What should I do if I have a holiday booked to Italy?

Britons are being warned against all but essential travel to coronavirus-stricken Italy, in updated advice issued by the Government.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) amended its travel advice, citing the safety of Britons was the "number one priority".

The updated guidance comes after Italian authorities extended sweeping restrictions - placing the whole country on lockdown.

Here's a rundown of your rights if you have travel booked to Italy.

Tourists visit the Colosseum, in Rome as Itay's tourist hotspots see a drastic drop in visitors. Credit: AP
  • Can I cancel my trip to Italy over coronavirus?

Under the latest updated guidance, Britons with trips booked to Italy will be eligible for refunds as the FCO is now warning against such travel.

Consumer rights group Which? advises travellers to cancel their plans by getting in touch with their airline or the travel company they booked with.

The groups says customers "should get a full refund" but added consumers are not entitled to compensation as a travel advisory based on a disease outbreak falls under the "extraordinary circumstance" bracket.

Anyone imminently due to visit Italy on a package holiday should be offered alternative arrangements by their travel provider and a full refund if there are no suitable options.

If a tour operator refuses, customers may be entitled to compensation under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 regulations.

Travel trade organisation Abta said "it is too early" to say that summer holidays cannot go ahead as planned and added customers "may have to pay cancellation charges" if they cancel early.

Anyone who has booked flights or accommodation directly should contact their airline and accommodation provider to see what flexibility they are offering.

They should also check their travel insurance as it may cover non-refundable cancellation costs for trips to areas where the FCO is advising against all but essential travel.

BA has relaxed its policy on charging for changes to flight bookings. Credit: PA
  • How have the airlines responded?

Travellers might find they don't have a choice as a number of airlines are already cancelling flights to Italy anyway.

Ryanair has cancelled all international flights to and from Italy from Saturday until 9 April. Passengers who need to return home can switch to one of the flights operating up to the end of the day on Friday.

Affected passengers will be able to choose between a full refund or a travel credit that can be redeemed on Ryanair flights in the next 12 months.

A spokesperson issued an apology on behalf of the airline: "Ryanair apologises sincerely to all customers for these schedule disruptions, which are caused by national government restrictions and the latest decision of the Italian government to lock down the entire country to combat the Covid-19 virus."

Meanwhile British Airways cancelled all its flights to all Italian airports on Tuesday.

BA says it has introduced a "flexible change policy" on all of its flight and holiday bookings to any destination - it will not charge a fee to change flights on all new bookings made from 3 March to 16 March 2020.

EasyJet has grounded most of its flights to and from northern Italy but is continuing to serve locations such as Milan, Venice and Bologna. It is advising customers who do not want to fly that they would only be due a refund of "any government tax you may have paid".

In a statement, easyJet said: "Following restrictions implemented by the Italian authorities, easyJet is now in the process of cancelling all of its existing scheduled flights touching Italy between 10 March and 3 April 2020. We will be operating some rescue flights in the coming days. We are advising affected customers of their options by email and SMS which includes the option of rebooking or requesting a refund.

“We will be operating rescue flights for passengers wishing to travel for essential, work, health or repatriation reasons to and from Italy. Rescue flights will be listed on our Latest Travel Information section of the website and customers can book onto these flights via our contact centre or by arriving at the airport as early as possible on the day of departure.”

Travel group TUI says it is contacting people due to travel to Italy up to 3 April to discuss an amendment or full refund, while airline Jet2 has cancelled all its flights to Italy from Tuesday until 26 April.

A coronavirus information board at Heathrow when the virus was initially breaking out in Wuhan, China. Credit: PA

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

  • What if I am already in Italy and want to return home?

The FCO website says British nationals are still able to depart Italy without restriction - airports remain open throughout the country.

It warns, however, that schedules are subject to change and some flights have been cancelled.

Travellers are being advised to check with their airline or travel company.

The Foreign Office has also said that anyone who returns from Italy should self-isolate for 14 days, whether they are showing symptoms of Covid-19 or not.

A passenger leaving from Milan Central railway station signs a release form as two soldiers stand by. Credit: AP

A number of airlines have reduced or cancelled flights out of Italy and have placed varying time frames within which customers need to rebook by.

Travellers should consult their airline about potential changes to their scheduled flights.

Under European Union legislation, air passengers have guaranteed rights for delays and cancelled flights that depart from an EU airport, regardless of their citizenship.

These are enshrined in law for flights departing UK airports until the end of the Brexit transition period, which ends at the end of 2020.

A number of airlines have cancelled their flights to and from Italy. Credit: PA
  • What about other destinations? Can I claim compensation because of the coronavirus?

Eligibility for refunds very much depends on the latest FCO advice for that country or area.

Britons not wishing to travel because of concerns over the virus outbreak will not be covered by most travel insurance companies and so would not be able to claim costs back.

Only if the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to an area, can a trip be cancelled and money refunded.

Which? says those who no longer wish to travel are reliant on goodwill from the travel agent or airline to help them reorganise, postpone or cancel plans entirely over.

Many cruise passengers are being offered refunds or rebooked voyages for trips that have been cancelled because of the outbreak.