Reminder: How do coronavirus travel vouchers work?
Thursday, 29 April 2021
People in Belgium looking hopefully towards a vacation could be forgiven for having no idea what to do with the vouchers they received last summer for a trip they never got to take.
These “coronavirus vouchers” – received by travellers who had package holidays cancelled last year because of the pandemic – are better explained by Belgium’s FPS Economy, who set out to clear up some confusion.
Here’s what you need to know:
This doesn’t apply to everyone:
Only travellers who had their package holiday cancelled between 20 March 2020 and 19 June 2020 due to the first lockdown received these vouchers particular vouchers.
The vouchers were sent out to prevent bankruptcy:
This decision was fundamentally made to limit the impact on the travel sector. Rules were adapted to make it so operators didn’t have to pay back travellers for cancelled trips, as passengers could not refuse vouchers.
By the end, more than 210,000 vouchers were issued, reaching a total value of around €356 million.
Even expired vouchers are probably useable:
If the voucher is more than a year old, you can request a refund which they must give within six months.
Validity periods vary per operator, so it’s best to check the specific criteria on yours. If no date is listed, they are valid indefinitely.
If the voucher has expired, it gets a little more tricky. The advice is to speak to the operator, as “in practice, most tour operators accept the vouchers nevertheless,” the FPS Economy explained.
What if the operator went bankrupt?
If received a voucher within the timeframe of 20 March – 19 June 2020 and the tour operator goes bankrupt, the holder of the coronavirus travel voucher is guaranteed a refund thanks to a Ministerial Decree.
If you accepted a voucher after 19 June 2020, however, the advice of the FPS Economy is to use it as soon as possible to book a new package trip.
This would mean you are protected against bankruptcy as if the trip could not continue, and you would be entitled to a refund within 14 days.
What if I rebooked and it might not go ahead?
To cancel your holiday and get a full refund, you must be able to demonstrate that your trip will not be able to go ahead due to a tangible reason, like a travel ban meaning you cannot go abroad.
This means, however, that worrying your trip could be cancelled is not enough to cancel free of charge.
What if my trip was cancelled for me?
For flights cancelled by the airline, you are entitled to a refund or a ticket for a later flight. For hotel rooms, holiday homes or rental cars, it depends on the cancellation conditions in the contract.