For a tour bought from a tour operator or travel agent, a 100% refund is provided, the press service of Rospotrebnadzor confirms. The representative of the department adds: if air travel is included in the tour package, the tour operator must return the cost of the ticket.
Important clarification: in Art. Section 14 of the industry law states that the parties may terminate the contract in court. Tour operators, as a rule, are not interested in litigation with clients, the head of the legal service of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia Nadezhda Efremova points out. To terminate the contract out of court, the tourist must write a statement to the travel agency where he purchased the tour, but this does not mean that he will immediately return the money for the trip, she warns. According to her, the tour operator has ten days to consider the application.
In practice, tour operators in such situations act according to three schemes: return money for a failed trip, offer to postpone the trip to later dates (for example, after withdrawing the authorities’ recommendations not to visit the country) or choose another direction. Chairman of the Board of the International Confederation of Consumer Societies (ConfOP) Dmitry Yanin recommends considering the second proposal and rebooking the tour at a later date, fixing it in letters of guarantee, or reserve funds for future trips.
How Russians travel to Italy
Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations among Russians. In the first quarter of 2019, 200.4 thousand people visited this country for tourist purposes, it follows from the data of the FSB border service. Statistics Italy only provides data for 2018: in the first quarter of the year before last, almost 312 thousand Russians stayed in hotels and other accommodation facilities.
In the Italian direction independent travelers dominate. The travel agencies that use the services account for no more than 15–20% of the total Russian tourist flow to Italy, said Tatyana Vand, general director of the “Vand” tour operator. The top manager of a major tour operator believes that approximately 30-40% of all visitors to Italy use the services of travel agencies, in some regions (Venice, Rome, Milan) the proportion of independent travelers can exceed 80%.
If the trip is prepared independently
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rospotrebnadzor inform citizens about the existence of a security threat in a particular country, but do not prohibit them from traveling. The Air Code of the Russian Federation establishes a limited number of cases where a passenger can return tickets without financial loss, explain in Rospotrebnadzor. If we are talking about non-refundable tariffs, then the circumstances associated with emergencies in the country of arrival are not included in the number of those recognized as involuntary refusals, the representative of the department notes.
In such a situation, the responsible airline should heed the recommendations of the competent authorities and, if the passenger wishes, return the ticket without any penalties, objected Yanin from ConfOPOP, but agrees that there is a direct indication that the carrier is obliged to return the money in this situation, in the legislation there. The probability for a passenger to face a refusal to return is approximately 50%, he estimates. As a rule, airlines in such “politicized” situations do not directly confront passengers and offer them to rebook tickets at a later date or receive money. A refund may take a month or more, the expert warns.
If the passenger did not buy a ticket at the airline itself, but through aggregators or specialized services, the probability of receiving a refusal increases, says Yanin. According to him, if the service is not very well-known and does not value its reputation, it can refuse to refund the tourist, even if he has not yet transferred the money to the airline and has not incurred actual expenses.
The press service of the ticket aggregator Aviasales said that they themselves are not involved in ticket refunds (this is done by ticket sellers), and the terms of return are determined by the airlines themselves. In most cases, refunds are made according to ticket fares and seller’s terms, there are no special changes in the refund policy due to coronavirus, the Aviasales representative added.
Aeroflot, Pobeda, Russia, S7, Utair and Ural Airlines, as well as Italian Alitalia, now have regular flights to Italy. Of these carriers, only Utair promised to return the full cost of tickets to passengers of flights from Moscow to Milan and from Milan to Moscow, which they bought until February 26 inclusive, including at non-refundable fares. S7 passengers will be able to return tickets to Italy only in accordance with their fare, since there was no official information from the Russian authorities on the restriction of flights to Italy and, accordingly, there are no special conditions for the return of these tickets, the airline specified. However, S7 passengers will be able to return tickets to South Korea, with which air travel is blocked, with a full refund. In other airlines, RBC did not respond to requests.
A tourist can try to return the money for a paid reservation at the hotel by contacting the service through which the reservation was made, or directly to the hotel, says Yanin. According to him, there were cases when foreign companies returned money to tourists for failed accommodation, but the expert does not recall cases of refunds for reservations through Booking.com. Booking.com did not respond to a request from RBC.
If a tourist caught a virus while traveling
If a tourist abroad is ill with a coronavirus, he will most likely be able to rely on insurance treatment. Standard insurance policies for travel abroad with insurance companies interviewed by RBC – Rosgosstrakh, Ingosstrakh, Renaissance Insurance, Consent, ERV, Sberbank Insurance – cover the costs of treating the coronavirus COVID-19.
From the point of view of insurance, coronavirus is no different from other viral infections, explains Galina Talanova, head of the Rosgosstrakh medical insurance unit. If the insured became infected during the trip, then he will be reimbursed for the costs associated with the provision of outpatient and inpatient care, and the necessary medical and transport expenses, said ERV. In addition, if the insured in ERV due to coronavirus disease missed his plane, the company will reimburse him for the cost of tickets to Russia. In “Consent” they specified that in the event of receipt of bills from a foreign medical institution where their client was placed, the company will settle the insured event within the limits of the insurance policy for travelers abroad – € 30–100 thousand. There are no separate insurance against coronavirus, the insurers specified. The risk of canceling a trip is not covered by the standard insurance of Sberbank Insurance, which covers the coronavirus disease, the company emphasized, but if the insured cannot return to the country where he lives because of the coronavirus epidemic, the insurance will pay for the purchase of a new ticket.