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matthew
04th October 2021

Coronavirus: Advice for Northern Ireland Travellers

Advice for Northern Ireland travellers whose holidays and travel plans may be affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus), including the latest information on airlines, ferries, package holidays, travel insurance, public transport and cancelled travel plans (including refunds).

The information on this page was last updated on 4 October 2021.

Travelling in and out of Northern Ireland

COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate

Northern Ireland’s Covid Certification Service is now open for those planning to travel within the next three months.  You can register for a COVID-19 certificate on the NI Direct website.

When applying online you will be required to provide proof of identity to allow the automatic service to process your application to receive your certificate. If it is not processed automatically, you will receive an email to let you know when your application has been processed and when you can download your certificate online or via the app.

If you cannot apply online, you can request a paper version by calling 0300 200 7814 Monday to Friday 8am-8pm. This process will take longer than the digital process and you will be required to verify your identity in person by presenting documentation at an appointed time and location.

You can download the COVIDCertNI app from the Google Play or Apple app store to help you request a certificate.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 you must not travel.

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Travelling from within the Common Travel Area

Travel within the Common Travel Area is permitted.

If you are travelling from within the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands) and staying overnight in Northern Ireland, you should take a rapid lateral flow device test (LFD) before you begin your journey.

  • You should only travel if the test is negative.

  • You should also take an LFD test on days two and eight of your stay.

  • You should not travel to Northern Ireland if you have COVID-19 symptoms, or have received a positive COVID-19 result.

Information on how to order Lateral Flow Device tests is available on the Gov.uk website.

Information on travelling from within the Common Travel Area is available on the NI Direct website.

You do not need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form if you’re travelling from within the CTA and you have not been outside the CTA in the last 10 days.

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Travelling from outside the Common Travel Area (international travel)

Since Monday 4 October, the rules for international travel to Northern Ireland have changed from the red, amber and green traffic list system to a new system of 'red list of countries' and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world ('non red-list countries’).

The rules for travelling to Northern Ireland from countries and territories not on the red list will depend on your vaccination status.

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Travelling to Northern Ireland from non-red list countries if you are fully vaccinated

If you have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days you must:

  • complete a UK Passenger Locator Form on arrival or within 48 hours of arrival in Northern Ireland;
  • before travelling, book and pay for a day two PCR test to be taken on or before day two following your arrival in Northern Ireland;
  • be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated (with your final dose of vaccine received at least 14 full days before the day you arrive in Northern Ireland) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state level public health body that includes, as a minimum:
      • your forename and surname(s)
      • your date of birth
      • vaccine brand and manufacturer
      • date of vaccination for each dose
      • country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer

If you are fully vaccinated in the USA, you will also need to prove that you are a resident of the USA.

If your document does not include all of the above information, or you are fully vaccinated, but do not qualify under these fully vaccinated rules, you must follow the rules for 'Travelling from non-red list countries if you are not fully vaccinated' below.

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Travelling to Northern Ireland from non red-list countries if you are not fully vaccinated

You must follow these rules if you:

  • do not qualify under the fully vaccinated rules;
  • are partially vaccinated; or
  • are not vaccinated.

Before you travel to Northern Ireland you must:

  • complete a UK Passenger Locator Form on arrival or within 48 hours of arrival in Northern Ireland; 
  • take a pre-departure COVID-19 test in the three days before you travel to Northern Ireland; and
  • book and pay for a day two and day eight PCR test package, to be taken after your arrival in Northern Ireland.

After you arrive in Northern Ireland you must:

  • self-isolate at home, or at the address that put on your Passenger Locator Form where you are staying in Northern Ireland, for 10 days; and
  • take a COVID-19 PCR test on or before day two and on or after day eight of your stay.

You cannot leave self-isolation until you have tested negative on your day eight test and completed your 10 day isolation period.

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Travel from red list countries

You must follow these rules if you arrive into Northern Ireland from a red list even if you are fully vaccinated.

If you have been in a country or territory on the red list of countries at any time in the last 10 days, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish national or you have residency rights in the UK.

Before you travel to Northern Ireland you must:

After you arrive in Northern Ireland you must travel directly from your port of arrival to the managed quarantine hotel to begin your managed isolation period.

For further information visit the NI direct website.

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Travelling to the Republic of Ireland

From 25 September 2021, the requirement for Mandatory Hotel Quarantine has been removed for passengers who have travelled from any country deemed high risk by the Irish Government. However passengers still must abide by the relevant travel regulations depending on where their journey originated:

Passengers arriving into Ireland who have not travelled outside the EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland within 14 days of arrival

Ireland is now a part of the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel originating within the EU/EEA.

If you have valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

If you have valid proof that you have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

If you do not have valid proof of vaccination or recovery, you will need to present evidence of a negative RT-PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country. No further travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

Travel restrictions for passengers arriving into Ireland from outside EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland

Please note: This includes those arriving from Great Britain.

