What happens with already-booked trips if Belgium closes its borders?
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What happens with already-booked trips if Belgium closes its borders?

Credit: Belga/Brussels Airlines

Suggestions by experts that Belgium should close its borders have left travellers questioning what such a closure would mean for trips that were already booked.

Now that several cases of the UK variant and at least one case of the South African one have been detected in Belgium, a growing number of experts are speaking out in favour of a border closure or a ban on non-essential travel – especially in light of the upcoming spring break next month.

In the unlikely event that the authorities would decide to close the borders, however, flights booked with Brussels Airlines can always be rebooked to a later date, according to Brussels Airlines spokesperson Maaike Andries.

“This is a flexibility that we have been offering for a while and will continue to offer for as long as the uncertain situation requires it,” she told The Brussels Times.

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In case of a border closure, which type of travel would possibly still be allowed – such as essential or business journeys – would be entirely up to the government to determine, and the consequences for flights would depend on the exact rules and the Ministerial Decree, Andries explained.

However, if the country of destination issues a travel ban, the tour operator is obliged to cancel the trip, and clients will get their money back, according to Pierre Fivet of ABTO, the umbrella organisation for travel organisers.

“This is also regulated by law,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Customers can also be offered a voucher, but they are not obliged to accept it.”

As far as consequences for the travel sector itself would go in case of closed borders, there would not be many, according to Fivet.

“Now that the Christmas holidays are over, there is almost no travelling, apart from a few business trips,” he said. “The big difference with the situation in April and May is that now, thousands of travellers would not have to be repatriated, or countless reservations rebooked or compensated.”

Additionally, drastic measures would only have a limited impact on the spring break – which starts on 15 February – as many people expected a lot of restrictions to still be in place, according to Fivet.

“Most people realise by now that the spring break will not be much for travelling, as far as both skiing and sunbathing are concerned,” he said.

“Apart from those who travel to their second residence with their bubble, we are not expecting a lot more traffic,” Fivet added. “Our hopes are now focused on the Easter holidays.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times