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Travelling to Tunisia? Know your rights to a refund

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The Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Tunisia to fly home immediately, while those planning trips to the country have been told to cancel them. The warning followed intelligence that a terrorist attack was “highly likely”.

If you are in Tunisia or set to travel there, we have found out your rights when it comes to cancellations and refunds.

I am in Tunisia now. What should I do?

The advice from the FCO is to leave immediately. If you are among the 90% of tourists there on a package holiday you will need to contact your tour operator to arrange a flight back. If you are travelling independently you need to contact your airline.

Two thousand of the 3,000 tourists in Tunisia are there with Thomas Cook. The company is flying its customers back as soon as it can using third-party carriers and on its 10 scheduled flights over the weekend.

It has also put on extra flights on Friday.

Airlines that fly to Tunisia from the UK include BA, Tunis, Easyjet, Monarch and Jet2. If you are travelling independently you will need to check their arrangements.

Can I claim the money back for the part of the holiday I didn’t use?

More than likely yes. Thomas Cook has said it will refund for the days not used. However, if you have only taken seven days out of your 14-day holiday, for example, don’t expect to get 50% of your holiday cost back. “Your holiday costs also include the cost of your flights, so you will get back a proportionate amount,” says Bob Atkinson of Travelsupermarket.com.

I am due to travel to Tunisia in the next couple of weeks. What should I do?

If you have a holiday booked and have not already cancelled or rearranged it (many tour operators have been allowing this following the terrorist attack in June), you will be entitled to a refund or alternative holiday.

If you are set to fly independently you need to contact your airline who should offer you a refund or an alternative flight elsewhere. You will need to contact the company that booked your hotel (such as Expedia or Booking.com) or the hotel directly, if this is how you booked, to find out whether you can get a refund.

“Although booking companies [such as Expedia] might not be obliged to offer you a refund, I would imagine the vast majority of them will be looking to help,” says Atkinson.

I am travelling later this year. Can I cancel and get a refund?

Travel companies are refunding or offering alternative travel arrangements on any bookings up to 31 October 2015 – the end of the summer season. If you are travelling between 1 November and 31 October (the winter season) or between 1 May and 31 October 2016 (the next summer season) you will need to contact your travel operator closer to your time of travel.

“Those people with bookings beyond the summer are advised to wait until closer to the departure date to contact their travel company as the situation is fluid,” said a spokesperson from the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

If I choose to take an alternative holiday with my tour operator rather than getting a refund, will I have to pay any extra?

Yes, probably. Both TUI and Thomas Cook have said they are waiving the admin fees for any alternative holiday booked. However, you will have to pay any other extra cost of an alternative holiday.

I have booked car hire in Tunisia. What should I do?

If you booked this as part of a package you should be able to claim it back, but if you booked it separately you will need to contact the company you booked through and ask about its cancellation policy.

I have other expenses associated with my holiday such as airport parking/train tickets and dog kennels. Is there any chance I can get my money back from these?

Any of these not included in the cost of a holiday package will need to be dealt with separately. Check the cancellation terms with each relevant company and if no refund is available then contact them to discuss the situation. Many companies – especially the bigger ones – are expected to show some leniency under the current circumstances. But they are not obliged to.

Can’t I just claim everything through my travel insurance?

No, that’s unlikely. Whether you can claim anything at all is dependent on the type of policy you have, but in any case you should claim back as much as you can through your tour operator/airline/hotel/booking website first. This also applies to extra expenses such as those listed above.

“Once you have done all this and then added up your losses you should then check your existing travel insurance policy,” says Atkinson. “You need to check whether you have the ability to claim irrecoverable losses as a result of cancelling or curtailing your holiday.”

Cheap travel insurance will almost certainly not allow you to do this, he says. Many of the more expensive policies will.

InsureandGo, a major travel insurance company, has announced it is changing its policy with regard to Tunisia. “If you have chosen to end your holiday, whether because you’ve been directly involved in the incident or not, and no refund is available from your holiday company, then we will refund up to £1,000 per person for the cost of your lost holiday,” it says. This cover will be extended to include those returning home earlier than planned following the advice provided on Thursday.

If you’re cancelling a future holiday to Tunisia and a full refund/change of destination is not available to you InsureandGo will consider a refund “on a case-by-case basis.”

Similarly, Nationwide has announced it is temporarily extending the standard travel insurance cover attached to its FlexAccount current account to include cancellation. “This would normally require an upgrade to the account,” it said. “For FlexPlus packaged account customers, this is covered as standard.”

The change means Nationwide will consider all cases where FlexAccount customers are unable to apply for a refund or alternative holiday from their travel provider, regardless of whether they are travelling on a package holiday or as an independent traveller.

Can I claim back the extra costs of any alternative holiday I’ve booked from my travel insurance?

No. This is because you should been offered the option of a refund from your travel operator and to pay to book another holiday instead.

Will my existing travel insurance policy still be valid if I travel elsewhere?

Yes, travel insurance policies can usually be transferred to cover the new destination. However, depending on your new destination, you may have to pay extra on your premium.

Can I claim back the premium I paid for my insurance if I haven’t travelled yet?

Some insurers are allowing you to claim back the premium paid for a single trip (rather than annual) policy, according to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. However, Atkinson of travelsupermarket points out you shouldn’t claim a refund unless you are absolutely sure you don’t need or can’t use the policy to make a claim.

What happens if I decide to travel to Tunisia regardless?

Don’t expect to be able to use your travel insurance. “If you travel against government advice, or do not return home as requested, you could be in breach of your travel insurance policy,” says the Association of British Insurers.


[“source – theguardian.com”]
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