Now that more than two million people are being vaccinated each week, thoughts naturally turn to the possibility of a summer holiday. But what happens if our hopes to escape to the sun are cancelled by further laws that ban travel either in this country or the one we hoped to travel to?


If you book a flight, a hotel or a holiday, and the law or some external event prevent you from being provided with that service, you are entitled to a full refund. (The contract you have with the firm is said, in legal terms, to be “frustrated”.)

If you book a flight and the airline cancels it, the law is crystal clear in that instance, too: you must have your money back in full. That is provided by what was originally an EU Directive, which has now been incorporated into UK law.

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Some airlines have tried to get around this by sending flights empty so they could say the flight had not been cancelled. However, this sophistry is currently being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is “concerned that certain airlines may have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to
offer cash refunds”, where customers were prevented by law from taking a flight.

Meanwhile, you should claim a refund – and if the airline refuses, threaten to take it to the small claims court ( Do that even if you have already
accepted a voucher as an alternative. The details were covered in this column last June – see, and search “No refund? Go nuclear”.

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Package holiday firms must also offer refunds if your holiday is cancelled due to coronavirus. In July 2020 the CMA wrote to more than 100 package holiday companies making their obligations clear after it received 17,500 consumer complaints. Consumer rights lawyer Gary Rycroft of Joseph A Jones assures me these rules still apply to holidays booked now for future trips: “The fact that we know that cancellation due to Covid-19 is a possibility does not take away a firm’s obligation to provide a refund where the contract cannot be fulfilled.”

If, however, you are too ill to travel, or you choose not to go on a trip that the law allows, then you will not normally be entitled to a refund.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on R4