Lifestyle Travel

The student’s guide to consumer rights for booking travel this summer

It’s safe to say the past year and a bit now have been far from ideal. Plans ruined. Lives lost. We are, however, seeing light at the end of the tunnel: vaccines are finally here and whilst there are doubts about new variants – something for a completely different piece –  it will be time, some day, to reopen our economy and return to some semblance of normality. The first thing many of us want to do is get away – having been stuck at home, running down Netflix series, we want to spread our wings! The question is: should you book right now? 

As I write this, the UK’s new hotel quarantine regime is being fleshed out; we as of yet do not know if or when travel restrictions will be lifted, whether countries will actually let Brits in and what conditions will be attached. PCR? LFD? ABC? 123? 

The EU for one shut its borders to all non-essential travel from high-risk countries, including the likes of the UK. But we all need something to look forward to, to get us through another term of university in who knows what form. With all this in mind, what should you do if you want to book?

  1. Know your rights. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation under EU regulation 261/2004. Now, before you start questioning “Didn’t we leave the EU?”, yes, yes we did – but that regulation has been written into UK law. In any case, no matter the reason for the cancellation by an airline, you are entitled to a full refund of the cancelled flight, in cash. Some airlines are offering ‘vouchers’ or ‘credit notes’ instead. You do NOT have to take them up on it. 
  1. Credit cards. If you’re looking to book a holiday, please, please, please use a credit card – this isn’t even just a pandemic thing, ALWAYS use a credit card if you can. If you use one (and your purchase is between £100 and £30,000), Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act has got your back. Without getting too bogged down into the details, Section 75 protection means that your credit card provider – typically your bank – is jointly liable with your airline or holiday provider for the cost of any cancelled holiday. So, if your airline is being a bit stingy with paying out, you have the additional avenue of going through your card provider.
  1. Travel insurance. It goes without saying but get travel insurance immediately after you purchase your tickets. Do not wait until a week before you travel – if you get insurance immediately after you book, you are covered (subject to the terms of your policy) from that moment. If a flight is cancelled or conditions change a week after buying your tickets, insurance will cover you… as long as you have it. It’s also worth noting here that certain providers have changed policy exemptions in light of covid, so it is best to double check! 
  1. Airlines. Many airlines themselves are being really flexible when it comes to booking changes. For instance, British Airways’ “book with confidence commitment” allows passengers to change a booking without incurring a change fee, or cancel a booking altogether and receive a voucher of the same value for a future booking. 

Now, we’re not saying you should book right now, but if you do, at least do so responsibly… and who knows, maybe you’ll never need to use this advice!

Cover image from Unsplash