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What impact is coronavirus having on travel and leisure?

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The lockdown is being gradually eased, but travel bans are still in place and most flights have been canceled. Many fitness and yoga studios, swimming pools and hotels are still closed in order to stem the spread of coronavirus. Who assumes the cost of planned trips or ongoing contracts in cases like these?

The experts from AXA-ARAG have the answers to the most important questions concerning travel and leisure during the coronavirus crisis. 

My trip to Italy was canceled due to the travel ban. What are my rights?

You are entitled to claim a refund or rebook if the airline or travel agent cancels the flight due to the travel ban. However, this does not apply if you cancel the flight yourself. 

You do not have a claim for compensation from the airline or tour operator. The travel ban was caused by force majeure and could not have been prevented. The same also applies to event organizers or car rental companies at the destination. They can invoke the cancellation conditions in the contract. As the traveler, you bear the cost risk of a travel ban imposed by the authorities. 

I can’t travel to the Canary Island as planned. The hotel had to cancel my reservation due to the coronavirus outbreak. Will I get back the deposit I already paid months ago?

Yes. The hotel must refund your reservation fee. The hotel must cancel the contract and refund the amount it received from you. But contracts can also be interpreted differently. We therefore advise you to look for a solution with the hotel. For instance, you could postpone your stay or accept a credit voucher.

What does the US travel ban mean for my planned flight? Will I get my money back?

Since March 13, 2020, there has been a travel ban in the US for people from Europe - this was initially for 30 days, but it has been extended indefinitely. This ban also affects people who had stopped over in Europe 14 days before their planned trip to the US. 

If your flight is canceled by order of the authorities, the airline can no longer provide your service, i.e. it can’t operate the flight. In order to claim a refund on the flight ticket or to rebook, you should get in touch directly with the airline, your travel agent or travel insurer. In this instance, your chances of a refund are good.

And what if the airline cancels flights to other countries? 

If flights are canceled without an order from the authorities, we recommend that you contact your airline, travel agent, travel insurer or your portal for passenger rights directly to check whether you can claim a refund of the ticket price or are entitled to rebook. 

I booked a package tour to the US which was canceled due to the travel ban. What are my rights under the travel contract?

A package tour includes the combination specified in advance of  at least two of the following services: Transport, accommodation and other tourist services. These services must be offered at an all-in price, last for longer than 24 hours or include at least one overnight stay. 

If you booked your package tour in Switzerland, it is governed by the the Federal Package Travel Act (PTA). In this instance, you have the following options: 

  1. Participation in another equivalent or higher-value package tour if the organizer or agent can offer this kind of trip
  2. Participation in another less expensive package tour and refund of the price difference
  3.  Refund of all amounts that you’ve paid

If it’s unclear whether your trip will take place, we recommend that you contact the travel agent or airline directly. Many airlines such as Swiss have set up dedicated hotlines. Important: You will lose your claims if you cancel the flight yourself.

A concert was canceled due to the national emergency. Who will bear the cost of my tickets? 

If your concert was canceled by order of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) or another authority, the organizer does not normally have to refund the ticket costs. The organizer's General Terms and Conditions (GTC) usually contain clauses explaining rights and obligations in the event of an epidemic. 

However, if the organizer itself decides that the event cannot go ahead    without an official order from the authorities , it must refund the ticket price. If you do not wish to attend the event for personal reasons e.g. for fear of infection, you cannot reclaim the purchase price. 

Consult ticketcorner.ch/campaign/covid-19/ to find out which events have been canceled and whether the organizer is refunding ticket prices. 

I booked train tickets and hotel accommodation to get to the concert. What about a refund here?

The refund of your costs for booking hotels, public transport or even hire cars is legally unrelated to cancellation of the concert. As the customer here, you bear the price risk: You must meet these costs yourself if the hotel or public transport does not accommodate you by offering you an alternative such as another date or a credit voucher – or even by refunding the purchase price in full. 

We recommend that you read the terms and conditions of cancellation carefully. Many hotels offer free cancellation options up to 24 hours prior to arrival or cancellation fees. Check the contractual terms and conditions of your travel or travel cancellation insurance if you took out this type of insurance.

My fitness studio had to close due to the coronavirus crisis. What happens to my annual membership now?

Some fitness studios have specified in their GTC what counts as an official closure order. If this is not the case in your contract, you can contact your fitness studio for a solution.

Essentially, if the fitness studio cannot provide the service, you do not have to pay for this period. Given the current situation, the fitness studio does not owe you any compensation. However, you can, for example, ask to extend your membership by the period for which the studio was closed. Or claim a pro rata refund based on the number of months for which you were unable to train.

Many studios are coming up with creative online offers in this crisis situation to reach out to their customers and retain their loyalty. In legal terms, these offers are not a substitute for the contractually agreed service. But those accepting them and not extending their membership or accepting the pro rata refund may help protect providers against financial ruin.

I’ve booked ballet lessons for my daughter that now cannot take place. Will I get a refund for the fees I’ve already paid?

In purely legal terms, if your child’s ballet teacher cancels lessons or is forced to do so by order of the authorities, he or she must refund any payments made, unless otherwise provided for in the contract.

But the very existence of small dance schools, fitness studios or other cultural establishments is at great risk from the coronavirus crisis. As a result, many customers who can afford it are currently still paying the membership fees out of solidarity.

My son’s swimming club is no longer offering training, but I’ve already paid for the whole year. Who will bear the costs?

Training sessions in swimming, gymnastics or football clubs cannot take place at the moment due to coronavirus. You must assume that the swimming club does not have to reimburse membership fees.

An association is not a profit-based business. The membership fee is not linked to a specific service unless this is stated in the association’s statutes. You therefore cannot simply set aside the fees if certain services are canceled by the club for a specific period.

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Am I allowed to drive my car or ride my motorcycle if I’m ill with coronavirus?

Essentially, you must be in control of your vehicle to enable you to exercise due care and attention. This is taken to mean overall physical and mental capabilities which, in addition to driving a car, also include a reserve capacity that enables you to react accordingly in difficult traffic situations, such as when a dog runs into the street. In short: You must be fit to drive. 

Narcotics and other medical factors can reduce a driver’s fitness to drive. According to information from the FOPH, the most common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, a cough and breathing difficulties. These may vary considerably. Every car driver must themselves decide whether or not they are fit to drive before they set off. People are expressly advised not to drive if they have a high fever or feel dizzy. If you nevertheless get behind the wheel and cause an accident in the worst case scenario, you must expect imprisonment or a fine (if there are no previous offenses) and confiscation of your driving license for three months.

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