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With ongoing uncertainty around changing travel rules, traffic light updates and whether you’ll be pinged by NHS test and trace, taking a holiday abroad is still fraught with the risk of disruption.
If possible, the best option is to choose a package holiday provider with a great flexible booking policy. That’s because package holidays offer some financial protection. But that’s not always practical, especially if you already have accommodation for the trip. Many travellers will opt for a flight-only booking – a riskier option for a number of reasons, especially amid the pandemic.
For instance, if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) suddenly advises against travel to your destination, an airline isn’t required by law to cancel the flight or to offer you a refund. Similarly, if the country is placed on the red list – meaning you have to pay for expensive quarantine on your return – it’s possible the flight will still run.
Fortunately, some airlines do have flexible policies in place so you can rebook your flight if necessary without paying an admin fee. However, not all policies will help if you suddenly fall ill with Covid-19, need to self isolate, or a quarantine is introduced at the destination within a week of your flight. Take Ryanair’s policy, which allows you to change your flight but with at least seven days’ notice. Any closer to take-off and you’ll have to pay a fee to rebook plus the difference if the new flight dates are more expensive.
Other airlines – including Wizzair – won’t allow you to rebook for free even if you test positive for Covid-19, unless you specifically opted for a flexible fare when booking. It pays to book with an airline that offers decent flexibility in its booking policy.
Looking to book a holiday? Package holidays offer more financial protection and you can find the best companies in our free holiday company checker tool
BA booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
BA offers good flexibility. Under its ‘book with confidence‘ promise you can rebook, or cancel and request a voucher for any reason right up until check-in for your flight closes. This policy applies to flight bookings up to 31 August 2022.
The offer of a voucher is more generous than most airlines. It means you aren’t under pressure to book a new date and gives you time to find future flights that suit your budget.
Ryanair booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
Currently Ryanair has a ‘zero change fees’ policy. It means you can rebook your flight without paying an admin charge, but you need to give Ryanair seven days’ notice. Check if this policy is still in place when you book.
However, if your travel destination moves to the red list, you’re pinged by NHS test and trace, or fall ill with Covid-19 (among the many other possible disruptions that could occur) within seven days of departure, you will have to pay a fee to rebook as standard terms and conditions will apply. This fee is between £35 and £95 per passenger, per flight.
Additionally, we’ve heard from frustrated Ryanair customers complaining that the ‘zero change fees’ policy still left them paying extra to rebook luggage.
Jet2 booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
Jet2 has flexibility baked into its general terms and conditions. If, within the seven days before departure the country you’re due to travel to says you must quarantine on arrival, or the destination is placed on to the UK’s red list, you can amend your flight fee-free or cancel and gain a refund. The same applies if your destination is added to the amber list and you cannot avoid quarantine (because you aren’t vaccinated). See more details on what travel traffic light colours mean.
In addition, Jet2 will allow you to make fee-free amendments for the following reasons: if the FCDO advises against travelling to your destination; if someone you live with or someone on the booking tests positive for Covid-19 or is asked to self-isolate by NHS test and trace in the 14 days before departure; if within 21 days before departure, the area you live in goes into a local lockdown.
You can make changes up until check-in closes for your booked flight.
Tui booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
Under Tui’s ‘free changes’ policy you can change your booking without paying an admin charge for any reason up to 14 days before departure.
Tui will cancel the flight and fully refund you if the destination you’re due to travel to is added to the UK’s red list.
If you or a member of your party contracts Covid-19, or any of you are asked to self-isolate, you can also alter your flight booking for free up to the time the flight desk closes for your scheduled flight.
When a holiday destination is moved from the green watchlist to amber, you can change your holiday dates admin fee-free up to 48 hours before departure.
Wizzair booking policy: can I change my flight for free?
If you can’t travel for any reason (including testing positive for Covid-19), Wizzair will not offer a refund or fee-free rebooking unless you originally chose the ‘full flex’ flight option when booking. This costs a lot more up front. When we looked at flights to Madeira from London Luton in September for example, the difference between a basic and ‘full flex’ return fare was an extra £166.25 per person.
When selecting your flight, if you choose a more basic fare, you will later be charged an admin fee of €31 to €41 (approx £26 to £35) per person, per flight to change the dates.
If you cancel altogether more than 14 days before your flight is due to depart and want a refund, you will be charged €60 (£51) per passenger, per flight. Any closer to the departure time and the cost increases to €83 (£71) per passenger, per flight. See more on Wizzair’s flight change fees.
Virgin Atlantic booking policy – can I change my flight for free?
Virgin Atlantic’s current flexible policy – which applies to flights booked on or after 3 March 2021 – allows you to change the dates, destination or name on your ticket. Any rebooked flight must be completed by 30 April 2023. Alternatively, you can choose a voucher.
Changes can be made for any reason, whether you catch Covid-19 or simply don’t wish to travel. Just be sure to make the change before check-in closes for your flight.
If you booked prior to 3 March 2021, you’ll need to check what Virgin Atlantic’s policies were at the time of booking.
With any airline booking, it’s vital to take out insurance. Find out which insurance companies offer the most complete Covid cover.