Swine flu: Travel Q&A from ABTA

The global Swine Flu epidemic has led the UK Foreign Office to advise against all but essential travel to Mexico, and the World Health Organisation to increase its pandemic alert threat to phase 4 (meaning the disease can be transferred from human to human).

What do these developments mean for travellers and travel agents? The following Q&A was released by travel association ABTA.

I’ve booked a package holiday to Mexico leaving tomorrow/next week, but the Foreign Office is advising against non-essential travel. Does this mean I won’t be able to go?

Because the FCO has reissued travel advice and now advises against all non-essential travel to Mexico, tour operators providing package holidays to Mexico are currently reviewing the position. If you are due to travel imminently you’ll be unlikely to travel with your package tour operator.

These arrangements don’t, however, apply to travel arrangements where the FCO is advising against travel to a country where you’re due to land for a refuelling stop only, unless there’s specific advice against travelling through that airport.

I’ve booked a holiday to Mexico in the autumn. Should I change my plans?

Your tour operator will decide how far in advance they’ll be offering alternatives or refunds, should this become necessary. The exact period will vary as the advice from the FCO can change rapidly. Please check with your tour operator.

If your departure date is some weeks or months ahead your tour operator will continue to review the situation and contact you closer to your departure date if it’s necessary to change your holiday. If you’re concerned, please contact your tour operator.

I’ve booked a holiday to the United States. Will I still be able to go?

Holidays to the US are unaffected but any part of your itinerary that involves a visit to Mexico will not go ahead.

Will I get my money back?

While FCO advice remains in place, customers of ABTA tour operators who have booked package holidays to that destination for the period that the advice is in force will be offered alternative arrangements, or, if this isn’t possible, a full refund of all monies paid to the tour operator.

You may be able to recover this refund from your travel insurer but, if not, the tour operator must provide a refund.

You won’t be entitled to any additional compensation, as the reason for the holiday not continuing is outside the control of the tour operator.

If you are overseas and the FCO advice changes to state that they advise against travel to your destination, your tour operator will either arrange for you to return to the UK as soon as is reasonably possible, or make alternative holiday arrangements where this is available or reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

If no alternative is available and you fly home early, no compensation will be payable but you’ll receive a refund of any unused services, such as accommodation costs, where your tour operator is able to recover these from its suppliers.

I’ve independently booked a holiday to Mexico with a scheduled airline. Will my insurer still pay out?

With independent travel your scheduled flight may still go ahead. You may be unable to get any refund from the airline or for any accommodation you have booked. But bearing in mind the FCO advice you may be able to cancel and claim a refund from your travel insurer. Check your policy.

What about people who are already on holiday in Mexico?

Tour operators are reviewing their policies on an ongoing basis as the situation unfolds. However, if you’re concerned please contact the individual operator who will be able to advise you of their current policy.

Image: KPA / Zuma / Rex Features

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