Coronavirus has put our £20,000 trip to Costa Rica in jeopardy

<img class="caas-img has-preview" alt="Photograph: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/glAEDFImYdP28JEZdbaRFQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/q0d3EMzRHwvgj5Z9Wh6xlQ–~B/dz0wO3NtPTE7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/theguardian_763/3e07e749f67075a3c356cde255aae72d” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/glAEDFImYdP28JEZdbaRFQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/q0d3EMzRHwvgj5Z9Wh6xlQ–~B/dz0wO3NtPTE7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/theguardian_763/3e07e749f67075a3c356cde255aae72d”>
Photograph: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

We’ve just been told by our travel agent, Holiday Architects, that our holiday to Costa Rica will no longer go ahead next month due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Our only choice is to accept a postponement until April next year, or cancel and claim through our insurers. We’re a party of eight and the holiday has cost in excess of £20,000. DG London

In ordinary times the package travel regulations required travel companies who cancelled holidays to refund customers. Technically these rules still apply. The website of the regulator the Civil Aviation Authority confirms that customers whose holidays are cancelled due to Covid-19 can insist on a refund rather than a credit note. However, travel firms, many of whom face bankruptcy, are holding out in the hope that the government will soften the rules.

The European commission, which drafted the directive on which the regulations are based, is encouraging customers to accept credit notes provided a refund is available further down the line, and the Association of British Travel Agents is lobbying the government to follow suit to safeguard the industry.

Holiday Architects told the Observer it was awaiting “clarity” from the government before paying out. “If refunds mean businesses collapse and thousand lose their jobs, clearly it’s better that vouchers are provided so that businesses can continue trading,” a spokesperson said. “The regulations were never designed for a global emergency such as this.”

The campaign group Which? Takes a dim view of the stalling. “The right to claim a refund must not be taken away retrospectively by any changes to the law,” it said. “The hard-earned money of thousands of holidaymakers – who may be facing difficulty themselves – must not be used as a backdoor bailout of the travel industry, when direct government support is being used in other sectors.”

As for claiming through insurers, this is misleading advice as the responsibility to refund lies with the holiday provider.

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