The coronavirus has already thwarted many travel plans. In 2021, many vacationers will again be faced with the question of whether it is possible to cancel the long-planned vacation trip without cancellation fees.
It is true that the incidence values are low in Germany in the summer of 2021. However, this is not the case all over the world. In some countries, too, there are now many infections and many deaths. This has led to increased cancelled trips.
The delta variant drives the numbers up. The Federal Ministry of Health and the Foreign Office identify countries as high-risk areas or virus variant areas – restrictions on travel are the result. The assessments can also change at any time: Portugal was declared a virus variant area at the end of June, but has now been downgraded to a high incidence area.
Spain is considered a simple risk area, although the incidence value for the classification as a high-risk area (200) has long been exceeded. When can I cancel a vacation trip that has already been booked – and is that also free of charge or only with cancellation fees?
- What types of risk areas are there with a cancelled trip?
- What are the travel restrictions?
- What are the rules for a cancelled trip?
- What if I get sick before the trip?
- What if I cannot enter the country?
- What if it is impossible to get there because flights or trains are canceled?
- What if I do not want to travel because I am afraid of being infected?
- Can I cancel a trip that has already started?
- When does the travel cancellation insurance pay?
- What applies to individual travel?
- Practical tip
What types of risk areas are there with a cancelled trip?
Countries with an incidence value over 50 are considered to be simple risk areas. However, other criteria also play a role, such as insufficient test capacities or an overloaded health system, as well as the state corona measures. The incidence value alone is not decisive.
Examples of risk areas in mid-July 2021 are Spain including the Balearic Islands, Thailand, Turkey.
High incidence areas are areas with an incidence of over 200, although other criteria also play a role here, such as test capacities or corona measures. The risk of infection is particularly high here. Such areas are currently for example Egypt, Portugal, Tunisia, Cyprus, Great Britain.
Virus variant areas are areas in which particularly dangerous or not yet very widespread variants are in circulation, where it is feared that the previous vaccinations will not be fully effective. Such areas include South Africa, Brazil and Namibia in mid-July.
What are the travel restrictions?
A classification as a risk area does not automatically mean a travel warning for the respective country. You can find out whether there is one on the website of the Federal Foreign Office. Traveling there is often only generally advised against.
In principle, however, a travel warning applies to high-risk areas and virus variant areas. This does not mean that you are not allowed to travel there. However, it makes a cancellation easier for you.
Depending on the type of risk area, different test obligations and quarantine rules apply to the return journey.
The general rule for air travelers: Anyone who flies back to Germany must present a current negative test, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery to the airline before returning home.
In principle, there is an obligation to quarantine ten days after returning from a risk area or high incidence area. In the case of a virus variant area, it is 14 days. In the case of a simple risk area, however, you can send yourself “free testing” or a proof of recovery or proof of vaccination to the entry portal of the Federal Republic.
In an area of high incidence, travelers can end the quarantine at home early by sending proof of vaccination or health recovery to the entry portal. A “free test” is possible from the fifth day by submitting a negative test result. In virus variant areas, even those who have been tested, vaccinated and recovered cannot avoid 14 days of quarantine.
What are the rules for a cancelled trip?
Package tours include trips with at least two travel services, such as a flight and a hotel. There is a legal regulation on travel cancellation in Section 651h of the German Civil Code (BGB). According to this, travelers may withdraw from the travel contract at any time prior to departure.
However, the tour operator can demand compensation. The amount usually depends on how much time is left before the start of the journey. Consumers can therefore cancel a package tour at any time prior to departure, but must pay a cancellation fee.
There is one important exception: According to paragraph 3 of the regulation, the tour operator may not demand a cancellation fee “if unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances occur at the destination or in its immediate vicinity that significantly impair the implementation of the package tour or the transport of people to the destination.”
“Inevitable and extraordinary” means: These circumstances are outside the control of whoever invokes them. Its consequences could not have been avoided even if all reasonable precautions had been taken.
If the country of travel is declared a virus variant area or a high incidence area, there are corresponding exceptional circumstances. The reason is the greatly increased risk of infection. This exception does not apply to a simple risk area.
