10

I've got a round-trip flight with Royal Air Maroc from Strasbourg, France (SXB) to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (OUA) on Monday, Nov 10. Return is on Dec 1. The recent turmoils in Ouagadougou have led the US Department of State for Travels to issue a travel warning, which is why I'd like to refrain from the trip.

Any chance I can get a reimbursement for my tickets? In Germany (where I live), an official travel warning can help you get a refund when you book a trip with a tour operator/travel agency, but in this case I booked the flight directly with a non-German airline, so German law surely doesn't apply here.

EDIT: Sorry for failing to state this earlier, but I had already called the airline as suggested in the answers. They had told me it's not possible to get a refund with my standard fare. However, I understand that sometimes you really have to bargain to get a refund, so I wanted to learn about similar experiences and possibly about some hard (legal) facts that I could bring forward.

  • I think your only option is to call the airline and ask them. If a refund is not available you could re-book for a much later date and keep that trip on hold. – JoErNanO Nov 6 '14 at 11:22
  • 2
    If you do call them, please do post the result of the call, it could be very useful to others. – Mark Mayo Nov 6 '14 at 11:28
  • 1
    Given that the travel warning from the US State Department states that "Currently, land and air borders have been closed" it appears that flights to Burkina Faso are currently not possible. How that affects a possible refund is open to interpretation. – Bob Jarvis Nov 6 '14 at 14:00
  • 1
    Travel insurance sometimes covers situations like this - though they often exclude the most plausible or serious scenarios for needing it. – user568458 Nov 6 '14 at 15:30
  • hmm, if you're legally restricted from flying due to no fault of your own (so, you're not in prison or under house arrest), they might have a legal requirement to refund. But that'd be legal advise, best contact a lawyer about that. – jwenting Nov 7 '14 at 7:22
11

Refunds for Refundable Tickets Only

I checked the legal notice of Royal Air Maroc. The pdf of the notice can be downloaded here, enjoy the read.:)

The conditions to get a refund depend on your ticket fare. If you bought a refundable ticket then you can get a refund. If not you can't. This is very common amongst airlines: they don't care the reason for your cancellation, they just check the fare.

Having said this I did not find anything regarding cancellation on the grounds of the destination country currently being considered "not safe" for tourist. You could assume that if things escalate, the airline itself will refuse to fly passengers there, and wait for them to cancel the flight. At which point you would get a refund as per the legal notice. Or you could (read: should) call the airline and ask them.

Force Majeure

The legal notice says that non-refundable tickets might be refunded in case of impossibility of travelling due to Force Majeure:

Art. III, Par. 1 (e):

If a Passenger possesses a Ticket, as described in paragraph (d) above [partially or non-refundable tickets], which they have not used and if it is impossible for them to travel for reasons of Force Majeure, as defined in Article I, the Carrier shall credit the Passenger for the amount of their non-refundable Ticket, for a subsequent journey and subject to reasonable administrative fees, provided that the Passenger informs the Carrier as soon as possible prior to the date of the light and provides proof of such instance of Force Majeure.

The definition of Force Majeure provided in the legal notice is:

Force Majeure

means circumstances that are external to the party citing them and that are abnormal and unpredictable, the consequences of which could not have been avoided despite all the care and attention exercised.

I fear this is typical legalese meaning everything and nothing at the same time. Sounds to me like bottom line is that the airline reserves the right to decide what Force Majeure is, and what it's not.

In your specific case I think it would be possible for them to argue that since it's safe for their crew to fly, it's safe for you too. IMHO force Majeure would be an illness, sudden death, or such circumstances which you really cannot predict and definitely disallow you to travel.

  • Thanks! Would you please share your thoughts on Article III.1, paragraph (e)? It says that in cases of Force Majeure, the carrier shall refund the amount of a non-refundable ticket. I believe my situation applies to the definition of Force Majeure in Article I. – joko Nov 6 '14 at 12:38
  • @joko I added a part on force majeure citing the definition. However I fear this does not give you an extra edge. – JoErNanO Nov 6 '14 at 13:07
  • 3
    @joko: Sorry, but merely being worried about involvement in political turmoil is far away from the common conception of "force majeure". The US travel alert is just an advice to defer non-essential travel. The German travel alert for Burkina Faso just recommends travelers to be in a state of increased attention. You are right that an absolute travel warning from the German foreign ministry gives you the right to cancel flights, but a German partial travel warning with the same wording as the US alert (avoid non-essential travel) would not have given you any special rights either. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 6 '14 at 13:23
  • 1
    "absolute travel warning from the German foreign ministry gives you the right to cancel flights" <- why would a Moroccan airline flying from France to Burkina Faso care about a German travel warning? – jpatokal Nov 6 '14 at 21:47
  • 1
    @jpatokal if the ticket were purchased through a German office of theirs or one of their partners, they may well be legally required to care. – jwenting Nov 7 '14 at 7:24
12

As a rule of thumb, travel warnings do not give you any "right" to a refund directly from an airline. However, as a courtesy, some (better) airlines will let you cancel or change flights for free at their own discretion, eg. Singapore Airlines waived charges during the May 2014 coup in Thailand, so it's definitely worth calling up and asking. And if the excrement hits the rotary ventilator to such an extent that the airlines start canceling flights, you are of course entitled to a full refund.

It's also worth noting that most travel insurance policies will not cover any costs associated with political unrest, although a few (random example: Virgin Money) will cover costs incurred if you're already in the country when the trouble starts and before the warning was issued.

But if the airline is still flying, and you choose not to fly, that's too bad as far as the insurance is concerned. Of course, if you choose to fly and get beaten up by a mob, the insurance company will also claim you did so willingly despite the travel warning, and are thus not entitled to anything. Great line of business innit?

  • Thanks for the answer. I had been thinking of buying a travel insurance for this trip but eventually decided not to because of the restrictions you mentioned. Yeah probably worth entering a career in insurance business. – joko Nov 6 '14 at 12:34
  • "But if the airline is still flying, and you choose not to fly, that's too bad as far as the insurance is concerned." Not necessarily. If your insurance will not cover you because of a travel warning, then it is often the case you can cite the "unable to travel" section in your insurance and get a reimbursement on the flights, hotel etc. "My insurance will not cover me" can be a reasonable excuse. – Crazymoomin May 5 '16 at 14:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.