Europe heatwave holiday cancellations may not get refunded, expert warns

Holidaymakers who decide not to travel due to the heatwave sweeping southern Europe will probably not get quick refunds in most cases, a consumer rights expert said. Popular tourist destinations on the continent including Greece, Italy and Spain face more days of scorching temperatures as a heatwave grips southern Europe.

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Travellers are being advised by the Foreign Office to check with their travel providers before setting off to Spain because of extreme temperatures with tourists advised to check where the hottest areas are in Italy and warned of possible travel disruption in Greece.

Some might be tempted to cancel their holiday before leaving due to the extreme heat, but consumer rights expert Martyn James urged caution.

He told the BBC in most cases holidaymakers will not get quick refunds if they decide against travelling, but there are circumstances where money could be claimed back.

Mr James said this would depend on how the holiday was booked, when, what type it is and the insurance taken out.

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Anyone already on holiday will have more chance of claiming a partial refund as long as the conditions are so bad that their health is affected. An insurer might cover an early departure via its “curtailment” clauses.

But Mr James said getting a refund if you cancel before leaving will depend heavily on your insurance and your personal circumstances. He added that policies do not cover a “disinclination to travel” unless there is “a valid or official reason”.

He went on to say many insurers use official guidance as a “watermark” to honour the costs of cancellations.

Mr James told the broadcaster: “As soon as official guidance says it is dangerous to travel, that is when the ‘curtailment’ clauses for refunds kick in.”

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A majority of policies have clauses covering extreme or severe weather though the definitions are often unclear and focus on natural disasters, not heatwaves.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, told the BBC: “If you have a medical condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to the heat and is covered under your travel insurance policy, you might be able to make a cancellation claim on this basis, but it would help your case to have a medical professional’s opinion about your fitness to travel.”

If your holiday is cancelled by the operator or hotel, then you should be covered for most situations.

Mr James said that compared to direct bookings, package holidays have more protection. It may be possible to claim for things missed excursions or closed amenities because of the heatwave.

Anyone worried about travel should check the Foreign Office’s advice before setting off and make sure everyone going is covered by their insurance.

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