Political riots, terrorist attacks, natural disasters can lead to safety hazards for tourists in the affected areas. Therefore for many consumers, the question of withdrawal arises in these situations.
From a legal point of view, such safety hazards mostly make the terms and conditions you agreed to irrelevant. Therefore the non-commencement of your journey must be free of charge.
Travel Warning is not a prerequisite
If there is an official warning from the State Department for the area, you always have the right to rebook or cancel your journey. However, in many cases such a travel warning does not exist.
According to the Supreme Court, if the risk in the light of serious media reports clearly exceeds the overall risk of life a withdrawal is sufficient. It is therefore necessary to clarify if an average traveller would really be affected by the safety hazard in the region.
This may be the case, even if the airport in the area is still serving.
It is crucial that the development of hazard at the destination was unpredictable. It must involve events the tour organizer or the travellers cannot be held responsible for have occurred only after conclusion of the contract.
Should you book a trip after the safety hazard at the destination was known of already, you won’t be able to withdraw from the contract free of charge.
Precise travel destination
Besides, safety hazards can only lead to a free cancellation of the contract in case they occure at the concrete place of destination. Usually different safety levels apply to the different regions of a country.
The Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA) provides detailed information on its website.
To change or withdrawal
Tell the company your intentions of withdrawing from the contract, so that they an offer you other alternatives. Is the alternative offer is reasonable, you do not have the right to reject it.
Are you being offered an alternative that you cannot accept, explain the tour operator why this is being the case. Reasons for this may be the quality of the accommodation and facilities, cultural facilities in the region, the possibility of certain sports, the duration of the flight and also your interests.
You are most certainly not obliged to accept an offer with an additional fee (higher price).
No cancellation fee
If it is not possible to accept any of the equal offers, you may cancel you journey. A cancellation fee must not be charged for this. Payments already made will be therefore reimbursed to you.
If the journey is in the distant future, wait
Since an up-to-date classification of the safety hazard can only take place right before the exact dates of your trip, it is advisable to wait with the withdrawal.
On the other hand, a possible cancellation fee is lower if you withdraw from your contract long before the scheduled departure.
Tips of the European Consumer Centre
- Clarify a possible cancellation fee.
- Get in touch with the tour operator as soon as possible and look for a common solution.
- If the tour operator is offering a reasonable transfer option free of charge (same travel time/travel cutting himself/herself the price), then you should accept it.
- If you cannot accept any of these, explain the tour operator in writing that you withdraw from the booking free of charge because of the circumstances at the destination.
- We advise you to send a registered letter. This should also refer to the risk situation.
- Cancellation free of charge cannot be guaranteed.
Please find attached our sample letters (German).