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6 Jan 2021

Travel and holiday rules for England Q&A

With most of the UK in lockdown, we detail what you can and can't do with travel, holidays and hotels

England is now in a national lockdown, with restrictions that replace previous tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 rules. The lockdown will continue until at least the middle of February, but may be extended further.

This means all non-essential travel is banned, including travel abroad and in the UK. Hotels, B&Bs and non-essential shops must close across the country.

Since you cannot take booked flights or holidays except for essential purposes, we believe you are due a refund. However, in practice this may be difficult if your flight is still running.

Can I get a refund for my holiday or flight in national lockdown?

British Airways is keeping some flight routes running for essential purposes, but it won't offer those who cannot travel a refund, only a voucher or chance to rebook the flight. It will offer a refund only if the flight is cancelled.

Similarly, Ryanair will operate a small number of flights to and from the UK. If your flight is not cancelled you cannot request a refund. You can change your flight for free, but you may only choose a flight travelling up until March 15 and you will pay the fare difference.

Which? believes that the terms set by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are clear. It expects customers to be given the option of a refund when they can't travel because of lockdown laws and airlines who do not follow these guidelines should face CMA action as a result. In December, the competition regulator launched an investigation into the refusal of airlines to offer customers cash refunds.

After Which? approached British Airways, it said in response: 'We continue to offer highly flexible booking policies to our customers during this unprecedented pandemic, at the same time as operating a vastly reduced schedule due to travel restrictions.' Ryanair however, didn't respond to our request for comment.

EasyJet however is offering cash refunds to all customers, even if their flight is still running. Tui is also following suit. All Tui package holidays are cancelled and the only flights running will be to bring people home from holidays. Everyone - package and flight-only customers - will be entitled to a refund.

Additionally, Jet2 has cancelled all holidays and flights until February 11, with customers getting a full refund. BA Holidays (which runs its package holidays, not its flights) is also offering all customers due to depart before 12 February a full refund for their holidays.

Currently, England is in a national lockdown, so the below tier restrictions no longer apply. Read our UK travel Q&A to find out the current travel rules

Tier 4 restrictions in England

Those in Tier 4 must stay at home, except for reasons such as exercise, travelling to work (if it's impossible to work from home) or for education.

You can meet one single other person outside of your home in a public space, but must not mix inside with people outside of your household, except for in support bubbles.

I'm in Tier 4. Can I get a refund for my holiday or flight?

Those in Tier 4 must not stay overnight away from home or travel abroad. That makes holidays impossible. Tui has announced all package holiday customers in Tier 4 can rebook or get a refund. It has also cancelled all flights through to 30 December. EasyJet has said customers in Tier 4 can also get a refund.

Other airlines, such as British Airways and Ryanair, have not issued refunds in lockdowns. Instead, customers will be invited to rebook or accept a voucher. It's important to know that some airline vouchers come with unhelpful terms and conditions. The competition regulator has launched an investigation into airlines refusing refunds when passengers can't travel because of lockdown laws. If your airline refuses, lodge a complaint with it and the CMA.

Holiday cottage and accommodation providers in the UK should also provide refunds.

I'm in Tier 4. Can I get a refund for my train ticket?

In most cases, yes. Off-peak and anytime tickets can usually be refunded, and you won't have to pay the admin fee. Advance tickets can only be amended, or swapped for vouchers.

Tier 3 restrictions in England

People under Tier 3 should avoid travelling to other parts of the country or stay overnight elsewhere in the UK, unless 'necessary'.

If you are prevented from taking a booked holiday in the UK, you should contact the provider and ask for postponement or if that doesn't suit, a full refund. As with previous lockdowns some holiday cottage companies and other service providers may dispute refunds. We believe, based on CMA guidance, that those affected by local lockdowns are due a refund.

The government has not banned international travel for those under Tier 3 restrictions. This could be problematic if you live in a Tier 3 location and the airport you're travelling from is located in another part of the country, since you shouldn't travel elsewhere. This is a grey area.

Unfortunately, because the guidance is unclear and isn't in law, operators and airlines will likely still operate. And if you've booked a holiday in a country on the UK's travel corridor list, your flight or holiday will possibly still go ahead, making it difficult to get a refund.

Many tour operators, such as Tui and British Airways Holidays introduced flexible booking policies in recent months. This should allow you to move your holiday to a new date without paying a fee, although you'll need to pay the difference if the new holiday dates are more expensive. You will usually have to give three to four weeks notice. If you booked a flight in the summer most major airlines airlines had similar flexible booking policies.

Can I travel for a holiday to London for shopping?

Shopping on Oxford Street is a Christmas tradition for many, but under new Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential shops will be forced to close.

For more unbiased travel advice, sign up to Which? Travel

Tier 2 restrictions in England

People living in 'high-risk' Tier 2 locations are allowed to go on holiday outside of their area, but only with people in their household or support bubble.

If you've booked a holiday in the UK with people you don't normally live with, you should be entitled to a postponement, refund or an alternative holiday.

You can travel abroad, but you should only travel with people in your household or support bubble. Although the FCDO now warns against travel to most destinations. If you travel to a destination with an FCDO warning it's likely that your travel insurance will be invalidated.

You should not travel through a Tier 3 or 4 area, but you are permitted to do so as part of a wider journey, or to access an airport there if you are travelling abroad.

Can I still travel to Scotland and Wales?

Wales was placed under tough Level 4 restrictions on 20 December. Nobody is allowed in or out of the country except for essential reasons.

Mainland Scotland is in a national lockdown so you may not travel out of your local area, or leave your home without a reasonable excuse.

Find out more in our Coronavirus restrictions UK full Q&A