Travel, accommodation, and event cancellations

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Cancellations because of COVID-19

If your travel or event plans have been cancelled because of  COVID-19, it’s important to know what you’re entitled to when it comes to refunds, credits and other options.

Getting a refund if you have to cancel because of COVID-19

Businesses should have clear terms and conditions of sale and refund policies in place. It’s important to check these because they can vary from business to business. They are usually included in the booking confirmation you received or on the business’ website. In most cases they will be clear about whether you are entitled to: 

  • a full or partial refund
  • a full or partial credit note
  • re-book later. 

For travel and accommodation, if you purchased flights and accommodation separately, each purchase may have different terms and conditions and refund policies that apply.

A booking could become a ‘frustrated contract’ if it is impossible to perform or carry out the contract due to events beyond the control of all parties.

In such a case you have the right to a refund but the business or service provider may be entitled to deduct reasonable costs they have already incurred.

Not every situation will involve a frustrated contract, so you may still have to go ahead with a booking, possibly with changes. COVID-19 and public health restrictions such as lock-downs are now a known risk and many contracts and refund policies now take COVID-19 into account. This means cancelling due to COVID-19 related restrictions may not be a ‘frustrated contract’. This is why you will need to check the terms and refund policy of your purchase. 

If you’re not satisfied or the policies are unclear, contact the business to explain why and try to negotiate a result that you would prefer. 
If you paid by debit or credit card for services that were not provided, in some situations you can ask your bank to reverse the payment. This is called a chargeback.
See more information about chargebacks.

Check any insurance policies that:

  • were included as part of the purchase itself
  • you purchased separately (Travel insurance, for example)
  • may be activated by making the purchase with a particular credit card.  

Check any exclusions carefully, as many policies do not cover known events.

If you can’t reach an agreement with the business, you can consider applying to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to hear your case and make a decision. You may wish to seek independent legal advice first.  
See more information about going to VCAT

Postponing or cancelling a trip because of a natural disaster

If a natural disaster, such as a bushfire or flood, occurs in the area you plan to travel to and you need to postpone or cancel your trip, you have rights under the Australian Consumer Law.

There may also be other instances when you are required to leave an area, or are prevented from entering it in the first place, such as when:

  • the accommodation has been destroyed
  • access roads have been closed
  • the authorities have advised that the area is not safe to enter.

These are examples of a ‘frustrated contract’, which means it is impossible to perform or carry out the contract due to events beyond the control of all parties.

In such a case your contract obligations would be automatically extinguished. You have the right to a refund but the business or service provider is entitled to deduct reasonable costs they already incurred.

Not every situation will involve a frustrated contract, so you may still have to go ahead with a booking, possibly with changes.

If you have to cancel accommodation because of a flight disruption, contact your travel agent or accommodation provider as soon as possible to inform them of the situation and negotiate a refund or re-booking. You should also contact the provider of any other holiday bookings (for example, tours and car hire).

For further information, view the Tourism businesses page on our website.

People facing disruption or cancellation of their travel plans should contact their airline or other travel provider for the latest information.

Refunds and rescheduling of flights

Contact your airline prior to your flight date to check whether your flight has been delayed or cancelled. If it has, some airlines offer options including refunds and rescheduling.

Travel insurance claims

If you cannot resolve a dispute directly with your airline, accommodation provider or event organiser, contact your insurer. You should check the terms and conditions of your policy to see whether you are covered for individual circumstances.

Rental vehicle damage

If your hire car has been damaged during a disaster, you will need to check the rental car contract – it will include terms about damage and your liabilities.

Credit card deductions for damage should only be made after the hire company provides an itemised bill and a reasonable opportunity for you to dispute any charge.

Any insurance or excess fees you have paid in hiring the car will not fully cover you for damage – it will only reduce the amount you may have to pay if the car is damaged in your possession. This fee will limit your liability to a particular amount – usually between $3000 and $5000.

These ‘damage reduction’ options only reduce your liability in limited circumstances – often, you will not be covered for natural disasters.

If possible, take photographs of the car before you return it. Make sure you are present when it is inspected.

If you have booked the car through a travel agent, check whether your travel insurance covers any excess or damage.

How we can help

We cannot tell travel-related businesses, including airlines, how to manage their business but we can help resolve disputes. For more information, view our Resolve your problem or complaint page.

Travel insurance disputes can be referred to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678 and free legal advice is available from the Insurance Law Service on 1300 663 464.

If you paid with a credit card for services that were not provided, you may be able to claim a chargeback through your credit card provider. For more information, view our Chargeback page.