Restarting Holidays in Uncertain Times. A Quick Guide to the Legal Pitfalls for the Travel Industry

15th August 2020 by Stephen Mason

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So we all saw what happened with Spain, bookings coming in, people enjoying their holidays, then wham! Suddenly it’s all over on about three hours’ notice. And by the time you read this, it
may have happened again e.g. France? And suddenly you have yet more refunds on your hands. Thanks, HMG!

What does the law say about these situations? If what you are selling is not a ‘package’ then it’s really down to your booking conditions, as long as these are ‘fair’ terms; so I will concentrate on the position where you are selling packages, which is more regulated. Much of this is new territory, a developing area of law. These are my views.

1. What if the changed rule ‘only’ involves the Government introducing compulsory quarantine for returnees? In that case, there is consensus that if you can provide all elements of the
package, you can proceed on that basis; the consumer can either travel, and stay at home for the requisite period when they get back, or if they choose to cancel, the usual cancellation charges will apply, and hopefully their travel insurance will pick up the bill.

2. What if the FCO advises against all but essential travel, to a country? Must you cancel? That has been the consensus for years, and is clearly stated as such on the ABTA website for
example. However that consensus appears to be breaking down. It is not illegal to travel, or offer holidays, against FCO Advice. Points to consider:

3. How far ahead must I cancel holidays? If you decide to cancel holidays where the FCO Advises against travel, the cancellation does not need to extend too far ahead. The next promised review date by the FCO, or maybe departure dates just a couple of weeks ahead, would be sufficient to comply with the law, on a rolling basis if necessary.

Stephen Mason is Senior Counsel at Travlaw.
He is currently ranked the top travel lawyer in the country
and is co-author of the textbook Holiday Law.
He can be contacted at

About the Author

Stephen Mason is Senior Partner in Stephen Mason Solicitors, Leeds.

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