If you are travelling to Ireland from abroad you must fill out a Passenger Locator Form before departure.

If you have valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

If you have valid proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 180 days, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.

If you do not have valid proof of vaccination or recovery, you will need to:

  • present evidence of a negative result from a RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country
  • self-quarantine for 14 days

If you receive a negative result from a RT-PCR test taken from day 5 onwards after arrival into Ireland, you will be able to leave quarantine.

Arriving from Northern Ireland

Travellers whose journey originated in Northern Ireland and have not been overseas in the past 14-days are not obliged to complete a Passenger Locator Form or provide proof of vaccination, recovery or test results upon arrival into Ireland.

However travellers who have been overseas in the past 14 days are subject to the requirements based on their travel history, and according to their health status.

More information on travelling to the Republic of Ireland is available on are available on the UK Government and Irish Government websites.

Travelling abroad

The FCDO currently advises against all non-essential travel to some countries and territories. 

Government guidance on safe general travel during COVID-19 can be found on the GOV.uk website.

Please note

FCDO advice can also determine whether or not you are able to get a refund or insurance pay-out if you're due to travel to specific locations.     

Travel advice and restrictions are being updated regularly and each of the devolved governments in EnglandScotland and Wales may issue different guidance so for the months ahead it is important to check their websites for up to date and accurate information.

Translink bus and rail services in Northern Ireland

Latest update 

Translink services are operating on an increased timetable from 1 September 2021. From this date drivers will also be able to resume giving customers cash change on their ticket purchase transactions.

NI Railways are operating a normal timetable.

Visit Translink’s website for the latest timetable updates.

You can also call Translink's Contact Centre on 028 9066 6630.

Cross-Border Train Services

Latest update

An updated timetable for the Belfast to Dublin route is in operation including Enterprise services.

For full details on timetables please see Translink's websiteTranslink is advising passengers to book their cross-border journeys in advance. Bookings can be made via Translink Contact Centre or Translink's website and journey planner.

Face coverings and social distancing on public transport 

In line with Government guidance, wearing a face-covering is mandatory on public transport. This rule applies to all passengers in public areas, however, exemptions will apply for those who are not able to wear a face-covering for specific medical reasons and children under the age of 13. 

Face coverings are mandatory on private hire transport and during air travel. They should be worn in taxis and on indoor areas of ferries. Taxi drivers should wear a face-covering unless behind a partition. The wearing of face coverings on all dedicated school buses and public transport is mandatory for all post-primary children.

Further information is available on the nidirect website.

The requirement to maintain social distancing on public transport at all times has been lifted, to allow for a return to higher capacity on our transport links.

Refunds for tickets

Translink’s normal refund policy applies for most bus and rail tickets but specific arrangements are in place for refunds during the COVID-19 emergency for mLink, aLink, Cross Border and Enterprise services and NIR weekly and monthly tickets. For more information visit Translink’s website.

Free travel for NHS workers

Free public transport for HSC workers’ will end from Wednesday 31 August 2021, when normal charging will resume. Please visit the Translink website for more information.

Check with your travel or accommodation companies immediately

If you are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on your existing travel plans, then check with your airline, tour operator, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers immediately.

Passenger COVID-19 Charter

A Passenger COVID-19 Charter has been developed to provide you with information and guidance on your rights, responsibilities and reasonable expectation regarding international travel whilst COVID-19 travel measures remain in place.

Airline updates

This webpage is updated regularly but please note that services are changing at short notice and you should check directly with your airline to ensure you have the very latest information.

If your flight has been cancelled your airline should offer you the choice between an alternative flight or a full refund.

Some airlines and travel providers are offering vouchers in place of refunds. If your flight has been cancelled, you are entitled to a refund, so if you would rather the financial payment, please request this from your travel provider.

It is now a requirement to present proof of a qualifying negative COVID-19 test taken up to three days prior to departure of the passenger's flight. If you do not have proof of a qualifying negative COVID-19 test within this timeframe, and if you do not qualify for one of the limited number of exemptions to the pre-departure testing requirement or have a reasonable excuse, your airline will deny you boarding to your flight. You will not be entitled to a refund since the Civil Aviation Authority considers that the failure of a passenger to comply with the pre-departure testing requirement would, for health reasons, constitute a reasonable ground for the airline to deny boarding

If you are denied boarding because you don't have a qualifying negative COVID-19 test, or your negative test comes in too late to travel, airlines may rebook you according to the terms and conditions of your ticket, but you will not be able to claim compensation for denied boarding under EC Regulation 261/2004. You will also not be entitled to the rights under EC261 to a refund for the cost of your flight, re-routing, or care and assistance. In cases of denied boarding, please contact your airline for further advice about your options. British nationals that need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.

If you believe you are entitled to receive a refund from your airline but they are refusing, you may wish to open a complaint with the airline. If you are not happy with the airline’s response contact us.

