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22 May 2020

UK quarantine: what do the new guidelines mean for my summer holiday abroad?

Holidaymakers with existing bookings face prospect of being unable to travel, without any entitlement to a refund

The UK government has announced a 14-day quarantine for holidaymakers returning to the UK, starting from 8 June. The restrictions make a week in the sun impractical for most, and those that don't travel may not be able to get their money back.

Under the new rules, anyone arriving in the UK by any means could face a £1,000 fine if they fail to self-isolate for 14 days, making it difficult for anyone with work or other responsibilities to take a holiday.

The government has made it clear that the indefinite ban on non-essential travel issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) still stands. But Ryanair has announced that it plans to restart nine in ten routes from 1 July, and easyJet flights are due to resume in mid-June.

Passengers that don't travel are not due a refund from their airline if flights still operate. And if holidays do start to resume, holidaymakers may not be able to get their money back for existing bookings if their tour operator does not cancel.

Find out more: Should I book a holiday this summer, or wait until 2021?

Will I get my money back if I can't travel?

The FCO continues to advise against all non-essential international travel, so although many holiday companies are promoting trips for this summer, these will only go ahead if the FCO advice is lifted. The government hasn't yet given an indication of when this might happen. But there has been much speculation about 'air bridges' - agreements between countries that allow tourists to travel without quarantine.

When non-essential travel is allowed, some holiday companies that are struggling to survive may opt to run flights and holidays regardless of the quarantine measures, meaning that there's no guarantee of a refund for consumers.

Even if airlines or holiday companies cancel, holidaymakers are not guaranteed a cash refund. Which? Travel has found that leading airlines and holiday providers are either refusing to refund customers or issuing credit notes automatically for cancelled flights and package holidays.

Nor will travellers necessarily be able to claim on their travel insurance. The insurance industry has made it clear that most policies do not cover 'disinclination to travel'.

How will the quarantine work?

Anyone entering the UK, with a few exceptions, will need to provide an address where they intend to self-isolate. This can be your own home, but you will not be allowed to leave the house for two weeks. Travellers will provide their details and onward travel plans via an online form.

UK Border Force will begin making spot checks on travellers entering the UK from mid-June. And Public Health England will contact new arrivals at random to make sure they are following the rules. The quarantine rules will be reviewed every three weeks.

In England, a breach of the quarantine rules could be punishable by a £1,000 fixed penalty notice.

Those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are exempt from quarantine requirements. But despite an earlier announcement, people coming to the UK from France are not exempt.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said 'While measures to limit the spread of coronavirus for travellers are necessary, this move risks creating further confusion around future travel, and means anyone with a holiday booked in the coming weeks now faces the prospect of being unable to travel, but without any entitlement to a refund.

'Airlines and holiday companies must ensure they are continuing to offer holidaymakers flexibility with rebooking options, to ensure that anyone who is now unable to take a holiday this summer is easily able to change the date of their holiday without penalty.

'The government must also urgently intervene with support for the industry, to ensure that it is able to withstand the impact of this decision, and that it has the means to refund customers that have been left out of pocket from flight and holiday cancellations.