We will all remember where we were on Friday 13 November 2015, when a number of terrorist incidents took place in Paris resulting in widespread casualties. As part of a 3 month national state of emergency, the French Ministry of Education cancelled all school trips within France by French schools until Sunday 22 November. That included excursions to cultural sites and travel by school groups on public transport. Those cancellations didn’t specifically include foreign school parties, but the French Ministry of Education did advise foreign school groups to avoid travelling to France until after 22 November.
With around 17 million British nationals visiting France every year, there will be a number of us who already have plans in place to travel to the country in the near future. The Foreign Office has not advised against travelling to France (when this article was written on 20th November).
So what are your options if you have already paid for travel to France?
Allow extra time to travel
French authorities have heightened security measures and you will therefore need to allow extra time in your travel plans for any disruption this may cause. Systematic border control checks have been implemented at all entry points into France.
Cancelling travel – check your travel insurance policy
If you decide to cancel your travel plans, it is very unlikely you will be entitled to demand a refund. This is due to claims arising from “terrorism or acts of war” being excluded on many standard policies.
Some policies that cover travellers for loss, damage or injury caused by terrorism do not pay out if there has been ‘just the threat of terrorist action’ and not an ‘actual attack’. Insurers treat terrorism differently. A large number of them will exclude claims arising from terrorism completely, while others will pay for medical treatment, hospitalisation, personal accident and – occasionally – baggage claims caused by or arising from terrorism.
The situation changes if the Foreign Office recommends against travelling. Who can forget the Tunisian terror attack last summer, and the earlier atrocity in Tunis, resulting in many being travellers’ plans being cancelled. Until very recently, Foreign Office warned against all, but essential, travel to Tunisia. After evacuating all of their guests from the country back in July this year, some travel operators and airlines closed the 2015 summer season operation down completely. In August, the Tunisian authorities announced that they were extending the state of emergency in the country to the middle of October. Those who booked a package holiday departing up to the end of the summer season (October 31, 2015) were offered full refunds or transfers to alternative holidays.
The real difference is that if you have booked a package holiday through an ATOL registered tour operator, and the Foreign Office subsequently warns against travel, it is most likely you will be entitled to a refund. On the other hand, if the Foreign Office does not warn against travel, it is unlikely you will get a refund and the tour operator will have discretion. Finally, if you are an independent traveller you should contact your airline and holiday accommodation, as you have less protection than those who are ATOL protected, and may well find you are refused a refund even if the Foreign Office has warn passengers not to travel.
Please also be aware that travel insurance for those who choose to stay in the country (after the Foreign Office has warned against travel) will be invalid and they should inform their insurer of their plans.
If you have paid for travel and are concerned about travelling, ask for a refund. If the travel provider and your insurer refuse to refund your money, then you should look at the contractual terms and conditions. Recovering your money will depend on a number of facts and how those facts sit with the terms which it is claimed mean you are not entitled to a refund. The option is always available to take legal advice, if that advice is that you should be refunded, your lawyer will pursue the money as a debt claim.
Please contact Toby Joel on 01642873 765 or email Toby at firstname.lastname@example.org.