Aer Lingus

Latest update: 2 September 2021

Consumers whose flights have been cancelled will be contacted by Aer Lingus directly, and are entitled to a refund, voucher or rerouting at a later date.

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Aer Lingus is operating a reduced schedule to a number of European and North American destinations.

Aer Lingus have waived their change fees on any changes made before 31 December 2021. Please note that a fare difference may apply. More information on the different options available for your booking is available on Aer Lingus' website.

All customers flying with Aer Lingus will be requested to use a mask or suitable face covering from the point of boarding the aircraft until they are inside the destination airport.

More information on the latest travel updates is available on Aer Lingus' website.

British Airways

Latest update: 2 September 2021

British Airways are advising you to check the UK Government website for the latest travel updates and any new restrictions for the destination you are travelling to.

If your flight is cancelled they will contact you, but please also check the status of your flight before travelling to the airport and ensure your contact details are up to date.

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British Airways contact centres are receiving a large volume of calls at the moment, so bear with them if you are calling to rebook for immediate travel.

Visit British Airway's website for more information.

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British Airways is offering passengers the following options:

If your flight is cancelled, you can rebook or claim a voucher to the value of your booking. You can also apply for a refund using the online form.

If you booked flights prior to 3 March 2020 for travel due to have started by 28 February or you booked from 3 March 2020 onwards for travel due to be completed by 31 August 2022, you can:

  • Change the dates and destination of your booking without incurring a change fee, although you will need to pay any difference in price.

  • Cancel your booking and receive a voucher.

Vouchers can be used as payment, or part payment, for a future booking. Your new trip booked with your voucher must be fully completed by 30 September 2023 (departure and return). You will receive your voucher by email within seven days of your application.

More information on your available options are available on British Airway's website

Call British Airways directly on 0800 727 800 from within the UK, or +44 (0)203 250 0145 from abroad.

Contact centre opening hours are 08:00-20:00 Monday to Friday and 09:00-17:00 Saturday and Sunday.

easyJet

Latest update: 2 September 2021

easyJet are planning to operate as many flights as possible. To see what options are available to you and the latest changes, please visit easyJet's website.

COVID-19 help hub

Visit EasyJet's online Help Hub.

EasyJet Holidays

Visit EasyJet Holidays travel information webpage.

Jet2

Latest update: 2 September 2021

Flights and holidays with Jet2 have now restarted.

Please see the FAQs section on the Jet2 website for up-to-date information including cancellations and refunds.

Ryanair

Latest update: 2 September 2021

If you made a booking before 30 September 2021 for travel before 31 December 2021, you can change your flight without paying a flight change fee. Up to two flight date changes with zero flight change fee are permitted to either the outbound, return or both sectors dates or routes in the original booking; but flight changes must take place at least seven days before the original scheduled departure dates.

All flight changes can be made directly on Ryanair.com

Cancelled flights and refunds

If your flight is cancelled you can either apply for a refund or change your cancelled flight for free.

Further information

Visit Ryanair's refund help page for more information.

Other airlines

Eastern Airways

Eastern Airways have recommenced flights on specific routes from Belfast City Airport.

Flights have resumed from Belfast City to Southampton and to Cardiff.

Please note: All customer inquiries are via email only.

For more information visit Eastern Airways website

KLM

For a full list of your options, visit the KLM website.

Loganair

You can amend your booking using the online Manage Booking option. Please be advised that in some cases a fare difference may apply cost extra.

For the latest information visit the Loganair website.

TUI

FEE-FREE CHANGES POLICY 

The Fee-free changes policy is exetended to the end of April 2022, for package holiday, flight-only and accommodation-only customers. There is also a fee-free changes policy in place for Marella Cruises and TUI River Cruises customers and for destinations on the green watchlist.  

For more information visit the TUI website

Virgin Atlantic

Please vist virgin Atlantic’s website for the latest updates, Book flights with Virgin Atlantic.

Wizzair

Visit the Wizzair website for the latest updates.

Airport updates

Please contact the airport directly to ensure you have the latest information.

Belfast City Airport

Belfast City Airport became the first airport in Northern Ireland to achieve an airport health accreditation certificate by the Airports Council International (ACI) for its extensive COVID-19 safety measures.

Belfast City Airport recommends that consumers check directly with their airline or travel agent for questions about their travel plans. Cancelling, amending, or rescheduling your flight cannot be actioned at the airport.

Travel advice and information on COVID-19 can be found on the Belfast City Airport website.

Customers who need to avail of the Special Assistance Service

George Best Belfast City Airport has advised that new measures and facilities have been put in place for customers who avail of the Special Assistance Service. These guidelines are designed to adhere to the Government guidelines and social distancing rules during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

For further information George Best Belfast City Airport : Special Assistance website, or contact the airport via the telephone number or email address provided.

  • Assistance Desk- 028 9093 5247

Belfast International Airport

Belfast International Airport (BIA) has achieved its health accreditation certificate from the Airport Councils International (ACI). The award recognises industry best practise in relation to health and hygiene measures put in place as a response to Covid-19.

