Perhaps you have planned to go away this Easter and made all the reservations ahead of time, before coronavirus struck and the Federal Council had declared a state of emergency until April 19th at the earliest.
Will your trips be refunded?
The answer depends on many different factors. If you have made arrangements through a tour operator or a travel agency, and the cancellation insurance is included in the cost of the package, then you will get your money back.
Your flight was automatically cancelled by the airline.
In this case, you have two possibilities: you can either request a refund or re-book your flight for a later date. SWISS offers flexible re-booking options, which are also made available on its partner airlines Lufthansa, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings. EasyJet and other carriers have similar re-booking policies, which are outlined on their websites. You also have the possibility of claiming a voucher but only if you will re-book your flight before August 31st of this year.
If you opt for the refund rather than rebooking, keep in mind that you may not get your money back for many weeks. The current refund timeframe at Swiss is at least two months.
And it may take much longer than that. On the verge of bankruptcy, the airlines are doing all they can to make the passengers give up cash, hoping to obtain a ‘grace period’ for reimbursement of tickets until the end of 2021.
“In principle, we try to satisfy customers with vouchers as often as possible and not allow immediate refunds,” said Ulrich Svensson, chief financial officer of the Lufthansa group.
What about other travel arrangements, hotels, etc.?
If you have cancellation insurance or if you paid by credit card — as most people do — check that you are covered for pandemic risks, which is not necessarily the case.
Though some travel insurances do cover cancellations in case of epidemics, they don’t offer refunds for pandemics. What’s the difference? An epidemic remains within a certain geographical area within a specific period, while a pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the worldwide spread of a new disease”. Covid-19 fits under the latter category.
This list compiled by the Consumer Federation of the French-speaking Switzerland shows how major Swiss insurers handle refunds for trip cancellations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The indications are not always clear. While some companies exclude any coverage in the event of epidemics and pandemics, others offer refunds in case of an epidemic, quarantine, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks, but not pandemics.
Of the major insurers listed on the site, only Zurich Insurance offers reimbursement of costs for pandemics, while Touring Club Suisse (TCS) doesn’t specifically mention pandemics, but does offer refunds “if a concrete risk exists for the life of the beneficiary”.
But wait, there is more.
When travel is not recommended by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) or by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), as is currently the case, costs will most likely be refunded.
What if you are refused a refund even though you think you deserve one?
If your insurance company or credit card is not living up to its contractual obligations in refunding travel costs, you can file a complaint with the Swiss insurance ombudsman.