What happens to package holidays in the context of the Coronavirus outbreak?
In the current context of high travel danger and travel restrictions taken by many countries due to the severe evolution of the coronavirus epidemic, one wonders what happens to already purchased travel packages, which obviously will no longer be honored.
When can I get my money back if I cancel my holiday?
In some areas, national law allows termination of the contract in certain exceptional cases. One such example is tourism, which is also one of the areas most affected by the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Government Ordinance No 2/2018 on package travel and related travel services regulates the termination of the contract in the event of exceptional situations such as the current one, protecting travelers’ rights.
Art. 13 para. (3) of GEO 2/2018 provides for the right of the passenger to terminate the contract for the package of travel services before the start of the performance of the package, without paying any termination penalty in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or in its immediate vicinity and significantly affecting the performance of the package or significantly affecting the carriage of passengers to their destination.
Thus, the new increasingly restrictive measures implemented by states can be classified as unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances as long as they are implemented on the territory of the destination state, in its vicinity, or by the Romanian state, affecting the movement, thus compromising the execution of the tourist package. Applying the rule in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic, its applicability depends on a state of emergency, travel restrictions, or quarantine in the areas of the destination. Therefore, if the area you travel to is not affected by restrictions, trips cannot be canceled without incurring a penalty. However, if there are such restrictions, it is good to know that you are entitled to a full refund of any payments already made.
Thus, the closure of the borders of either Romania or the country where you were going to travel, any unforeseeable events in the land of destination, such as the establishment of quarantine, and any other situations that would affect the execution of the travel package contract allow you to terminate it without paying any fee. It is important to note that it can only be terminated before the package starts.
What should you do if you are planning a holiday in one of the restricted areas in the near future?
The first step is to send a written notice to the retailer from whom you purchased the travel package requesting your money back. From there, the trader will be able to start recovering payments from the suppliers so that you can get your money back. If the travel agent allows it, you can also choose to use the package in the same circumstances but at a date after the end of the crisis period. In both cases, you must notify the travel agency in writing. However, it should be borne in mind that in the current context, the waiting period may be more extended than usual, as there are many requests for this. Although the period in which your request is answered may be longer, your right will still have to be respected.
The Ordinance, in Article 13(1), allows you to terminate the contract for the travel package at any time upon payment of a reasonable termination penalty specified in the contract. Thus, even if your trip is not in one of the red or yellow zones, you are entitled to get back a part of the money quantified in the contract. It is also essential to note that air tickets and individually purchased accommodation are not covered by these rules but only package holidays purchased from retailers, such as services provided by a travel agency.
It should be noted that the general provisions on force majeure, which you can access here, also apply to the contract for the sale of tourist packages so that both the trader and the consumer could be exonerated from liability in the event of force majeure. As we have shown, there are few cases where force majeure operates, even in a pandemic, and these are strictly regulated situations.
So, in the coming period marked by restrictions and cancellations, you are entitled to a refund of the money already paid for your package holidays, under certain conditions that are important to know. This is a difficult period for both customers and traders, and it is essential to show patience and understanding on both sides, given the extraordinary circumstances.