Visit the Gov.uk website for the latest restrictions. Please do not travel if you are feeling unwell and always follow the latest Government guidance regarding safer air travel.

Travel advice and information on COVID-19 can be found on the Belfast International Airport website.

City of Derry

Regular flight services from City of Derry Airport have resumed.

The City of Derry Airport is offering free airport parking to all NHS staff until the end of December 2021. For more information visit the City of Derry website.

The airport has introduced new health and safety measures, visit the City of Derry website to find out the new measures.

Dublin Airport

For information on safety measures that have been implemented throughout the airport and other travel advice visit the Dublin Airport website.

There are two COVID-19 testing facilities at the airport run by Randox and RocDoc. Tests must be booked in advance through the test provider.

Bus services are available from Belfast Europa Bus Centre to Dublin Airport – see the Translink website for timetables.

If the airline cancels my flight

If your flight is cancelled the airline must provide you with the option of a full cash refund payable within seven days or an alternative flight. These are your rights under EU Regulation 261 and apply even if you are stranded in another country.

Consumers are advised to be alert to all contact (emails/text/telephone calls) from their airline and to contact the airline if they have not heard anything.

In the current unprecedented circumstances airlines are struggling to fulfil this responsibility. Many airlines are saying that they are unable to process refunds within seven days and that consumers may have to wait a long time to get the refund.

As an alternative to a cash refund, many airlines are offering the option of vouchers that can be used to book flights in the future.

Some airlines are also offering vouchers if a passenger wants to cancel an existing booking. For more information on this situation see the section below: ‘If you do not want to or cannot travel but the flight has not been cancelled’.

Should I accept a voucher for my cancelled flight or insist on a refund?

Ultimately, this is a decision for you taking into consideration all of your own personal circumstances. In the current circumstances of the global pandemic there are many factors to consider, some of which are changing as the response to the pandemic changes.

The first thing to reiterate is that the law is absolutely clear that you are entitled to a cash refund if your flight is cancelled by the airline.

Currently the length of time airlines are taking to pay a refund varies but there is likely to be a considerable wait. So you should consider how important to you is getting a cash refund and crucially how urgently do you need it.

If you do apply for a cash refund and there is a delay, The Consumer Council can help. Call us on 0800 121 6022 or email at contact@consumercouncil.org.uk.

Before you accept a voucher, here are things you should check first

  • What are the terms of the vouchers you are being offered? Do they cover your needs in the long run?
  • Can the vouchers be redeemed for cash after a certain period? For example with Ryanair if you have not used the voucher after 12 months you can apply for cash refund, although this is not common practice.
  • How long are the vouchers valid for?
  • Is there any limit on the vouchers use?
  • Will you have to pay the difference if the new flight costs more and will you be able to use the difference if it is less?
  • Is there a financial incentive to take the voucher? For example Aer Lingus are adding 10% of the value of the booked flights to its vouchers.
  • Is there any mention of what will happen if the airline becomes insolvent? If it is not mentioned you will almost certainly not get your money back from the airline as there is no statutory insolvency scheme if you purchase an airline ticket from an airline or travel business and you receive a valid ticket in exchange for payment. For more information on your protection under the ATOL insolvency protection scheme visit the Civil Aviation Authority website. However you may be able to claim on your travel insurance if you have it, or through your credit card or debit card provider.
  • If you have travel insurance or are planning on buying some, check it covers for airline insolvency (the term is usually called Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance or End Provider Failure Insurance).

Before you accept a voucher, here are some things that are uncertain but you should keep in mind

Last updated: 2 September 2021.

  • Will there be government restrictions in place, whether in the UK or at a foreign destination, which may restrict your ability to travel at the new time that you want to book new flights using the voucher?
  • Will the airline still be flying to the original destination you had booked when it restarts its flights?
  • Will the cost of flights increase, as you will probably have to pay the difference?
  • Do you have any real concern that the airline may become insolvent between the time of accepting the voucher and taking the flight, as there is no statutory insolvency scheme if you purchase an airline ticket from an airline or travel business and you receive a valid ticket in exchange for payment. For more information on your protection under the ATOL insolvency protection scheme visit the Civil Aviation Authority website. However, you may be able to use your travel insurance or claim from your credit or debit card provider.

Vouchers currently being offered by the main airlines flying in and out of Northern Ireland:

Vouchers Information - Aer Lingus

Vouchers and refunds | Information | British Airways

Disruption Vouchers | easyJet

Speedy and smooth refunds | Jet2.com

Refund FAQs - Ryanair

Information correct as of 2 September 2021.

Fixed sum compensation

In normal circumstances, prior to the COVID 19 crisis, you would be entitled to compensation on top of a refund if your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before the flight was due to go. However, this was never payable when the cancellation is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. The CAA is the UK Aviation Regulator that enforces the EU Regulations on passenger rights. The view of the CAA is that COVID-19 is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and therefore the fixed sum compensation is not payable.