Problem: The assessment of whether an area will become a high incidence area, for example, is very short-term. Anyone who cancels in advance and therefore too early must pay cancellation fees.
Incidentally, the tour operator can also withdraw from the travel contract if he is prevented from fulfilling the contract due to unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances. Then he must inform the traveler of the cancellation immediately and loses his right to the travel price. He has to repay this within 14 days after the withdrawal.
What if I get sick before the trip?
If you get sick before you leave – regardless of whether it is COVID or plain flu – you are prevented from starting the trip for personal reasons. You then have no choice but to cancel the trip, pay the cancellation costs and – if available – take advantage of your travel cancellation insurance. This should cover the cancellation costs in the event of illness.
What if I cannot enter the country?
If you are not allowed to enter the respective country, Section 651h (3) of the German Civil Code (BGB) applies: No cancellation fee due to exceptional circumstances. The tour operator must transfer your money back to you within 14 days.
What if it is impossible to get there because flights or trains are canceled?
Here, too, there is an unavoidable, extraordinary circumstance that significantly affects the transport of people to the destination. So also a good reason for a free cancellation. But: This only applies if the destination cannot be easily reached with another means of transport.
In the case of a package tour, however, the journey is usually part of the service package booked anyway. A cancellation of the flight is then at the expense of the organizer. The rules for a cancellation on the part of the tour operator then apply – after all, the tour operator can no longer carry out the trip. He would have to transfer the travel price back.
What if I do not want to travel because I am afraid of being infected?
The fear of infection alone is not enough to cancel a trip free of charge. There must be the extraordinary circumstances described above that speak for an actual danger.
Can I cancel a trip that has already started?
You can cancel a package tour that has already started with partial reimbursement of the travel price by terminating the travel contract. The prerequisite is that there is a travel deficiency that seriously affects the trip and that the organizer has not remedied this deficiency within a reasonable period set by you.
It should be problematic to terminate the travel contract and travel home because of the spread of the corona virus at the holiday destination. If corona cases occur directly in the hotel or on the cruise ship, all guests will quickly be quarantined. If the cases occur anywhere other than your own accommodation, your ability to cancel depends on the extent to which your trip is actually affected.
When does the travel cancellation insurance pay?
An unexpected serious illness of the traveler (after booking) is usually one of the insured cancellation cases. The travel cancellation insurance would cover the cancellation costs.
But: With some travel insurances, pandemics are excluded from insurance cover. Since Corona was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11, 2020, these insurances no longer pay in the event of illness due to Corona / Covid-19. However, there are also insurers who do not rule out diseases caused by pandemics. A look at the general terms and conditions of your insurance contract will bring clarity.
As a rule, the insurance does not pay in the event of pure fear of infection or the spread of the coronavirus at the holiday destination, not in the event of a travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office and also not in the event of quarantine without personal illness or a border closure. Travel cancellation insurance only deals with real illnesses that affect you or a co-insured person.
There are insurance companies where cyclical short-time work is an insured reason for cancellation of travel. If short-time work is declared due to the coronavirus, this is the case. The prerequisite is usually short-time work of at least three months and a reduction in gross wage entitlement by a certain percentage. You can find out whether this is insured and under what conditions in your insurance contract.
What applies to individual travel?
In the case of individual trips – for example, if you book a flight and accommodation separately or travel to a rented holiday apartment yourself – free cancellation is usually not possible. A corona outbreak at the holiday destination does not usually prevent the respective travel service from being carried out.
The terms and conditions of the respective landlord or service provider are decisive here, who will of course take care to protect themselves as well as possible. At most, a goodwill solution can help here.
Package travelers can, under certain circumstances, cancel their trip and claim the price back. In the event of illness, the travel cancellation insurance pays. In any case, it is recommended to contact the tour operator first. Here you can find out whether the package tour is actually being carried out as planned.
In the case of cancellations, some organizers are accommodating regardless of the legal situation. If there is still a legal dispute, a lawyer who specializes in travel law can assist you.