The Welsh Government has called on the travel industry to fully refund Caerphilly residents who will not be able to go on holiday due to local lockdown restrictions in the county.
In a letter to industry bodies, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he expects the travel and insurance sectors to “respond positively” to the situation and refund any payments made for holidays and flights booked.
As of Tuesday, September 8, travel outside of the Caerphilly county is prohibited except for work, care, or for a reasonable excuse.
This means residents from Caerphilly will be unable to go on holidays outside of the county for as long as the local lockdown is in place.
Hundreds of residents in Caerphilly are believed to have contacted providers to try to rebook or refund their holidays.
Josh Cook, 27 from Bargoed, is due to fly to Antalya, Turkey on September 28, but he told Caerphilly Observer: “I’ve been waiting a year to go on this trip and I am now worried about not being able to rebook or cancel.
“Because I fly on the 28th, I don’t know if I am allowed to go or if I do, will I have to isolate for two weeks when I return?”
On Tuesday, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he expects the lockdown to last until at least the end of September.
Responding to the letter from the Welsh Government, a spokesman from the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) said the request from the Welsh Government is not unrealistic, adding that while it will be up to individual travel companies and insurance providers, most cases should be dealt with to customers’ satisfaction.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said refunds will depend on the scope of individual insurance policies.
A spokesman for the ABI added: “Travel insurers understand that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for anyone contemplating travelling overseas, or with arrangements booked.
“This is why our members pledged, at the start of the pandemic, to give customers additional help and support.
“This includes explaining where refunds and any compensation for cancelled travel arrangements can be obtained, such as from airlines or tour operators.
“We urge people to check the scope of their travel insurance, particularly in relation to Covid-19, and speak to their insurer if unclear.”
Holiday providers and insurance companies are not legally obliged to refund passengers in the event of a local lockdown, as it is not a travel warning published by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Speaking on Friday, September 11, First Minister Mark Drakeford said he wants to ensure the travel industry do the right thing by people in the Caerphilly county.
Instead of offering refunds, travel company TUI, who fly out of Cardiff Airport, are offering free amendments to trips up until October 31, 2021.
A spokeswoman for TUI said: “We know how much people look forward to their holidays and we’re really sorry that customers living in Caerphilly can’t go away at the moment.
“We understand that there’s still a lot of uncertainty about travel plans, so we’re being as flexible as we can.
“For customers who cannot travel on their holiday as planned due to a local lockdown , they have the option to amend to any holiday currently on sale, free of amendment fees. We currently have holidays on sale until 31 October 2021.
“If the customer wishes to cancel their holiday, we recommend that they speak to their travel insurance provider in the first instance.”
Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, advised residents to use and quote the letter sent by Vaughan Gething when they speak to their holiday companies or insurers.
Dr David added: “I am currently inundated with emails on a range of issues related to the restrictions we are now living under and so responses may take me longer than usual.
“I am continually working on this.”
Your questions answered
Can I still go on holiday?
In short, no. Travel restrictions stopping people entering or leaving the Caerphilly county are in place until Tuesday, September 29 at the earliest.
What should I do if I have a holiday booked in the next three weeks?
Residents of Caerphilly are being advised to contact their insurance company and travel provider, explaining the situation, although each are advising to contact the other first. The Welsh Government has made their feelings clear: if you have a holiday booked while Caerphilly is in lockdown, between your insurance company and holiday provider, you should be covered.
What if I have a holiday booked elsewhere in Wales or the UK?
The same applies to holidays in the UK and overseas. If your holiday is outside of the Caerphilly county in the next three weeks, you can’t go.
There are some holiday providers within the Caerphilly county offering breaks to residents, such as Under the Oak Glamping in Bedwas. As this is within the county, a trip here would still be allowed.
What if I self-isolate on holiday and on return?
While some overseas trips have required a 14-day quarantine up until now, this is not a way around the new restrictions in place in Caerphilly. If the trip is outside the county, it is not allowed.
Do providers have to refund me?
Legally, providers such as airlines, accommodation providers and agents selling packages do not have to provide you with a refund in the event of a local lockdown.
They are only legally required to provide you with a full refund to a place where the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel. This is what happened during the full lockdown earlier this year.
Welsh Government have said they expect providers to offer a full refund in the case of a local lockdown, however.
What if my trip isn’t insured?
In the event of your trip not being insured, you should contact your holiday providers and explain your situation. Companies like TUI are currently offering free exchanges for other trips and dates. If you wish to cancel, companies have not said there will be blanket free cancellation policies.
What if I have a holiday booked in October?
Lockdown in Caerphilly will last until the end of September at the earliest. There is no guarantee the lockdown will extend into October, but it is a possibility. If you have a trip booked in October, insurance providers and travel companies may ask you to wait until we know whether travel restrictions have been eased by then. If you are in any doubt, it may be a good idea to speak with your travel company and insurer.
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