date or another destination.
If you no longer want to go on the package holiday you’ve booked and you’re due to travel in the early part of the summer, I’d say don’t cancel just yet and risk losing your deposit. It’s highly likely that the Foreign Office travel ban will still be in place in May and possibly even June so tour operators will be forced to cancel your trip, at which point you’ll be entitled to a full refund.
Even if the UK Foreign Office lifts the travel ban, it’s possible that other countries will continue to keep travel restrictions in place, and if a travel company can’t take you where you booked to go, they’ll have to give you your money back.
However, there is a strong possibility that instead of giving full cash refunds, travel companies will issue vouchers or credit notes to be used at a later date. At the moment, you’re entitled to a full cash refund within 14 days of a company cancelling your package holiday under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations, however this might change in the next few days as ABTA has asked the government to relax the rules to allow travel companies to issue refund credits until end of July instead. If the government agrees, you won’t get your money back for several months.
At the end of the day, it’s your call and I suppose you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather lose your deposit now than pay the balance and risk losing the whole lot later if the holiday goes ahead as planned and you no longer want to go. It might be that you can no longer afford to pay the balance anyway.
If you are being pressured to pay the balance for a holiday that you’re not sure is going ahead and you’re not even if you still want to go then you could always speak to your travel agent or tour operator and ask if there’s some flexibility, maybe they’ll let you pay the balance of the money closer to the date of departure or postpone your trip till later in the year or even till next year when things should be back to normal. It’s got to be worth a call.