Travelers from Czechia: Are you entitled to compensation for a holiday disrupted by fire?

Czechia's Ministry of Local Development has released a set of guidelines informing consumers of their travel rights during travel agency holidays. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 27.07.2023 14:00:00 (updated on 28.07.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

In response to the wildfires currently ravaging the Mediterranean, the Czech Ministry of Local Development (MMR) has issued a comprehensive guide to compensations outlining the rights and responsibilities of tourists and travel agencies. The MMR says that while travel agencies have no legal obligation to cancel their tours, consumers are most definitely entitled to compensation if their trip is disrupted.

According to the MMR, travel agencies must provide a reasonable discount (or compensation) for the unused portion of the trip to clients on tours that have only partially been fulfilled and disrupted due to fires. If a tour is disrupted, tourists are encouraged to promptly report the issue to the organizer. Travelers can then demand full reimbursement from the agency if no alternative travel or accommodation options are provided.

Holiday disrupted? You may be eligible for compensation

Regarding transportation, if unforeseen circumstances (such as wildfires) prevent a return home, the agency must cover accommodation costs for up to three nights or alternative travel. People with disabilities or pregnant women are all entitled to compensation for a longer period of time.

These legal provisions also apply to cases where clients are just about to enter fire-affected areas. "If the travel agency itself does not cancel a tour [to a risky area], then the customer has the right to withdraw from the tour contract and the organizer is obligated to return the funds in full," Eduarda Hekšová of consumer-advice magazine dTest says in ČT24. This only applies to areas that are directly impacted by the fires.

The MMR also says that travel agencies cannot charge any cancellation fees when clients withdraw due to “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances in the destination or immediate vicinity” that significantly affect the tour or transportation. This includes local authorities' evacuation measures and hotel closures due to fires. 

Alternative options must be offered

The MMR also noted that “in instances of substantial flaws [of the service provided],” travel agencies are obligated to offer alternative solutions, such as comparable or superior accommodations without extra cost. This could apply if consumers opt to go on a tour to a risky region, and quality of service is disrupted.

ČT24 reported earlier this week that Czech travel agencies were offering clients scheduled to fly to the northern part of Rhodes changes to their itinerary free of charge. According to the vice chairman of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Czech Republic Jan Papež, agencies are, however, under no obligation to cancel tours even if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a recommendation not to travel to a wildfire-affected region. 

The MMR also noted that, if the tour is still being offered, a simple "fear" of the wildfires is usually not enough reason to receive compensation if the customer will be away from the epicenter of the fires.

Individuals with self-purchased tickets facing cancellations due to fire incidents may seek refunds or alternative flights based on seat availability. In the latter case, the airline must provide necessary care, such as refreshments or accommodation. Flight cancellations due to fires will also be compensated in the form of alternative flight dates or refunds, as long the airline is European.

In cases where accommodation is separately booked, the withdrawal process is governed by the laws of the relevant country or the booking portal's terms and conditions.

The Czech Trade Inspection Authority can also step in to help consumers receive compensation if a travel agency rejects any claim on unreasonable grounds.

By understanding these rights and obligations, the MMR hopes that tourists can make informed decisions during these challenging times of Mediterranean fires and be assured of their rights to compensation or alternative travel.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more