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Holiday traffic light system: Your travel refund and voucher rights explained

Brits who are thinking about booking a holiday abroad will want to be aware of their refund rights.
Under new plans announced last week, would-be holidaymakers will have to follow a traffic light system for trips away later this year.
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Brits who are thinking about booking a holiday abroad will want to be aware of their refund rights. Under new plans announced last week, would-be holidaymakers will have to follow a traffic light system for trips away later this year. It will see countries ranked either green, amber or red, to determine whether travellers need to quarantine and if coronavirus tests are needed.

The traffic light system was detailed in a new report by the Global Travel Taskforce, which is looking at how holidays could resume from May 17 at the earliest. An announcement on when foreign getaways will definitely start again is expected by May 10. This traffic light system will also only be for travellers in England, as the governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can set their own rules.

Holidays abroad are currently banned due to coronavirus restrictions. But if you are considering a holiday for later this year, once the government has clarified when this will be possible, we explain your refund rights. Are you planning on booking a holiday?

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A sign directs passengers to a Covid-19 testing centre at Terminal 5 of London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 9, 2021Travellers being directed to a Covid-19 testing centre at Terminal 5 of London Heathrow

Generally speaking, you are entitled to a full refund if your trip is cancelled by the airline. But your rights to your money back become more complicated if you cancel your trip yourself - in most cases, you will be able to claim a voucher instead, or the option to move your holiday. In December, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation over airlines refusing to refund customers for flights they could not take.

Some scenarios that have been pulled up include holidays that could not happen because a national lockdown was in place and non-essential travel was banned.

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Latest travel refund and voucher policies

British Airways: If you need to cancel your BA holiday, you can amend your trip or claim a travel voucher if your time away was due to have finished by April 30, 2022. Should you choose to amend or postpone your trip, keep in mind a difference in price may apply depending on if it is more expensive to travel on your new dates. If you choose a voucher, it will be valid until April 30, 2023.

Holiday changes or vouchers must be requested at least three weeks prior to travel. Less than three weeks' notice will be accepted if new UK government rules are introduced within this time that prevent a trip. Sadly, you are unlikely to be offered a cash refund if you cancel your BA trip yourself.

easyJet: You can claim a refund from easyJet, minus a cancellation fee, if you cancel your trip within 24 hours of booking. But if you cancel beyond this date, you are not automatically eligible for a cash refund - instead, you can accept a travel voucher. EasyJet has just extended the use by date of its vouchers due to expire on or before June 30, 2021, by six months.

The extension means they can now be redeemed before the end of December 2021. This is the date for when you need to use your voucher by, not for when you must travel. Vouchers that are due to expire after June 30 are still redeemable for up to a year.

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Jet2: Jet2 has postponed all holidays until June 23, 2021.

This means if you were due to travel and your trip has been cancelled, you are entitled to a refund. For holidays booked beyond this date, normal cancellation fees will apply if your trip is still going ahead. The amount you will get back varies depending on how far away your holiday is.

Jet2 package holidays are ATOL protected, which protects you if a company ceases trading or goes into administration. Ryanair: If you cancel your Ryanair holiday yourself, you can claim a travel voucher that is valid for 12 months. In addition, the airline has also extended the use-by date for some credit notes so they expire in December 2021.

You can use your vouchers against travel after this time. If you just want to change the dates of your booking, Ryanair has scrapped its flight change fee for all new bookings made after June 10, 2020, but before June 30, 2021. This applies against travel before October 31, 2021, and you must make any flight changes at least seven days before the original scheduled departure date.

TUI: Holidays with TUI have been scrapped until May 16, 2021 - if your trip is affected, you will get a full refund or credit note. If you go for a voucher, these are typically valid until September 30, 2021. Alternatively, you can make a change fee-free up until 28 days before your original departure date depending on when you are due to travel.

You can do this if your booking is for travel before July 31, 2021, or if your booking is for travel between August 1, 2021 and October 31, 2021, and you book it on or after February 10, 2021. Package holidays booked with TUI are ATOL protected. Virgin: Virgin Atlantic customers who booked up to and including February 5, 2021, can make two free date changes and one free name change.

For bookings after this date, you can make unlimited date and destination changes for free, up until April 30, 2023, plus one free name change. For Virgin Holidays, customers will get a travel voucher that must be redeemed by 30 September, 2021, for trips that must be taken by 30 April, 2023. You can also ask for a refund if your trip is cancelled by Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.

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