If you do not want to or cannot travel, but the flight has not been cancelled

You are not automatically entitled to a refund from your airline if you do not want to or cannot travel, but the flight has not been cancelled by the airline. This is the case even with the current UK FCO advice against all non-essential international travel, the current Northern Ireland Government restrictions on non–essential movement, and ongoing travel restrictions in other countries.

However, many airlines have made arrangements to waive the usual fees if you want to rebook at a later date or they may be offering vouchers for use at a later date as an alternative.

You should consider very carefully whether to accept an alternative booking or a voucher. You should consider the same issues around vouchers as described above in the ‘If the airline cancels my flight’ section and refer to the main Northern Ireland airline vouchers table at the bottom of that section. However there is also a very important difference between your rights when the airline cancels the flight and when you cancel the flight or simply do not travel.

The key difference is that if you do not accept a voucher or rebook and the flight goes ahead you will not be entitled to a refund and the airline can claim to have discharged its obligation to you and do not need to offer you a voucher after the event. Therefore you may not get either a flight or a refund from the airline.  

Furthermore, your travel insurance may not cover you for this. The Association of British Insurers says that travel insurance does not cover a ‘disinclination’ to travel. However, if UK government travel restrictions are still in place at the time of the flight your travel insurance is more likely to pay. You should the terms of your travel insurance carefully. For more information see the ‘Travel insurance’ section.

It is also not certain that you will be able to claim the money back from your credit card company (Section 75 of the Consumer Credit) or debit card provider under the Chargeback scheme.

CMA guidance

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued guidance on the 30 April 2020 (updated 28 August 2020), to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses treat their customers fairly. This states that a consumer can expect a refund where a consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services. The CMA has confirmed that this would apply in the case of flights.

You can use the CMA guidance to try to persuade the airline to refund you, or to persuade your credit or debit card provider to cover the cost of your flight.

The CMA also issued information about package holiday refunds and cancellations on 14 May 2021.

However, the CMA states this is its view on the law, but that only the courts can decide what the law is and that the CMA’s views are not a substitute for independent legal advice. More information is available on the Gov.uk website.

Air Passenger Duty Refund

If you choose not to travel and the ticket is non-refundable, you can claim back the Air Passenger Duty (APD) that was part of the cost of the ticket you purchased. APD is essentially a government tax on flights departing from the UK. Unfortunately, airlines often charge an administration fee to do so, and as the majority of flights from Northern Ireland attract the short haul lower rate of APD (£13 for one way flight), this may be more than the amount of the APD you will get back.

However, in the case of long haul flights from the UK, the rate of APD is much higher (£78), and therefore it is worthwhile claiming it back. However, there is no long haul APD charge for flights from Northern Ireland). You should contact your airline to do this.

Further Information

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is providing useful information for travellers who have had their plans affected. Read more on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

For more information on your general air passenger rights read our 'Plane Facts' guide.

 

Complaints about flights

The Consumer Council can help you with complaints about flights to and from Northern Ireland airports. If you are not happy with an airline’s response contact us here.

For complaints about flights from other UK airports you can escalate your complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body if your airline has signed up to one. If your airline does not belong to an ADR body you can refer your complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority. To find out if your airline belongs to an ADR or for further information visit the Civil Aviation Authority website.

For flights from the Republic of Ireland you can escalate a complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation if you are not satisfied with an airline’s response or you have not received a response within six weeks of making a complaint. Complaints can be raised on the flightrights website.

If your flight started in another EU country you need to contact the enforcement body for that country. For the contact details of national enforcement bodies visit the European Commission website.

Air Passenger Guidance for travel during the coronavirus outbreak

The Department for Transport has published passenger guidance for travelling by air when travel restrictions have been lifted. The guidance covers all aspects of the travel experience, from checking the public health requirements before booking a flight, to navigating the airport safely and boarding the flight or leaving the airport.

The full guidance is available on the GOV.uk website.

Travel insurance

To understand the risks in a country, including the latest COVID restrictions (including for entry), follow FCDO Travel Advice.

To prevent new COVID variants from entering the UK, the current advice is that you should not travel to red list countries.

The FCDO's advice is often the trigger for insurance cancellation cover, so you will be able to make a claim if you have that.

Further Government-imposed restrictions on travel, social distancing, quarantine, etc may also trigger insurance cancellation cover within the UK or abroad and your travel insurance policy may also cover non-refundable cancellation costs in specific circumstances.

Travel insurance is not designed to cover ‘disinclination to travel’ where there is no specific Government restrictions.

Many travel insurance providers have changed the terms of cover because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be sure what is covered you should check with your individual insurance provider.

