On July 25th, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised British nationals against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, with effect from midnight. 48-hours later, the travel restriction was extended to advise Britons against travel to the Spanish Balearic and Canary Islands as well.
The change in advice means that anyone arriving from Spain after the guidance was enforced on July 26th must self-isolate for 14-days upon their return.
The collapse of the air bridge comes after a reported spike in coronavirus cases in the country, which the FCO has described as “an unacceptably high risk for British travellers”.
The decision has shocked the already devastated travel industry and has left tourists with a lot of uncertainty.
Here we explain everything you need to know about the new travel guidance and how this may affect any upcoming trips to Spain.
What does the change in FCO advice mean?
The change in FCO advice means that British tourists are no longer permitted to travel to mainland Spain or the Balearic or Canary Islands unless it is absolutely necessary.
It also means that anyone who arrives in the UK from Spain or the Spanish Islands will have to quarantine (self-isolate) for 14-days or face a fine of up to £1,000 if they fail to do so.
Those who do decide to travel against the FCO guidance risk invalidating their travel insurance policy and therefore not be covered if something goes wrong.
I’m currently in Spain what should I do?
The FCO has not advised those currently in Spain or the Balearic or Canary Islands to cut short their trip short or return early to the UK.
However, they recommend that Britons in Spain follow local authority advice and continue to protect themselves by wearing face coverings, sanitising their hands, and abiding by any other measures the authorities bring in to control the spread of the virus.
Anyone currently in Spain with an existing travel insurance policy should continue to be covered for any medical expenses related to Covid-19. However, we would recommend confirming this with the travel insurance provider to find out exactly what cover is permitted.
What does self-isolation or quarantine mean?
Those arriving from Spain, including the Canary or Balearic Islands, will be required to go home and begin 14-days of isolation as soon as they land in the UK. The 14-days of quarantine will begin the day after they land in Britain and will end exactly two weeks after they returned from their trip.
For example, those who arrived back to the UK on Sunday 26th July will be required to self-isolate until after midnight on August 10th.
During this time, they will only be permitted to leave their house for medical assistance, to attend court or a funeral, or to go shopping for essentials – if they are unable to rely on others.
Those isolating are not allowed to go into work, exercise outdoors (this includes walking the dog), or attend socialising events.
Anyone who does not self-isolate could be fined up to £1,000, with fines up to £5,000 for repeat offenders.
There is speculation in the media that the quarantine period may be reduced to 10 days, if a Covid-19 test confirms that the individual is not infected. However, this has not yet been confirmed by the government.
I have an upcoming holiday in Spain – what are my options?
Holidaymakers’ options depend entirely on the type of holiday they have purchased.
If you booked a package holiday and this has been cancelled then you should contact your tour operator for a refund, as they are responsible for providing you with a full cash refund under the Package Travel Regulations Act.
Tour operators are legally obliged to refund you if the trip you paid for is unable to go ahead. For more information on cancelled package holidays and the options you may have click here.
However, it’s worth being aware that holidays in August may not yet be cancelled as tour operators wait for further advice from the government. In this case, we would recommend waiting until closer to your departure date before contacting your holiday provider.
DIY holiday (separate flights and accommodation)
If you booked your holiday independently then you will need to speak to your airline and accommodation provider about getting your money back. Unfortunately, there is far less protection in this scenario.
Some airlines are allowing customers to change their flight to a later date, while others are offering vouchers as an alternative to a cash refund. However, it is worth knowing that under EU Law, airlines have a responsibility to provide full refunds or provide an alternative flight if they cancel the flight.
As it stands, many airlines are still flying. So, if your airline does not cancel your flight, you may have to try and move your holiday to a later date or accept a voucher to prevent losing your money.
Those who have accommodation bookings will need to speak to their provider directly. Some providers are offering customers the opportunity to rearrange their travel dates. However, it’s worth knowing that they do not have to provide you with a refund or move your holiday dates.
For more information on ‘DIY’ holidays click here.
Those unable to recover costs from their tour operator, airline or accommodation provider may be able to claim their money back through their bank.
If the holiday cost more than £100 and was booked on a credit card, then you may be able to claim under ‘Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act’.
Alternatively, if the holiday was booked on a debit card, you may be able to claim through your bank under a voluntary scheme called ‘Chargeback’.
For more information on claiming through your bank click here.
Once all of the other providers have been contacted and confirmed that they are unable to provide a refund or alternative option in writing, then customers should contact their travel insurer and submit a claim for consideration, providing they have cover for a change in FCO advice or cancellation for reasons beyond your control.
However, it’s worth knowing that if you took a policy out around March-time then it may specifically exclude claims related to Covid-19 and you may not be covered to claim for any lost costs.
For more information on claiming through your travel insurance policy click here.