Lockdowns in Austria: can I get a refund on flights and hotels?

Female Finding Her Way On GPS While Wearing Anti Air Pollution Mask
How will Europe's lockdowns affect your holiday booking © Getty Images

What happens to your plans if your holiday destination is in lockdown? Austria is in that situation until December 13, Germany is considering a similar move, and the Netherlands is in a partial lockdown with venues like restaurants and bars closing early. Should you cancel your booking? Can you change your flight? Will you get a refund?

Europe is at the epicenter of the pandemic again and many nations have reimposed restrictions, with Austria going as far as imposing a nationwide lockdown and Germany likely to follow. For travelers, the situation is tricky. In Austria, for example, borders are open and flights are still permitted to enter even though tourists are essentially banned from traveling there.

If you've planned a European trip this winter and are having second thoughts as cases rise and travel advisories mount, here's what you need to know about cancelling your trip or rescheduling your flight.

A couple eat a snack at the closed Christmas market next to Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna
Non-essential businesses, including hotels, are closed in Austria © AFP/Getty Images

My hotel is closed, will I get a refund?

During Austria's nationwide lockdown, hotels are closed to people not currently staying there. Fortunately, the tourist board says that many establishments are offering guests "very accommodating cancellation conditions" in light of the current situation.

So if you have accommodation booked and you won't be able to check-in given the lockdown, you shouldn't lose out on any prepaid fees or charged penalties. That said, the tourist board warns "there are no nationwide regulations and each establishment determines its own terms, but free cancellation—often up until a few days prior to arrival—is not uncommon. Ask your hosts for the exact T&Cs."

Passengers wearing N95 face masks waiting in line at airport terminal
Borders are still open in Europe and flights are landing in destinations where restrictions have been tightened © izusek / Getty Images

Can I cancel or change my flight?

It depends on your airline's change policy. If your flight is cancelled, you'll be able to get a refund as per a European Union air-passenger protection law that requires EU-based carries to compensate customers for cancelled flights, unless those airlines can rebook passengers. But so far there have been no major disruptions to flight schedules in Europe. Not even in Austria, where flights have been landing despite the lockdown because borders are still open and airlines have not been forced to stop operations. According to the Austria Health Ministry, "travel is still possible."

However, should you feel uneasy about flying there, considering non-essential businesses are shut, Christmas markets and ski resorts are closed, and hotels are not accepting new guests, check your airline's cancellation and change of flight policies to see what options are available to you.

Most airlines, including Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Delta, Ryanair, Etihad, and KLM, offer customers a grace period of 24 hours after purchase in which to cancel their flight without incurring penalties (but usually only when the flight isn't scheduled to depart within the next seven days). When it comes to rebooking flights, policies vary across carriers but you can generally expect to pay for the change.

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