Covid travel: restrictions, flight delays and cancellations, and your passenger rights

    Covid travel: restrictions, flight delays and cancellations, and your passenger rights

    Many countries are restricting travel to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19. This has led to mass cancellations of flights around the globe to help combat its transmission. Though these canceled flights are not eligible for compensation, as an air passenger, you still have rights. Read on to find out more.

    Not sure if your flight was canceled due to the coronavirus? Check your flight below.

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    Current flight requirements for Covid-19

    In order to make flying during Covid-19 as safe as possible and to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many airlines and travel destinations have introduced a wide range of safety measures, or Covid flight requirements.

    You should always check the latest travel advice available from your airline and travel destination. Resources like IATA’s regulations map can also help. The following requirements are most common:

    • Covid testing for international flights
      If you’re flying into a country that requires you to present a negative coronavirus result,
      many airlines do require a Covid test before they let you board. You usually have the choice to do it in advance before you go to the airport. Just be sure how recent the test must be, and whether they are counting from departure or arrival time! Some destinations and airlines specify the more reliable PCR test. These take a little longer, so make sure you leave enough time to get your result back.

    • Covid testing for domestic flights
      In the USA, there’s a little more confusion whether airlines require a covid test for domestic flights. The CDC recommends that unvaccinated passengers get tested before flying, if they must travel, but it is not a federal law. States can mandate testing, so do check to make sure. For example Hawaii requires a negative Covid-19 test from unvaccinated visitors.

    • Wearing a mask at the airport and on the plane
      Most airlines and airports require you to wear your mask at all times, as well as abide by local social distancing regulations. Check if there are any specific requirements, for example, if you must wear a medical-grade face mask.

    • Proof of vaccination or Covid-19 recovery
      In some countries there are fewer restrictions if you can show you’re fully vaccinated, and some also do the same if you’ve recently recovered from the virus. Check exactly what the requirements are, and bear in mind that most vaccinations aren’t considered complete until 2 weeks after your final dose.


    Denied boarding due to Covid flight restrictions — what are your rights?

    Additional flight requirements due to Covid-19 do make both international and domestic travel more difficult for passengers. However, it is the responsibility of the passenger to check travel and flight restrictions due to coronavirus, and to ensure they abide by them.

    Airlines are strictly enforcing rules, both to keep passengers safe while onboard, and to avoid transporting passengers who don’t meet the entry requirements of their travel destination. If you do not follow Covid flight requirements, e.g. you fail to present a negative Covid test, proof of vaccination, or refuse to wear a mask when requested, you are likely to be denied boarding.

    The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic restrictions affecting travelers, e.g. travel restrictions, lockdowns, and quarantine zones, are considered an extraordinary circumstance by passenger rights regulations. The Covid travel restrictions enforced by public authorities are there to make travel as safe as possible for both passengers and citizens. Consequently if you don’t follow the rules, you are not entitled to compensation or a refund for your missed flight. In fact, some countries are even saying they will fine passengers if they arrive without following restrictions.


    What happens after a coronavirus flight cancellation?

    If your flight has been canceled due to coronavirus you are entitled to:

    • A full refund of your ticket

    or

    • An alternative flight (once the flights are rescheduled).

    As the coronavirus situation is classified as an extraordinary circumstance, it is outside of the scope of airlines’ control, and thus, they are not obliged to offer compensation. This includes flights to and from any areas affected by a travel warning or ban.

    Airlines must abide by travel restrictions, as well as protect the health and safety of their passengers and crew.


    What happens if I am stranded at the airport due to a coronavirus flight cancellation?

    If you’re stranded at the airport because of a cancellation you may also be entitled to care from your airline, including:

    • Food and drink.

    • Access to communication.

    • Hotel accommodation where necessary.

    These are rights as laid out by European regulation EC 261, and apply to passengers departing from an EU airport. However, outside of the EU, these rights may vary.


    How do I return home if I am stuck in another country after a coronavirus flight cancellation?

    If your flight was canceled due to coronavirus while you were in a foreign city or country, you may still ask for a replacement flight, even where travel bans are in place. However, as the availability of replacement flights may be affected, you may need to consider alternative methods of transport.

    Most countries will allow you to return home if you are a resident, though they may require you to undergo several health checks or be quarantined to ensure that you are healthy.


    Where can I ask for a new ticket if the airline or travel agency is unresponsive? Do I get airline refunds due to coronavirus?

    Please be patient, as many airlines and travel companies are currently overwhelmed with requests and may take some time before they can accommodate you.

    If your airline or travel agent is unresponsive, do check what advice they have on their website. Many airlines are allowing you to make changes to your tickets yourself online via their app or website.

    You may also find they have already answered your question in their FAQs or on Social Media.


    When am I still entitled to compensation for canceled flights?

    Flights that have been canceled because of the current coronavirus travel restrictions don’t qualify for compensation, as it is considered an extraordinary circumstance, which means that it’s outside of the scope of airlines’ control.

    But flights canceled for other reasons, for example, because of a technical issue or operational problems, are still eligible for compensation just as they would be normally. AirHelp will be assessing claims not directly related to coronavirus on a case-by-case basis, so if you think your flight may be eligible for compensation, find out how much you’re owed with our Compensation Checker.


    What if I no longer want to fly?

    Many airlines have announced special measures allowing passengers to change their flights on their websites. If you decide not to travel due to the coronavirus, you should contact your airline to find out what their refund policy is, or to see if they have specific guidelines covering the outbreak.


    How do I protect myself against coronavirus on flights?

    It’s recommended that all unnecessary air travel should be suspended. However, if you do need to catch a flight, be sure to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, and to comply with general health regulations to avoid contracting the disease. Visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) site to find out more about how you can protect yourself.