Further information is available on the Association of British Insurers' website www.abi.org.uk

Which? has also produced useful information on the latest position with travel insurance that is available on www.which.co.uk

If my cruise, package holiday or holiday accommodation is cancelled

ATOL Protection

The UK and European law say your holiday must be protected if you book a package. ATOL is a UK financial protection scheme and protection applies to most air package holidays sold by UK travel businesses. The law says your holiday must be protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes:

  • flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or

  • flights and car hire, or

  • flights, accommodation and car hire.

The Government is protecting credit note refunds issued for ATOL-protected bookings that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning those who accept them will get their money back if the travel firm goes bust.

The Government will protect refund credit notes issued between 10 March 2020 and an end date yet to be announced (but which will be no later than September 2022). If you opt for a refund credit note, you can choose at any point up to 30 September 20221 to cash it in for a refund instead.

For those ATOL-protected holidaymakers whose trips have already been cancelled, this reform will give them the freedom to choose between a refund or a fully-protected refund credit note for use at a later date.

Package Travel Regulations
Your rights are protected under the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs). More information on PTRs can be found by clicking here.

Under the PTRs, if any element of your package holiday or cruise package is cancelled or significantly changed, then you have the right to request a full refund of any payments made towards your holiday. Your travel company may offer you vouchers to be redeemed against a future booking, however, you are entitled to request a full cash refund if you do not wish to accept vouchers.

More detailed information from ABTA on the current position with customers seeking refunds and with forward bookings is available on ABTA's website by clicking here 

Advice from ABTA and the recommended steps you should take

If your trip has been cancelled because of the change in FCO advice:

  • Talk in the first instance to your travel provider to discuss options.

If possible, postpone your holiday or travel arrangements, don’t cancel:

  • This will mean you have a holiday to look forward to in the future, and it will help your travel provider maintain its cash flow through the short-term challenges.

If you are not able to postpone:

  • Your travel provider may offer you a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund. This Refund Credit Note can be used to book another holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA/ ATOL if your original booking had that protection, so you would be reimbursed if the travel company failed financially.

Further details on Refund Credit Notes are below:

A Refund Credit Note (RCN) entitles you to rebook a holiday or receive a cash refund at a later date, up until the expiry date of the note. The expiry date lets you know when that company’s financial protection runs out. If you wish to receive a refund before the expiry date, you should make this clear to your travel provider.

  • Holiday vouchers are not the same as RCNs and do not come with the financial protection of ATOL or ABTA. RCNs only cover package holiday bookings. If an airline offers you a voucher for a cancelled flight, check the terms and conditions with the airline.
  • The value of the Refund Credit Note must be equal in value to the monies you have actually paid for the protected travel arrangements.
  • The Refund Credit Note must not include any other amount offered as a rebooking incentive or other offer.
  • Any such offers must be documented separately and are not covered by any scheme of financial protection.
  • The Refund Credit Note must expressly identify the original booking reference and attach a copy of the cancelled Booking Confirmation / Cancellation Invoice and, where appropriate, ATOL Certificate.

If your travel provider has said they will offer a cash refund:

  • Please be patient with them as they process this as they are likely to be dealing with an exceptionally high volume of enquiries.

If you have a travel booking for later in the year:

  • Please be patient. The situation is changing rapidly. You may incur cancellation charges or lose your deposit if you make a hasty decision.

If I want to cancel my cruise, package holiday or holiday accommodation

Whether you can recover your money and how depends on whether your trip is a package holiday or you booked separately flights and accommodation that combine to make up your holiday.

On the 18 March 2020 the European Commission issued the following advice

In the case of a package holiday, the EU Directive on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements  (the Package Travel Regulations), the traveller can cancel the trip without penalty if there are “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and significantly affecting the performance of the package, or which significantly affect the carriage of passengers to the destination” (Article 12(2) of the Package Travel Directive).

It goes onto say that ‘Unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances’ means a situation beyond the control of the party who invokes such a situation and the consequences of which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Significant risks to human health, such as the outbreak of a serious disease like the COVID-19 at the travel destination or its immediate vicinity usually qualify as such unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances.

The assessment of whether those circumstances significantly affect the performance of the package must be made on a case-by-case basis.  An official travel warning of national authorities is an important indicator that the package travel contract can be cancelled due to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances impacting the performance of the trip. This also applies where public authorities prohibit certain travels or ban the movement of persons in a manner that excludes, de facto, the package travel contract to be performed.

Example 1
If you have booked a city trip in form of a package to a city to which access is restricted or where public life is subject to significant limitations (e.g. closure of tourist attractions or museums), this should give you the right to cancel your trip.

Example 2
If you or an accompanying family member have a medical condition for which exposure to the COVID-19 is particularly dangerous, you should have the right to cancel your package travel contract if the risk of contamination with COVID-19 at the travel destination or its immediate vicinity is declared high by the competent authorities when such increased risk significantly affects the performance of the package for the traveller(s). Such a case may also be covered by your travel insurance.

