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What travel restrictions are now in place - and what are your rights if you change your plans?


Changing times: A man looks at his phone in front of the information screen at Barcelona Airport, Spain.  Photo: AP/Emilio Morenatti

Changing times: A man looks at his phone in front of the information screen at Barcelona Airport, Spain. Photo: AP/Emilio Morenatti


Changing times: A man looks at his phone in front of the information screen at Barcelona Airport, Spain. Photo: AP/Emilio Morenatti

What's the latest travel news?

President Trump has announced a US travel ban from the Schengen Area of Europe, India will deny entry to foreign visitors and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is now advising against travel to Madrid and other areas of Spain in a new wave of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

What is the effect of President's Trump ban?

The US will suspend entry to the US of most foreign nationals from Europe's Schengen Area, including those who have been in its 26 countries at any time in the previous 14 days. The ban currently excludes Ireland and the UK, and will take effect from midnight tonight for 30 days. It follows similar action taken against travel from China and Iran, but the EU's presidents have criticised Mr Trump's lack of consultation.

Why aren't Ireland and the UK included?

President Trump has not given a reason, and vague language has created more questions than answers.

Speculation has already ranged from a US effort to focus coronavirus containment efforts on mainland Europe, to the president's relationship with Boris Johnson and even the US military's use of Shannon airport.

The truth is, nobody knows. The White House is expected to offer additional advice shortly.

What other travel restrictions are in place?

As well as advising Irish citizens not to travel to Italy, China and Iran, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has upgraded its travel warning levels to Spain. It now advises against all non-essential travel to "areas of significant transmission" in Madrid, Vitoria and Labastida in the Basque Country, and La Rioja. The DFA also notes a significant number of cases on the Balearic and Canary Islands.

In India, the government has announced that visas for all non-Indian nationalities will be suspended from noon today until April 15, due to the coronavirus.

What are airlines saying?

Airlines, like everyone else, are scrambling to make sense of a rapidly changing situation. They are experiencing high call volumes and longer customer support wait times, but both Aer Lingus and Ryanair say they will contact affected customers if bookings are subject to change or cancellation.

What happens if my trip is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled for any reason, and regardless of when you are notified, your airline must offer you the choice between:

1. Re-routing as soon as possible, subject to availability, free of charge.

2. Re-routing at a later date.

3. A full refund.

You may also have certain assistance and compensation rights.

See flightrights.ie for a full list.

What if I cancel my own trip?

If the DFA issues a warning to "avoid non-essential travel" to an area or a "do not travel" alert, then you should be eligible for refunds or re-bookings. In the first instance, contact your travel provider (airline or tour operator) to see what costs you can reclaim for trips that have been cancelled or curtailed.

If you booked separate accommodation (not through a licensed and bonded travel agent) then you will need to check the T&Cs, or look to your travel insurance to recover money.

If you cancel or cut short a trip because you feel nervous about travelling to an area, and the DFA has not issued a warning about that area, then you will most likely not be covered. This is a rapidly developing situation, but if your trip is weeks or months ahead, stay calm and contact your travel agent for advice. Many airlines (with notable exceptions like Ryanair) have temporarily waived change fees, and cruise lines and tour operators are offering unprecedented levels of flexibility on bookings.

What else can I do?

If you have travel insurance, make sure government travel advice changes are included in your policy, and that you have 'travel disruption' cover - an additional element that must be purchased in advance of any public announcement prohibiting travel to the area you are travelling to.

How is Irish tourism being affected?

"The travel ban between Europe and the US is the latest example of the unprecedented challenge coronavirus is posing," says Eoghan O'Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation. "Tourism is in the business frontline of this crisis and thousands of jobs and businesses up and down the country are at real risk.

"Without delay Government must help Ireland's tourism sector, otherwise there will not be an industry left once the coronavirus crisis passes."

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: "2020 was already going to be a challenging year for tourism, with issues like Brexit and the delayed delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

"Covid-19 is an extremely serious development which is affecting all of our key source markets."

Irish Independent