    Commonly asked questions about flights affected by coronavirus

    What options do I have if I want to cancel my flight as a precaution?

    Airlines have different policies for cancelling flights, so the easiest way to find is to visit the airline’s website or to contact them directly. Some may offer special refunds, while others won’t or there are non-refundable tickets.

    What are my rights regarding indemnity in case of flight cancellation due to coronavirus?

    If you have travel insurance, check if you have indemnity in case of cancellation due to coronavirus. Since policies vary, it is best to ask your insurance provider if this is something they cover. As for your rights, flight cancellations due to coronavirus fall under extraordinary circumstances and are therefore not eligible for compensation by law. However, you are still entitled to care, including free food and drink, transportation, and accommodation if needed.

    Can I be reimbursed for hotels, activities, and other expenses if my flight has been canceled by Covid-19?

    If you want to be reimbursed for hotels, activities, and other expenses, it is best to contact your provider to see what reimbursement options are available to you. When a flight is canceled, your compensation typically helps cover some of the costs lost due to the disruption. Unfortunately, since delays or cancellations caused by Covid-19 fall under extraordinary circumstances, the airline in this case does not owe you compensation, as they are not considered at fault. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, we may also be able to assist you in claiming back costs.

    Can my travel insurance help with Covid-19 flight cancellations?

    Not all travel insurance covers pandemic and endemic travel restrictions and policies vary. However, many insurance providers are expanding their coverage to take into account pandemics, so be sure to check with your provider to be sure.

    What happens to my flight if there is a coronavirus outbreak?

    If there is a coronavirus outbreak and countries move to restrict travel, your flight may be cancelled. If you were in a foreign city or country when the cancellation happened, most will allow you to return home on a replacement flight, though you may also need to consider alternative methods of transport. Depending on what’s required, you may also need to undergo health checks, show a recent negative test, or be quarantined.

    Can I claim if my flight is full and don’t want to risk catching Covid-19?

    Generally speaking, you cannot claim compensation if you choose to no longer fly. If you decide not to travel due to coronavirus, contact your airline to find out what their refund policy is, and if they have any specific guidelines related to Covid-19 outbreaks.

    My flight was cancelled due to lack of occupancy, and the airline cites coronavirus as the reason. Am I entitled to compensation?

    In some cases, you may be entitled to compensation if the airline cancels your flight less than 14 days before departure. Though coronavirus is considered an extraordinary circumstance and is not eligible for compensation, lack of occupancy due to low demand is not. This might be an operational reason. Since it can be difficult to figure out if the flight was canceled due to travel restrictions or simply poor flight ticket sales, you can use our Compensation Check to see if you are eligible.

    What can I do if the airline or travel agency canceled my flight because of coronavirus?

    The first thing you should do is to ask for a refund on your flight tickets, or ask for an alternative flight if you still choose to travel. Coronavirus falls under extraordinary circumstances, which means that the airline is not at fault for the disruption and is not required to pay compensation. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, we can also assist you with flight refunds.

    Can I get a refund if my flight was canceled by coronavirus? Can I also get a refund on other expenses such as my accommodations, events, and other expenses?

    Yes. It is possible to get a refund on your flight ticket if your flight was canceled. As for the the loss of any other expenses, such as hotel reservations, contact your hotel to find out what their policies are. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, we may also be able to assist you in claiming back costs.

    What are the Covid-19 travel restrictions in the UK?

    Travel restrictions in the UK are constantly changing depending on the number of infections and the pace of the Covid-19 vaccination drive. The best way to check for the latest updates on travel restrictions to visit the UK government website.

    I have accepted a voucher for a flight canceled due to coronavirus. Can I still claim a refund?

    It will depend on the paperwork that you signed at the time of the cancellation. Some airlines may offer you both a refund and a voucher, while others will offer a voucher or air miles instead of giving you a refund. We encourage you to always read the paperwork and pay close attention to the fine print before you decide to sign.

    Generally speaking, if your flight was cancelled, you should be offered a full refund for your ticket, or be offered a replacement flight.

    Do I have to accept a voucher from the airline following a flight cancellation?

    No, you are not obligated to accept. You can always decline the voucher and ask for a full refund of your flight ticket. If you do accept the voucher, be sure that you read the fine print and that you are not waiving your right to a refund or to compensation.

    What do I do if the airline or travel agency offers me a voucher instead of a refund?

    You can always ask for a full refund of your ticket, as you are not obligated to accept a voucher. Airlines can only offer a voucher with the full consent of the passenger. In Europe, if the airline refuses to give you a refund, you can contact the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC Net) in your country to ask for help with any disputes. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, we also offer refund assistance.

    If an airline offers me vouchers instead of compensation, should I accept?

    It is your choice to accept, however, if you do accept the voucher, you may no longer be entitled to compensation. Airlines may want to offer you a voucher but on the condition that you waive your compensation — so you should always be sure to read the fine print before signing any documents!

    What can I do if I accepted a voucher but wanted a refund for my flight ticket instead?

    It will depend on the paperwork that you signed at the time. It’s possible that an airline can choose to give you a voucher instead of giving you a refund. We therefore encourage you to always read the paperwork and pay close attention to the fine print before you decide to sign. According to EC261 Regulation, however, if your flight was cancelled, you should be offered a full refund for your ticket or be offered a replacement flight.

    How long does it take to get a refund if my flight was cancelled?

    Refund times can vary depending on whether you paid through credit card or by some other method, and how many airlines requests airlines have to go through. We suggest contacting your credit card company or airline to find out how long it takes to get your refund.

    AirHelp is here to help air passengers, even in times of crisis. Rest assured, we will continue to protect your rights. Let’s keep working together as a community to stay safe and healthy.

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