Our honeymoon to Sri Lanka was cut short. Why can’t we get a refund?

Our honeymoon was cut short in March and we had to return home early from Sri Lanka. Our travel agent – a local firm – told us this was not covered and we would have to go through our travel insurance to get money back.

However, our insurers rejected the claim as we had a package holiday and that is covered by the EU package travel regulations.

We took this back to the travel agent who have consistently rejected the claim saying it’s not its responsibility. 

What can we do to get a partial refund in this situation?

One couple's honeymoon was cut short due to the coronavirus - but they haven't got a refund (stock image: Sri Lanka)

One couple's honeymoon was cut short due to the coronavirus - but they haven't got a refund (stock image: Sri Lanka)

One couple’s honeymoon was cut short due to the coronavirus – but they haven’t got a refund (stock image: Sri Lanka)

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: While having any travel plans cancelled is frustrating, having a dream, once-in-a-lifetime, honeymoon cut short is incredibly upsetting.

You and your now wife spent nearly £10,000 on the trip to Sri Lanka for a three week experience.

Activities included going to a game drive at a National Park, rock climbing and visiting a number of cities in the area.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, you had to leave your trip on 20 March as opposed to 28 March when you were originally due to fly back.

Although this was not yet mandatory when you sorted this, you decided to leave as you saw the situation worsening  – Sri Lanka then went into lockdown.

After returning, you tried to get a partial refund for the time you had paid for but not been able to experience.  

Your trip was a package holiday – all of which should be ATOL protected, giving customers financial security should your travel agency collapse and your holiday not go ahead.

Under this protection, you can expect to get your money back if your travel agent goes bust, which it didn’t.

Otherwise, your agent is only obliged to return your money if the operators, such as the airlines and the hotels agree to. 

As you had flights both there and back – even if it wasn’t on the dates as planned – you cannot expect to receive any refund from the airline. 

This leaves getting money back from the hotel you were due to stay at between 20 and 28 March.

The decision whether to refund or not is in its court. However, it has no legal responsibility to offer you money back.

Travellers trying to get refunds can attempt to do so through their insurer or their travel firm

Travellers trying to get refunds can attempt to do so through their insurer or their travel firm

Travellers trying to get refunds can attempt to do so through their insurer or their travel firm

It sounds like your travel agent did try to get money back from the hotels but it opted not to give one, which, whilst frustrating, is its right to do so.

Package holidays have also been named as one of several sectors being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority following reports of businesses failing to respect cancellation rights during the coronavirus pandemic.

It said it had received reports that businesses have not been respecting their customers’ statutory rights to a refund for package holidays that were cancelled by either party due to certain lockdown restrictions imposed by authorities in the UK and abroad.

However, as two weeks of your holiday went ahead, it does not come under the umbrella of the situations the CMA are looking into.

A spokesperson for ABTA replies: If a package holiday is cut short as long as it is not by the customer, then the Package Travel Regulations indicate that the tour customer should receive an appropriate price reduction for the unused portion of the holiday.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: As you, the customer, cut the holiday short yourself and cancelled the remainder of it for fear of being stuck in Sri Lanka, this means you are unfortunately not entitled to ABTA protection which is why it is proving tricky for you to get a refund. 

A spokesperson for the travel agent replies: We feel very sympathetic for customers caught up in this situation. 

In dealing with this case we have followed the legal advice and guidance provided by the Travel Trust Association and are assured that the customer’s Travel Insurer should cover them in these specific circumstances.

A spokesperson for Axa replies: When it comes to package holidays, customers should always contact their tour operators in the first instance should the FCO advice change at their destination and they need to cut short (curtail) their trip. 

Customers should also approach their tour operators for refunds for any part of the trip that they have not been able to deliver.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: As ABTA said, if you had not cancelled yourself and the hotel or airline had, you would have received an appropriate reduction. 

Unfortunately, there is no set guidance on what is an ‘appropriate’ reduction, meaning it could be anything – or nothing at all.

Your insurer is also not budging on returning any of the funds whilst your travel agent has already done everything they can do for you.  

In this circumstance, you could try the Financial Ombudsman and say you have not received a pay out from either your insurer or your travel firm. 

However, there is no guarantee that you will get the money back.

Otherwise, you can take a complaint to both your insurer and your travel insurance to log it officially. Both sectors are incredibly busy and under a lot of strain at the moment, so it may be that it takes some time for you to get a response.  

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