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There is nothing more disheartening and disappointing than the cancellation of a trip that you have been looking forward to with great anticipation. Under the best of circumstances, the logistics of a happening such as this, is difficult. But with the recent restrictions and severe health concerns presented by COVID-19, there are millions of people around the world who are caught up in trying to get answers to the important questions surrounding rebooking, refunds, credits and/or vouchers toward future travel.

The first place to look for answers to these questions is your booking/travel contract. There are various possible clauses that could be a part of the original agreement that will give you information and an initial sense of what you might be entitled to have returned to you.

  • Force Majeure – This type of contract clause will describe what happens if your trip is cancelled for circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Sometimes, this clause is called an Act of God clause. In this situation, no one is at fault for the fact that the trip cannot happen.
    • Within this type of clause, you might be entitled to various predetermined remedies such as;
      • Total refund of all monies expended
      • Future travel voucher
      • A refund after the travel agent or booking company has recouped reasonable costs of having booked the trip initially.
  • Frustration of Contract – This type of contract clause is similar to a force majeure and may offer similar remedies or it may discharge the contract holding neither party responsible for breach. A frustration of contract does not necessarily have to be contained within the original contract, but can be raised even if it is not mentioned in the original agreement.

The second place to find a relatively easy remedy is with any form of travel insurance that you might have purchased. Be sure to review any insurance policy you bought specifically to address the issue of cancelled plans. Within these separate insurance policies, you might find a predefined circumstance that meets the qualifying criteria for a refund of your monies.

The questions that remain are often ones that include;

Can I get my deposit back?

The answer to this question will again vary depending upon the terms of your contract. If the terms of getting your deposit back are defined in the original contract, then those terms will apply. Hence, it is possible that you can get your deposit back if you cancel your reservation within a particular time frame, or other method described within.

Do new terms govern or must the travel company honor the terms in the original agreement?

The travel company cannot change the original terms of the agreement. Therefore, if you are met with a statement that the original terms no longer apply and new terms will govern, do not agree unless you are sure you fully understand the new terms, they are to your advantage, you are comfortable waiving the original terms, and you have spoken with a legal professional. Once you accept new terms in writing, you will be bound by them and no longer allowed to rely on the original terms.

How long should a voucher be good for and what are the downfalls of accepting one?

Any credit voucher you are given should be good for a reasonable amount of time; which is often considered at least one year from the date of cancellation. However, there are downfalls to accepting a voucher for future travel. Considering the financial strain the travel industry will be under, it is possible that within a short period of time, some, if not many, may be out of business. In this instance, there would be no entity left to honor your voucher.

How do I enforce my rights?

First it is important to directly contact your travel company and discuss the terms of your contract. In doing so, keep in mind that the travel agency is probably overwhelmed with similar requests and are doing their best to answer everyone’s questions and accommodate their requests as expediently as possible. However, it is important to remember there will be questions that no one has an answer to and delays in processing cancellations, refunds, credits and/or vouchers. The most likely way to get your entitlements is to do so politely and patiently. If you find that this approach is unsuccessful, contact a local consumer group or seek legal assistance.

While we wish for everyone to be able to participate in their plans to travel, we urge you to review your contracts, consider postponement in accordance with the options presented, and make smart, safe and reasonable choices when preparing to travel.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Owen Hodge Lawyers Sydney
3/171 Clarence St
Sydney NSW 2000

Owen Hodge Lawyers Hurstville
Level 2, 12-14 Ormonde Parade
Hurstville NSW 2220

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