Business

'We cancelled our holiday because of coronavirus'

Jill and Peter Baker Image copyright Peter Baker
Image caption Jill and Peter Baker paid just under £600 for a getaway to Rome and Venice

More and more people are choosing to cancel holidays to Italy as the number of cases of coronavirus in the country continues to rise.

But, despite Foreign Office advice against travel to a number of towns in the country, travellers are often being left out of pocket.

Peter and Jill Baker have cancelled a week-long trip to Rome and Venice.

They booked the getaway - along with two friends - in October and they believed they were getting a bargain.

The couple paid just under £600 for the trip, which included four-star accommodation, flights and train travel between the two cities.

But they decided to cancel the holiday after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, where the government has quarantined 11 towns, one of them near Venice.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People in Venice have taken to wearing face masks to prevent the virus spreading

Mr Baker said he was "not particularly afraid" of contracting the virus because of what he considers a low mortality risk. Instead, he was worried about an extension to the lockdowns imposed by the government.

He said the Italian government had taken "dramatic action" to contain the spread of the virus and he did not want to find himself "stuck" in Venice.

But that came at a price.

While the couple has received a full refund for the hotel, Mr Baker said Ryanair had not refunded the £180 they spent on flights. They also had to pay a £75 administration fee to the travel agent Broadway Travel to cancel the trip.

The couple have contacted their insurance company to see if it will cover the cancellation. But Mr Baker is not optimistic.

And he is probably right not to hold his breath.

Insurers tend to follow the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

And, while the government has issued a warning against all but essential travel to 11 quarantined towns in Italy - one of which is close to Venice - it has not advised against travel to the country.

"When the FCO advises against travel to a country or a region, people who are booked to travel there should call their airline or travel provider to cancel or postpone and arrange a refund," insurer Axa UK said in an emailed statement.

However, that advice only applies to people booked to travel to the 11 towns currently under lockdown.

"Then they should contact their insurer to register a claim," the Axa statement continued.

'The fun begins'

John Adair from Edinburgh was told that a decision to cancel a four-day trip to Venice was not covered under his policy.

"Our hosts in Venice informed us that all schools, museums and churches were now closed," he told the BBC.

"There didn't seem much point in going if you could only look at the outside of the buildings," he said.

He was not optimistic that the situation would improve and was worried about self-isolating on his return, so he cancelled the trip.

"The fun begins with travel insurance who are not recognising this as a valid cancellation claim," he said.

But while insurers may not cover cancellations, some airlines are now letting passengers rebook flights.

British Airways has said that passengers with bookings to some airports in the north of Italy - including Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Bergamo and Verona - will now be able to rebook their flights for a later date.

Delta and Air Canada have announced similar policies.

But for travellers like Jill and Peter Baker, they may still be left to pick up the bill.