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Our coronavirus travel FAQ: flexible bookings, your rights & travelling with confidence

Costa rica osa peninsula flying from puerto jimenez c matt power

This article is written with a view to reassuring anyone looking to book a holiday with Pura Aventura. It is our intention that anyone already booked to travel with us can expect the same level of service as is set out below.

Any variation of our standard terms and conditions will be explicitly set out for you at time of booking.

For anyone already booked to travel with us, we will be in touch around 10 weeks prior to departure to start the process of reconfirming, making changes or deferring – as the situation demands.

1. Why should I book now?

If you feel comfortable with the idea of going away then you will find relatively good availability, flights are not only historically very cheap but they also tend to have very flexible conditions for date changes and refunds. We are offering greater flexibility on our terms & conditions than is normally possible. Finally, once you get away on holiday, you can expect it to be even quieter than normal.

If you do not feel comfortable with the idea of going away, you should not book now.

2. What changes have you made to your booking conditions?

The freedom to defer your trip

Book secure in the knowledge that we offer you the freedom to defer your trip, until the point your balance is paid, to any available date before the end of 2021. Please note that this offer is not always possible, e.g. Antarctic boats, so please check (I know you would anyway).

The intention of this offer is that you don’t have to consider all the different what-if scenarios which might lie ahead. Saying that, we respectfully ask that you don’t defer your trip on a whim (I know you wouldn’t) because each booking involves significant work and also provides hope for our partners overseas so whilst the offer is genuinely made, it should be genuinely received.

Balance payment four weeks before departure (normally eight)

The purpose of this is that we simply haven’t been able to see two months down the road. There’s no point our taking full payment only to have to return it a few weeks later. Again, any variation of our standard terms and conditions will be explicitly set out for you at time of booking. If we forget, remind us.

3. What happens if I book a trip but later change my mind?

If you choose to cancel your trip without any FCO advice in place, our default position is that our standard terms and conditions apply.

4. How do I know my money is safe?

It’s a fair question in these times, I’ll go out on a limb and say that 2020 hasn’t been a great year for the travel industry. There have been failures, there will be many more. I’ll answer this one in two parts: general to the industry and specific to Pura Aventura.

a) In general terms, the UK travel industry is one of the most regulated in the world. That is particularly true in relation to protection of your money. If you book a holiday which includes a flight (not necessarily one which takes you from your home to the trip, really it’s just got to include any flight) then your money must be protected by an Atol license. When you book, you get a nice yellow ATOL certificate which shows how much you paid. If the company goes bust, you show the certificate to the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK and they refund you. Wherever you live in the world, you are protected.

For holidays which don’t include flights, the protection comes from a wider variety of places but these are most usually in the form of bonds which are supervised by trade bodies such as ABTA or ABTOT. If a tour operator fails, the bond is called down from the insurance company which effectively releases refunds to all affected customers. It’s basically a cast iron financial guarantee.

b) Pura Aventura was lucky to come into 2020 in robust financial health. We have never been ones for flashy offices or fast cars. We have been very lucky that the vast majority of our customers have chosen to defer rather than cancel their trips. We have received a rates relief grant, accessed the UK government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) and have also been offered a substantial CBILS loan – something we do not foresee needing to rely on. We have a very strong management team who have spent significant time over the past months creating a modelling tool to help us navigate the possible routes through the pandemic. So whilst I do not pretend that we are immune to Covid’s devastating impact on the travel industry, we are confident about our future.

5. Where can I travel without the need to quarantine?

For an overview of the status of each of our destinations, please see our regularly updated country-by-country summary.

6. Now that flights have resumed, how safe is it to fly?

We have an ever clearer picture about the steps being taken at airports and whilst on board to ensure your safety when flying. But rather than telling you what to think, we’ve instead taken a fairly detailed look at what flying will look like as restrictions are eased and more flights resume, so that you can make the right decision for you. Ultimately it’s your opinion that matters.

7. Once I get there, will I be safe?

Rest assured that your safety is our top priority but clearly the virus is not over and so travelling is not risk-free. It goes without saying that you should take continue to follow the general guidance to keep yourself safe – social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing and so on.

For us to be happy for you to travel involves us having confidence not only that detailed measures and guidelines are in place but also that our partners are fully supported in being able to implement them effectively.

If you would like to see an example of some of the measures being taken, here is an overview of what our partners will be doing in Spain. And there's also the official Spanish tourism website, which reiterates the need to wear a mask when you cannot guarantee a minimum distance of 1.5m between people.

Additionally, because most of our trips take place out in the great outdoors in places off the beaten track with low population density, they are places where Covid has had least impact. In Spain, Asturias (Picos de Europa mountains) has had the lowest level of infections in the entire peninsula. In Chile, Aysén (Carretera Austral, Patagonia) has had 49 cases and 0 deaths in an area the size of Portugal.

8. OK, I trust that I’ll be protected, will it be enjoyable?

We are very conscious of the fact that it’s one thing to safely navigate a holiday, it’s quite another to do so enjoyably. Because of this, we are constantly monitoring the measures both in terms of safety and in terms of their impact on your experience.

Because we specialise in tailor made rather than groups, lots of self-drive and inn to inn walking, in the great outdoors, the impact on the day to day of most of our trips is expected to be minimal. For inn to inns in Spain, we believe that the noticeable difference will be in travelling to get there, wearing a mask during arrival & departure transfers (normally these are 1-2 hours maximum) and buffet breakfasts being a thing of the past. Obviously, for self-drives, the masks can come off as soon as you’ve got the keys to your hire car.