Hence, it would have to be assessed whether travellers can reasonably be expected to travel to the destination(s) in light of the risk to their health and life. A subjective feeling of fear would not be sufficient. 

If you are not covered by the Package Travel Regulations

You are not automatically entitled to a refund from your travel operator if you want to cancel your booking.

You need to check the cancellation Terms and Conditions of your booking as some consumers will have opted for free cancellation or partial refund.

You may be reliant on your travel operator’s goodwill if you want to arrange an alternative holiday or rebook at a later date, but many travel operators have made arrangements to waive the usual fees if you want to rebook at a later date or they may be offering vouchers for use at a later date. You should contact the travel operator and see what they can do for you.

In Northern Ireland, the body that enforces the Package Travel Regulations is the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service. If you wish to make a complaint about holidays you can do so online at Consumerline; by telephone on 0300 123 6262 from 9am-5pm Mon-Thurs and 9am-4pm Fri, or email: consumerline@economy-ni.gov.uk.

If you have booked car hire

Check the individual websites for opening hours/locations and refund policies:

Avis
Enterprise

Europcar
Hertz
Sixt

Cancelling travel plans in the UK

Which? has provided information if you wish to cancel rail, coach or ferry journeys within the UK, which you can access by visiting www.which.co.uk

Passports

British Passports 

If you are applying for a new British passport, or need to renew your existing one, the Passport Office has advised you should allow 10 weeks for this to be processed. 

Click here to apply online for a British passport

Irish Passports 

Public Offices in Dublin and Cork are closed to the public.

Passport Online is the fastest way to get an Irish passport.

Click here to visit the Department of Foreign Affair's website for the latest news on Irish passports. 

Further Information 

Click here to visit the NI Direct website that contains further information on passports.  

Accessible Travel NI

Imtac runs a website called Accessible Travel NI, which lists information about accessible travel and transport in Northern Ireland. During the current COVID-19 crisis, the site also provides updates about changes to transport and travel.

For more information call 028 9072 6020 or visit www.accessibletravelni.org

Community transport in Northern Ireland

Disability Action Transport Services have resumed passenger transport activities since 1 July 2020.   Some Community Transport providers are offering new Collection & Deliver and Transport services to both members and non-members during this time.

Information on Community transport and shopmobility schemes is available at Community transport and shopmobility schemes | nidirect

Coach Travel to and from Northern Ireland

Hannon Coach
Northern Ireland-based bus firm Hannon Coach have resumed services on its Belfast to Glasgow route. Visit the Hannon Coach website for more information.

Eamonn Rooney Coach Hire
Newry to Belfast service is in operation. Visit the Eamonn Rooney Coach Hire website for the latest timetable information.

Aircoach services to Dublin
Aircoach's 705X (Dublin City – Belfast via Dublin Airport) is in operation. . Please see the Aircoach website for more information.

Translink Dublin Service
It is important that customers book their travel in advance to secure a seat. Bookings can be made via Translink Contact Centre by telephone on 028 90 66 66 30
or online at
 www.translink.co.uk

 

Ferries

Please check directly with your ferry operator to ensure you have the latest information.

P&O Ferries

P&O are continuing to sail on their routes from Dover, Hull, Cairnryan, and Liverpool in line with the Government’s travel advice, and will notify passengers in the event that there are any changes. Please check the website for the latest information.

Where passenger services are cancelled due to border/route closures all ticket types will be eligible for a refund. The current UK Lockdown/Covid-19 Test Requirements are not considered a border closure, for guidance on how to change your bookings a result of a national lockdown please see the website.

If you are unsure about travelling for any reason they will hold the price of your ticket as a credit against a future booking of the same ticket type (you can rebook and future travel (using the credit) must be completed by 30th September 2022).  If you are travelling on any P&O routes up to and including 30th September 2021 you can make your claim via the online form.

Please note, in line with government advice, it is now a requirement that all passengers wear a facial covering when travelling on public transport, including ferries. You will also need to complete a Passenger Health Locator form when travelling to the UK. Please ensure that you read the government’s latest advice before you travel.

Further information:
More information can be found www.poferries.com/en/coronavirus

Stena Line Ferries

Stena Line ferries are reporting that freight and passenger sailings are still operational.

All Stena Line passengers will be required to wear face masks or face coverings whilst in their ports and onboard the vessels when travelling on its the Irish Sea and the North Sea routes. A number of additional safety requirements are in place including additional hand sanitising stations, changes to food service, closure of kids play areas, closure of saunas, encouraging of card payments, and more. For the full of safety measures on-board, embarking/disembarking and at terminals, see https://www.stenaline.com/sail-safe/

More information can be found at https://www.stenaline.co.uk/faqs/coronavirus-advice

Rathlin Island Ferries Ltd (RIFL)

Services are operational with the following precautions in place:

  • Face coverings are required on public transport for passengers 13years +
  • The Ferry Terminal remains closed to public access, there are no sheltered waiting facilities.
  • Public Toilets are located at the rear of the carpark beside the Ferry Terminal, these facilities are operated by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council.
  • For up to date information on the businesses on Rathlin, check out the community website at: http://rathlincommunity.org/

RIFL will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and should they feel the need to reduce sailings or capacity in the interest of Health & Safety they will publish changes to our website and Facebook page. They aim to provide a minimum 24 hour notice of any change.

