In recent weeks there has been a series of apocalyptically named heatwaves rolling across Europe, ruining people’s holidays and resident’s lives.

Over in America, records are being broken and the sheer endurance of the extreme heatwave periods is causing serious concern. Meanwhile, around the world temperatures are hitting unprecedented levels.

You might be wondering if your holiday is going to be enjoyable in 40-degree heat, or even if it’s worth going at all. So what are your rights if extreme weather has the potential to ruin your trip?

What are my rights if I want to cancel my holiday?

There are a number of options available to you if you want to get out of a holiday due to a heatwave – but none of them are great. You can potentially approach your travel insurer, holiday company, hotel and the airline, depending on how you booked. But I’d recommend you do a bit of planning in the first instance and have a think about what you might be willing to compromise on.

The awful industry term for cancelling a holiday early is ‘disinclination to travel’ which makes it sound like you can’t be bothered to go away. In reality, there are lots of reasons for being concerned about traveling when the heat is extreme.

Travel insurance

Firstly, check out your travel insurance policy. These documents can be a bit lengthy, so I tend to open up the online link or pdf and click ‘Control and F’ – then type in ‘extreme’ or ‘severe’ weather. That will take you to the section of the policy that covers this. Realistically, the policies I’ve seen don’t allow you to cancel due to concerns about extreme heatwaves. However, if you have a medical condition that could be exacerbated by the heat and your doctor feels it’s unsafe to travel, you could be able to claim under the ‘curtailment’ section of the policy.

However, if the Foreign Office advises against travel you may be able to claim regardless.

Holiday companies, hotels and airlines

One of the most frustrating things in the aftermath of the pandemic is that many holiday companies and airlines have tightened up their refund rules to make it harder to claim. But there may still be some options.

If you’ve booked a package holiday or booked through an independent travel agency, seek their advice about your rights under the terms of their membership schemes. Even if there are no provisions in the agreements that would allow you to cancel, they may be able to offer you some advice on other options.

However, with airlines, hotels and other holiday companies, you’re going to have to get creative. Some businesses might allow you to move your holiday or flight forward to a future date, though it’s likely that there will be a charge for this. You may even be able to request vouchers in lieu of a cash refund, but I suspect you won’t get the full cost of the holiday back if this is the only option.

You could always see if you could ‘sell on’ the holiday to someone who wants to go instead. Many businesses will allow you to change the names on the booking but once again there are fees for doing this.

What if you are already on holiday?

Of course if you’re already on holiday you’re stuck with the hot weather. But if your health is being adversely affected then speak to your travel insurer about the options available to you. If you need medical attention then that’s a no-brainer. Get to the hospital but remember to contact the insurer as soon as you can about your claim.

Extreme weather is not generally considered to be the fault of holiday firms, so you’ll need to negotiate with them, along with airlines if you want to leave early. Again, an airline might allow you to move a booking if they have a cheaper option available, but you’ll be expected to pay the difference and a fee if the flights are more expensive.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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