Section 18A(4)(a) of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 which gives effect to Article 12(2) of Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on package travel and linked travel arrangements provides that ‘the traveller shall have the right to terminate the package travel contract before start of the package in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and significantly affecting the performance of the package, or which significantly affect the carriage of passengers to the destination’. Section 18(4)(b) provides that ‘where the traveller terminates the package travel contract under paragraph (a), the traveller shall –
(i) not be required to any termination fee,
(ii) be entitled to a full refund from the organiser of all payments made for the package without undue delay’.
Section 18A(7) of the Act which gives effect to Article 12(4) of the Directive provides that the organiser of a package must make any refunds due to a traveller under section 18A(4) not later than 14 days after the package travel contract is terminated.
Determining whether unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances significantly affecting the performance of a package, or the carriage of passengers to a destination, exist normally requires a case-by-case assessment of the particular circumstances affecting the package concerned. In current circumstances where the Government’s Covid-19 Travel Advisory advises ‘against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice’ and where restrictions on entry by non-nationals into other countries are widely in force, it can be taken that such unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances apply generally.
The Competition and Consumer Protection is responsible for the enforcement of section 18A of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995. The Commission for Aviation Regulation has responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the insolvency protection provisions of the 1995 Act and related enactments, principally the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act 1982. As the 1995 Act and these related enactments were enacted on the basis of Bills initiated, or Statutory Instruments signed, by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Transport, Tourism has the lead role for consumer protection in the package travel area.