Border closures travel cancellations: Can you get a refund?

Posted: 25 June 2021 4:51 pm

Border closures travel cancellations

The Sydney outbreak and subsequent lockdown has prompted thousands of cancellations over the school holiday period, but not everyone will give your money back.

Thousands of Australians have forced to abandon school holiday travel plans for the duration of the school holidays after states closed their borders in response to the Sydney COVID outbreak and subsequent lockdowns in multiple states.

This isn't the first time an outbreak has disrupted school holiday plans, with holidaymakers once again being forced to reschedule or cancel their trips.

Since then, Covid restrictions for greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong have been extended until at least July 16th.

While some travel and accommodation providers have adopted more flexible cancellation policies over the last year, many have been unable to get their money back.

That's because section 267 of the Australian consumer law says there's no right to a refund when the cause of the service not being provided is out of the supplier's hands.

Whether you qualify for a refund depends entirely on the provider's cancellation policy, so it pays to know what they are. We've looked into the approach from the major providers, plus examined what your travel insurance will cover.

"My advice is simple: don't book any travel in 2021 which doesn't give you an option to cancel at no cost," said Finder's travel expert and editor-at-large Angus Kidman. "Life is just too unpredictable right now."

Can I get a refund from Airbnb because of lockdown?

Since October last year, Airbnb no longer considers pandemic cancellations to be "unforeseen". This means that anyone impacted by border closures and government-mandated lockdowns is at the mercy of individual hosts' cancellation policies, which they can choose themselves.

For Ben King, who is planning a group trip to Boomerang Beach in a few weeks time, booking Airbnb has been an often risky proposition.

"I've had a real mixed experience with Airbnb during the pandemic. I've been stung once by a host that wouldn't refund or reschedule but also had a very flexible host that was happy to reschedule," King said. "Seems to be luck of the draw with the person running the property and there doesn't seem to be little in the way of protections from Airbnb itself on this topic."

Do hotels offer refunds due to border closures and lockdowns?

Others, like Jessica Prasida, have found securing a refund with a hotel to be easier. Prasida's trip from Sydney to Melbourne was cut short due to the most recent Covid outbreak in Victoria.

"When the lockdown in Melbourne was confirmed, we started making plans to get back to Sydney. I went to speak to the concierge and he said that as long as we checked out before 8pm that they would refund us. It was super easy," she said.

While policies can differ, Prasida isn't alone — many hotels are flexible with cancellations and rescheduling.

"Right now, the sensible approach is to go for a hotel with a room rate that offers free cancellation," said Finder's Kidman. "That will usually cost a little more, but it's worth having that flexibility. Don't just jump on the cheapest rate - if you can't cancel it, the saving isn't worth it."

If you've been stung by a fee this time around, you can avoid it the next time you book. Check the hotel or provider's refund policy beforehand or opt for one that offers free cancellation.

Can you get a refund or reschedule flights?

Those with flights are unlikely to receive a refund. However, airlines such as Qantas and Virgin offer unlimited flight date changes. Several other carriers let you reschedule or cancel your newly booked flight.

Does my travel insurance cover COVID-related cancellations?

Travel insurance providers won't cover you for COVID-related trip cancellations such as government-enforced border closures, lockdowns or travel delays.

However, we looked at 15 different insurance policies and found 7 that provide you with a refund related to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Don't forget, travel insurance can also cover lost luggage, theft and unexpected medical costs. It can reimburse you if you need to cancel your trip for other valid reasons as well. Compare policies here or check out the ones below offering cover pandemic-related expenses.

BrandCOVID-19 expensesCooling off periodOverseas medical expensesTheft or damage to luggageStandard excessApply
Travel Insurance Saver
  • $2,500
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $12,000$250Get quote
Covermore logo
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $15,000$250Get quote
Easy Travel Insurance
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $15,000$250More info
Qantas travel insurance
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $15,000$70More info
Medibank Travel Insurance
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $15,000$250More info
Picture not described
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $15,000$250More info
ahm life insurance
  • Some cover
21 daysUnlimitedUp to $8,000$250More info

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