Risk areas, entry bans, quarantine requirements: the pandemic has upset many people’s vacation plans. The organizer is not always accommodating. Right?

A man cancels a package tour at the beginning of the pandemic, a little later it becomes impossible anyway – does he still have to pay cancellation fees? The judges of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) will examine this on Tuesday (9:00 a.m.).

So far there has been no Supreme Court judgment on the rights of travelers in the event of a cancellation due to the pandemic.

The plaintiff had booked a trip to Japan with a Munich tour operator for more than 6,000 euros, which was to take place from April 3rd to 12th, 2020. On March 1, he withdrew from the trip due to the worsening Corona situation and paid 25 percent cancellation costs, just under 1540 euros, as contractually agreed. An entry ban was issued for Japan at the end of March. So the man wants the money back.

According to the law, the customer can withdraw from his booking at any time – but the tour operator is entitled to “reasonable compensation”. There is only a right to free cancellation “if unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances occur at the destination or in its immediate vicinity that significantly affect the implementation of the package tour or the transport of people to the destination”. Is that the case here?

restrictions foreseeable

At the end of February 2020, the large amusement parks in Japan had to close, all major events were canceled and schools were supposed to close by at least the beginning of April. For the Munich district court, further restrictions were foreseeable on March 1st – it sentenced the tour operator to repay the money.

The Munich I Regional Court saw it differently, which allowed the provider’s appeal: At that time there was no travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office for Japan and no risk assessments from the Robert Koch Institute or the World Health Organization. And the precautionary closures and cancellations could have brought something.

The highest civil judges at the BGH now have the last word. It is unclear whether they will announce their verdict on Tuesday after the trial or at an extra date. (Az. X ZR 53/21)

The decision should create clarity for those first affected, but by no means for everyone. The consumer centers and the ADAC point out that each case must be examined individually. It should also make a difference whether someone booked their trip before the pandemic or during it – because then the risks in the holiday country might have been known.

Many tour operators now offer free rebooking or cancellation under certain conditions. With so-called flex tariffs, the option can be booked for a surcharge. Travelers who book flights and accommodation on their own are generally not as well protected as package holidaymakers. The same rules don’t apply to them.