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Coronavirus In Belgium: Cancelling or changing travel plans
Travel is one of the many sectors being disrupted by the worsening coronavirus crisis. The Belgian Federal Public Service Economy (FPS) has compiled these following guidelines, reports L’Avenir. Among its general advice (available in French and Dutch), is a recommendation that all travellers verify the contract conditions of their tickets and holidays. This advice also applies to reservations for major events, sporting and cultural.
If a flight is cancelled by the airline (eg, following government travel advice) , the passenger, in theory, has the right to reimbursement or a ticket issued for a later date. But the passenger cannot request compensation if the flight is cancelled due to exceptional circumstances, like the coronavirus. “If the passenger decides to cancel the reserved flight, check the conditions in the contract, which guarantee certain rights,” says the FPS Economy. Generally, if the ticket is changed for a flight at a later date, the passenger cannot expect to be reimbursed.
Cancellation of a package trip
A package holiday usually combines various services such as transport, accommodation and meals. “If the organiser of the holiday cannot execute the contracted holiday for inevitable and exceptional circumstances, the contract can be ended before departure,” explains FPS Economy. Usually, it should propose an alternative and equivalent holiday. In the case that this is refused, there should be reimbursement.
As regards coronavirus, “the inevitable and exceptional circumstances may be invoked only if the trip is made while the epidemic is raging and in the area affected by it. There will be no question of unavoidable and exceptional circumstances, for example if the coronavirus strikes in the north of a country and your trip is made in the south several hundred kilometers away. This will also not be the case if you wish to cancel a package trip which is scheduled to depart in a few months from today. The same will apply if a specific hotel has been quarantined and your package trip provides for a stay in another hotel in the same region or in the same city.”
Finally, travellers, always have the right to cancel their holiday contract, including flight tickets. There is a reimbursement, but in general, passengers will have to pay the indemnity stipulated in the general conditions of the contract sale of the package holiday.
Your return flight is cancelled
If the return flight is cancelled by the airline company because of coronavirus or due to a decision by the destination country, “the traveler has the choice between a reimbursement of the ticket without additional costs or to accept a return flight proposed by the company. The airline is not obliged to pay compensation.” If the proposed return flight is not on the same day, the company has to pay hotel costs.
If the flight is maintained, but it is not possible to take it because of restrictions put in place by the authorities (for example, being quarantined in a hotel), the airline is not legally bound to intervene.
Package holidaymakers placed in quarantine
If, for inevitable and exceptional circumstances, such as the coronavirus, a holidaymaker cannot return at the end of the package trip and the holiday needs to be extended, “the travel operator, in addition to providing information, should be responsible for the costs of each person concerned for a maximum of three additional nights”, in the planned accommodation or equivalent.
“If you are blocked for more than three days, you will in principle have to pay the additional costs yourself, provided that the authorities (local, national, European) do not intervene (eg, for the quarantine or the repatriation), says the FPS Economy. In this case, contact the travel operator, who may make a commercial gesture.
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