On this basis, we do not currently anticipate any major detrimental impact on your holiday experience. If things change or we find out anything new which will have a meaningful impact on your trip, we will let you know and discuss what to do.

9. What can you do to help avoid issues in the first place?

Because we directly connect with all of our partners, we are able to tailor our trips to a degree rarely possible elsewhere. If we feel that there’s a risk of a particular city being closed off, we would either not include it in our proposal or we would at least wire in a plan B.

Suffice to say, we are of a size which allows us to be proactive in monitoring and fixing potential wrinkles in your holiday before they happen. We are connected enough to our destinations to ensure the fix is right. In any case, we’d always check in with you to make sure you are comfortable with what we propose.

10. If I book a holiday, how much flexibility do I have to change dates and the destination?

We are reaching out to people approximately 10 weeks before they leave. If we feel that your original trip cannot be delivered safely and to the expected standard, we are happy to defer your dates.

If you want to keep the same dates but go somewhere else, we can usually accommodate but it must be on a case by case basis. Switching from a Galapagos cruise to Antarctica is highly problematic, though we’d try. Switching from a Picos Inn to Inn to an Andalucia Self-Drive is usually no problem.

11. In what circumstances am I entitled to cancel my trip for a full refund?

If you have an imminent departure and the Foreign Commonwealth Office (or your government’s equivalent e.g. State Department) impose a travel restriction that falls within this timeframe, we will defer your trip, change your destination/itinerary, or issue a refund. The choice is yours.

For more about refunds due to FCO travel advisories, you can read our take on these and how imminence is defined.

12. What happens if the airline cancels my flight?

Under EU law, if an airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a full refund though airlines are being particularly tricky about making you jump through hoops to get them. You might prefer to transfer your flight to a different date without charge. Or you might prefer a voucher for the value of the flights. Personal experience on that front is positive because airlines are encouraging vouchers by giving large discounts when using them to rebook flights.

13. What happens to my holiday if the airline cancels my flight?

Given that the vast majority of our clients book their own international travel, if a flight is cancelled, you might be in the position of having a holiday but no means of getting there.

Fear not, we have never shirked our responsibility on this front.

If the flights have been cancelled due to FCO (or equivalent) advice, then you have the right to defer, change destination or a full refund.

If the flights have been cancelled due to schedule changes or route cancellations then first stop is to look at alternative gateways, or carriers. If there is no reasonable means of your getting to your holiday, we consider it our responsibility to defer your holiday without charge.

There might be instances where your flights are cancelled very far in advance of departure, in which case we might have more flexibility to change destination but more normally, this will happen close to departure so we get our partners on the ground to roll the booking to new dates.

14. What happens if I am denied boarding of my flight?

As yet untested, it seems that most airlines and airports are doing spot temperature tests. If you are running a temperature of over 37.5c you are likely to be turned away.

We believe this to be a place for your travel insurance to step in since we would not be able to guarantee being able to defer your holiday in these circumstances. In certain instances we may be able to salvage credit for some of the trip in order to move your dates but again, this would be very much on a case by case basis.

At the time of writing, it is possible to buy travel insurance which provides cover for this eventuality. Our illustrative overview of travel insurance policies may help steer you, however it is important to do your own research and carefully read the wording in your policy document.

15. What happens if I cannot travel because I contract covid-19 and/or have to self-isolate when I am due to depart?

Assuming that the FCO are not advising against all but essential travel to your destination, our standard terms and conditions would apply in this instance. Which is to say, we would try to help defer your trip but with low expectations.

If this is a particular concern, it is worth shopping around for travel insurance to cover this eventuality. Most insurers do not offer cover for cancellations related to coronavirus on new trips, but a small number do in limited circumstances, including this one.

16. What happens if a local lockdown is imposed in my destination at the time of departure?

This is unlikely given the nature of the places we tend to go but it is theoretically possible. Of course, we would work with you to try and find a different way in but ultimately, this scenario would count as our being unable to deliver your holiday and would be covered under the PTRs – which is to say you would be entitled to change dates, destination or get a refund.

17. What happens if a local lockdown is imposed whilst I am travelling?

This feels like another unlikely one given that the bulk of any of our trips will likely be spent in the great outdoors. However, it happened before so let’s deal with it here. If it were a localised lockdown which we could avoid with a simple rejig then that’s what we’d do. In the case of a more major shutdown then we get you out.

This is what is known as curtailment and is proving to be the battleground between insurers and tour operators right now. Where a trip is cancelled i.e. you never started your holiday due to FCO advice or lockdown, that is clearly the responsibility of the tour operator to refund, change or defer under the PTRs.

Curtailment is not explicitly covered in the PTRs but has always been passed to travel insurers who have traditionally paid out. Until now. Liability for curtailment or forced abandonment of a trip is therefore currently being pushed up to the financial ombudsman for a (hopefully) definitive ruling.

We currently have a few clients in this process who have, much to our appreciation, been pushing back against the travel insurers. Once we have certainty on the matter, we will update here BUT you should be aware that it’s a contentious area, and you should be certain to have travel insurance in place with sufficient curtailment cover if you were to have to abandon a trip early on.

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