Easter travel: Will you get a refund in Switzerland if you cancel your trip?

The Covid-19 pandemic has put many travel plans on hold. If you’ve already booked and paid for your trip, can you get your money back?

Easter travel: Will you get a refund in Switzerland if you cancel your trip?
Getting a refund for a cancelled trip may be time-consuming. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP

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.

READ MORE: Cushy quarantine: Swiss firm sells luxury isolation stays 

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

READ MORE: Coronavirus epidemic in Switzerland: What lies ahead? 




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What is the fine for not filling out Switzerland’s Covid arrival form?

There is one essential form all travellers to Switzerland must fill out, but many don’t. If caught, border guards will hand out fines.

A 100-franc fine could be imposed on those who don’t fill out the Personal Locator Form
Important paperwork: Switzerland-bound travellers must fill out the PLF form or risk getting fined. Photo by Zurich Airport

With constantly changing travel rules, it is difficult to keep up with all the regulations that need to be followed to enter Switzerland (and all the other countries, for that matter).

Since September 20th, everyone arriving in Switzerland, regardless of their country of origin, mode of transport, or vaccination status, must fill out the electronic Personal Location Form (PLF).

Once filled out and registered online, you will receive a QR code which you will have to show when entering Switzerland.

However, some people may be unaware of the requirement and enter the country without this form.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

Checks are done randomly, so many travellers slip in without having filled this form. But if caught, you will have to pay a 100-franc fine.

So far, 200 people had to pay this fine, according to Tamedia media group.

The only people exempted from this rule are transit passengers, long-haul lorry drivers transporting goods across borders,  children under 16, cross-border workers, and residents of border areas.

The PLF requirement is an addition to other travel regulations the Federal Council implemented in September:

Two tests to enter Switzerland are now required for the unvaccinated and unrecovered.

Unvaccinated arrivals and those who have not contracted and recovered from the virus in the past six months must show two negative tests. 

The first proof should be presented when arriving in Switzerland.  Then, four to seven days later, travellers will have to undergo another test, which they must pay for themselves.

Both PCR and antigen results are accepted.

These rules only apply to arrivals from nations not on the Switzerland’s high-risk list. As the United States and United Kingdom are considered high risk, only vaccinated people from those countries can arrive in Switzerland.

This article contains more information on the rules which apply. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new travel and Covid certificate rules?