For bookings and further information visit Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. – The only ferry from NI to Rathlin Island (rathlinballycastleferry.com)

 

Carlingford Ferry

The ferry service has resumed. For further information on their sailing times see visit carlingfordferry.com/sailing-status/

Lough Foyle Ferry (Greencastle)

The ferry is currently operating as normal. For further information please visit loughfoyleferry.com/sailing-status

Steam Packet Company (Isle of Man)

This service has resumed.

Amendments and cancellations of bookings for travel affected by Government imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions may be made in accordance with Steam Packet Company's Book with Confidence Commitment. Learn more here www.steam-packet.com

Strangford Lough Ferry

The ferry is operating a full timetable. For further information visit Strangford Ferry timetable.

Taxis

Please check directly with the taxi companies to ensure you have the latest information.

Fonacab

Please visit the Fonacab website for more information.

West Belfast Black Taxis

The black taxi service has restarted and all taxis have been fitted with sanitation stations and Perspex screens. Taxis will now take a maximum of four passengers instead of the usual six.

Value Cabs

Value Cabs is running a reduced taxi service but is still operating 24/7. Value Cabs is operating with a reduced number of drivers, therefore pick up times may be increased.

Value Cabs have implemented a few changes for operating 24/7 throughout COVID-19:

  • Only two passengers are allowed per journey. Both have to be seated in the rear of the vehicle
  • Touch points on vehicles are cleaned between journeys
  • Protective screens have been fitted to 70% of its working fleet
  • Vehicles specifically fitted with a screen can be requested

Further information is available on www.valuecabs.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19.

Travel organisation contact details

Click on the relevant travel company below to view a contact phone number and website.

Aer Lingus

Aircoach

Customer service: 028 9033 0655

Website: https://www.aircoach.ie/help/contact-us

British Airways

Customer service: 0344 493 0787

Website: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/help-and-contacts

 

 

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

Customer service: 0300 303 2800

Website: https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/Newsroom/COVID-19/

 

Eastern Airways

Customer service: 0870 366 9100

Website: https://www.easternairways.com/contact

EasyJet

Customer service: 0330 365 5000

Website: https://www.easyjet.com/en/help/contact

Hannon Coaches

Customer service: +44 (0)28 92 650700

Website: https://hannoncoach.com/contact-us/

Jet2

Customer service: 0333 300 0042

Website: https://www.jet2.com/en/contact-us

KLM

Loganair

Customer service: 0344 800 2855

Website: https://www.loganair.co.uk/contact-us/

Ryanair

Customer service: 0330 1007 838

Website: https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en/useful-info/help-centre

P&O Ferries

For the latest information visit the P & O website.

Customer service: 08716 64 2121

Freight enquiries: +44 (0) 1304 44 88 88

Website: http://www.poferries.com/en/contact

 

 

StenaLine

For the latest information visit the Stena Line website.

  • General Reservations & Enquiries 03447 707 070
  • Ferrycheck 08705 755 755
  • Freight - Commercial Vehicles over 6.0m 08450 704 000 / 08708 503 535

Website: https://www.stenaline.co.uk/customer-services

Translink

Customer service: 028 90 66 66 30

Website: https://www.translink.co.uk/feedback

TUI

Customer service: 0203 451 2688

Website: https://www.tui.co.uk/destinations/contact-us

Virgin Atlantic

Customer service: 0344 874 7747

Website: https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/contact-us.html

Wizzair

Customer service: 0905 707 0000*

*Be aware there is a call charge of £1.45 per minute

Website: https://wizzair.com/en-gb/information-and-services/contact/contact-us

Holiday at Home Voucher Scheme

The Holiday at Home Voucher Scheme which will allow Northern Ireland households to claim back 50% off a stay of two nights or more in certified accommodation, up to the value of £100.

Vouchers will also be issued, offering 50% off visits to attractions or tourism experience providers, up to the value of £20.  Vouchers will be allocated on a first come first served basis and each household can apply for one of each type of voucher.  Households can then claim their voucher money back by uploading their receipt and voucher details online.

The scheme will be launched in the autumn to drive demand after the summer season.

Caravans

Caravan and camping sites are now open with some restrictions in place. The latest information on caravan travel is available on the NIDirect website.

The future of foreign travel in Northern Ireland

Should I book a holiday from Northern Ireland? What does the future of foreign travel look like? Richard Williams, Head of Transport at The Consumer Council, spoke to Belfast International Airport and ABTA about the future of foreign travel for consumers in Northern Ireland in March 2021. Watch the video below.