EU court: Tourists may get refunds over COVID measures

FILE - Travelers wait in line outside the terminal building to check in and board flights at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Netherlands, on June 21, 2022. Travelers whose package tours were ruined by the imposition of restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic may be entitled to at least a partial refund, the European Union's highest court said Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
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Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Travelers whose package tours were ruined by the imposition of restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic may be entitled to at least a partial refund, the European Union’s highest court said Thursday.

The European Court of Justice weighed in after being asked for its opinion by a court in Germany.

The Munich court is considering the case of two people who bought a two-week package vacation for the Spanish island of Gran Canaria starting on March 13, 2020, just as the pandemic hit Europe. They are seeking a 70% reduction in the price because of restrictions that were imposed there two days later and their early return.

When the restrictions were imposed on March 15, beaches were closed, a curfew put in place and the plaintiffs were allowed to leave their hotel room only to eat, the EU court said. On March 18, they were told to be ready to leave at any moment, and two days after that they had to return to Germany.

The tour operator refused the requested reduction on the grounds that it couldn’t be held liable for a “general life risk.”

The EU court found that “a traveler is entitled to a reduction in the price of his or her package where a lack of conformity of the travel services included in the package is due to restrictions that have been imposed at the travel destination to fight the spread of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19.”

It said it doesn’t matter if similar restrictions are imposed at the traveler’s place of residence or in other countries.

The German court will now have to assess whether the restrictions in the specific case at issue “could constitute failures to perform or improper performances” of the contract by the tour organizer.