Additional reporting by Rhona Shennan
With coronavirus (official name Covid-19) currently being discovered in new areas all over the world, those with travel plans might be growing nervous about their flights.
This is what you need to know about what your rights are if your flights or holiday plans have been cancelled due to the global health emergency.
What happens if my flight is cancelled?
If your flight is leaving from an EU destination and is cancelled, it will be covered under EC Regulation No. 261/2004.
That means that regardless of when the flight is cancelled, you're entitled to either:
- A full refund- A free replacement flight to your final destination (even if it’s with a different airline)- A free replacement flight at a later date, subject to availability of seats
You'll be able to choose any future date to fly again, perhaps once the travel restrictions have been lifted.
You won’t be entitled to any extra compensation, however, such as flight delay compensation under EU261 rules, because occurrences like a disease outbreak are classified as an extraordinary circumstance.
What if I cancel the trip?
You are perfectly within your rights to cancel a trip if you feel worried about travelling, but it is completely at your discretion.
If you were planning to travel to, or via, China or one of the other towns in North Italy on lockdown, you will be entitled to a refund.
Otherwise, your decision to cancel your flight would be considered a “disinclination to travel” by travel providers or insurers and you would be responsible for the cost - unless there's been an official warning from the FCO for the country of travel, you would be unlikely to get compensation if you decided to cancel.
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) told Manchester Evening News, "In general, cancellation or travel disruption cover will activate when the FCO advises against all travel or all but essential travel to an area.
"Travel insurance is not designed to cover 'disinclination to travel' where the FCO advice has not changed to advise against travel."
If you are concerned about future travel to Italy, speak first to your airline, hotel or tour operator before making a decision. Some individual companies, such as hotels, are offering the opportunity to re-book at a later date, with no financial penalty.
What are airlines doing?
British Airways has introduced rebooking options for customers travelling to or from some northern Italian airports including Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Bergamo and Verona up to 2 March 2020 - this date could be extended.
Wizzair is cancelling flights to some Italian cities, including on its Luton to Bari route until April. Passengers with existing bookings are being offered a refund or option to rebook.
If you are concerned to the point of wanting to cancel a trip to a destination the FCO does not advise against travelling to, it could be worth considering a change fee to postpone until a later date.