Package travelers can demand money back because of Corona
Created: 01/12/2023 15:13
With a police barrier tape, access to a bathing area on the island of Mallorca is blocked due to the corona pandemic.
© Clara Margais/dpa
Holiday booked, but nothing is as planned on site because of Corona?
This is probably how many felt in spring 2020.
Now the ECJ has made a vacationer-friendly decision.
Luxembourg – pool and beach closed, food in the room, curfews – the corona measures could spoil the holiday quite a bit.
But are package travelers allowed to ask for their money back under certain circumstances?
Yes, says the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and is clearly on the side of package holidaymakers.
The background to Thursday's verdict is a case from Germany.
The two plaintiffs booked a two-week trip to the Canary Islands for March 2020.
Two days after their arrival, the beaches there were closed due to the corona pandemic and a curfew was imposed.
Access to pools and loungers was forbidden in the hotel, and the animation program was completely stopped.
The trip ended after seven days - so much earlier than planned.
The plaintiffs then only wanted to pay 30 percent of the price for the vacation.
The tour operator refused on the grounds that he did not have to take responsibility for such a "general life risk".
The two then complained to the Munich Regional Court.
Package vacationers well secured
Under EU law, holidaymakers are entitled to a price reduction if the trip is not performed as contracted - unless the tour operator can prove that the problem was with the traveller.
Travelers who book flights and accommodation on their own are generally not as well protected as package holidaymakers.
The same rules don't apply to them.
The ECJ should now clarify whether the Corona measures on Gran Canaria violated the agreed booking.
The Luxembourg judges are now making the tour operators responsible: Corona measures can be against the contract concluded at the time of booking.
The tour operators would have to be liable for this, regardless of whether the problems could be attributed to them.
The Munich Regional Court must now decide whether the blocked pool, the lack of animation or the lack of access to the beach are reasons for a reduction and how high the amount is.
Tour operators criticized the verdict on Thursday as unrealistic.
"In the exceptional situation of a pandemic, general life risks cannot be largely outsourced to travel providers," said Torsten Schäfer from the German Travel Association of the dpa.
"Here, the European Court of Justice should have exercised more judgment instead of making a unilateral decision to the detriment of travel providers - especially since state pandemic-related fundamental rights restrictions also applied at the place of residence." Exactly this point, namely that similar corona restrictions applied at the same time at the home place, according to the ECJ, however, does not play a role.
On the other hand, the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia welcomed the decision as a positive verdict for consumers.
It's not the first time a court has looked into travelers' rights during the pandemic.
So far, many proceedings have revolved around questions of resignation.
Especially in the first few months of Corona, holidaymakers canceled their bookings out of fear of infection and were sometimes left with high cancellation costs.
The courts recently judged differently whether such costs are justified in view of the circumstances.
The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled in the summer of the case of an 84-year-old with lung problems.
She was therefore allowed to withdraw from a Danube cruise in June 2020 at short notice and did not have to pay any cancellation costs.
In another case, however, the Karlsruhe judges involved the ECJ.
This is about which point in time is decisive for a free withdrawal - and what role a travel warning plays, for example.
A verdict is still pending here.