The corona virus slows public life to an unprecedented extent, freedom of movement is extremely restricted, borders are closed.
How does the Federal Foreign Office help vacationers who are stranded at their travel destination?
One month after the Federal Government’s return campaign began, around 240,000 Germans stranded abroad are at home again. According to the Federal Foreign Office, only a “middle four-digit number” of travelers now has to be flown out, most of them from South Africa, Argentina and Peru, reports the dpa. The largest return campaign in the history of the Federal Republic is likely to be completed in a few days. Afterwards, the embassies will continue to deal with individual cases – which does not mean that they will all come home when all connections have been terminated.
The government initially provided € 50 million for the largest return campaign in the history of the Federal Republic. The Federal Foreign Office assumed up to 200,000 German tourists affected. In total, several hundred thousand Germans are abroad, many of whom also live there. “But not all of them want to go back,” said a spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Office.
Travelers who could not get any further criticized the airlines: With the radical cut in international connections, also for economic reasons, they would have contributed to the fact that holidaymakers were stuck – their return flight simply did not take place. Instead, travelers had to strive for often more expensive replacement tickets and hope that this machine actually took off. The additional costs can be claimed back from EU airlines.
The Federal government recall campaign applies or was valid – as of April 17, 2:30 p.m. – for the following particularly affected countries (You can find detailed information about the return journey here, via the Federal Foreign Office Twitter channel as well as the social media pages of the embassies and on the websites of the respective consulates – you can easily access them via the country link): Egypt, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bali (Indonesia), Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, of the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Islands (Spain), Kenya, Colombia, Cuba, Laos, Liberia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay and Vietnam. If you are in one of these countries and want to return to Germany, you have to go to the Enter website rueckholprogramm.de. For many countries, this has to be done repeated daily will be confirmed that you are still stuck in the country. You can find out which countries are currently on the Federal Foreign Office’s information page. Registration in the crisis preparedness list Elefand or another program (e.g. Condor) is not sufficient. However, the returns are almost complete.
Nevertheless, all Germans abroad should also register on the crisis preparedness list in order to be provided with current information.
A detailed article on the topic “How vacationers come home now – and who pays which costs” can be found here.
What travel restrictions apply?
Because of the corona pandemic, the federal government has one worldwide travel warning pronounced for tourist trips and already extended to the beginning of May. It is not yet clear whether the corona pandemic will prolong it. “At the present time, no prediction can be made as to how long the travel warning will be maintained,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on April 17. “As long as there are curfews in many countries, there will be no vacation there. We will decide from week to week.” They will also try to coordinate “as best as possible” European.
The Federal Foreign Office provides information on the restrictions applicable worldwide on its website in the travel and security information for the respective countries, and the consulates sometimes offer even more up-to-date information.
The external borders of the European union are cordoned off. The heads of state and government agreed on a preliminary one Entry ban. This decision is also intended to help keep internal borders open, where long traffic jams are currently forming. As the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced, the ban affects all flights and ship journeys that have their origin outside the EU. There are exceptions for citizens of Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Great Britain. The federal police inform who is still allowed to enter Germany and which documents are required.
Germany also has itself Entry bans put in place and with strict border controls began. Transitions to Switzerland, France, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg are affected, as are flights from the five countries mentioned as well as from Spain and Italy. German citizens would “naturally have the right to return to their home country,” said Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. The same applies to commuters and foreigners with a residence permit and residence in Germany. Appropriate documents must be presented upon entry. Other travelers are no longer allowed in the country. From April 10th Returnees are also quarantined at home for two weeks.
Exiting Germany from neighboring countries is also becoming increasingly difficult: Poland, Czech Republic and Denmark have adopted strict rules so that travelers are no longer allowed to enter the country without a valid reason. In the Switzerland may only Swiss citizens, people with a residence permit or professional entry reasons. In Austria a medical certificate is required at the border with Germany: only those who can prove that they are not infected with Sars-CoV-2 are allowed to enter the country. There are exceptions for Austrians and people residing in the country – there is also an exit restriction.
They also agreed Federal government and states in fighting the spread of the virus Prohibitions and exit restrictions – Bavaria has also imposed its own strict requirements.
In what period do tour operators currently cancel trips?
The decision was made to “suspend the majority of all travel activities, including package tours, cruises and hotel operations,” said the Tui Group – worldwide. Initially, the stop was valid until the end of March, meanwhile Tui Germany has canceled all trips until April 30th. Customers whose booked trips would have occurred during the Easter holidays should be informed accordingly. However, there may still be delays “because the large number of travel bookings are processed after the departure date”.
On its homepage, the Tui provides information about its approach for the different travel countries. Bookings would be “proactively canceled” and customers informed, chronologically after departure date.
The FTI Group (FTI Touristik, 5vorFlug, BigXtra and LAL Sprachreisen) announced that all trips are canceled until April 30th. Studiosus, Alltours, THE tourism and Vikings travel such as Schauinsland Reisen also cancel trips until April 30th. Anex Tour, Öger Tours and Bucher Reisen as well as Gebeco have canceled their offers up to this day.
If package tours and flights are canceled by the organizer, the price must be reimbursed according to current law. However, that may change in the future. There have recently been massive demands in the industry to allow coupons instead of refunds to reduce the financial burden on businesses. On April 2, the “Corona Cabinet” of the federal government introduced a corresponding regulation, which has yet to be approved by the EU Commission. Accordingly, the travel price will no longer have to be refunded immediately. Instead, vouchers are said to be allowed. They would be limited until the end of 2021 and should apply to all tickets and trips purchased before March 8th. If the customer has not redeemed their voucher by the end of 2021, the organizer must refund the value.
As long as there is no EU decision, the voucher remains voluntary. Some big tour operators like Tui, FTI or DER Touristik advertise with bonus payments. There are also a number of companies, such as Alltours, Schauinsland-Reise and Vtours, which have announced that they will forego vouchers and reimburse the travel price.
Customers who want to cancel a trip planned from May in view of the current situation, on the other hand, have to expect cancellation fees. The amount depends on how soon the departure is imminent. However, more and more tour operators are offering a free rebooking, for example the Tui Group and DER Touristik for all trips that would have started in May, and the FTI Group for departures by the end of June.
(In this article, you will read detailed information on travel law issues relating to travel in the coming months.)
What are the restrictions for rail travelers?
The Deutsche Bahn According to their own information, currently runs around 75 to 80 percent of their usual offer. Thereby the Regional traffic restricted: Since Monday, March 23rd, a reduced timetable for regional traffic (RE, RB, S-Bahn) applies until after the Easter holidays on April 19th. In Bavaria, excursion connections, trains used by schoolchildren and clock amplifiers in commuter traffic are being cut. Many DB regional trains then run every hour. “We guarantee basic services everywhere,” said Transport Minister Kerstin Schreyer (CSU) on Friday in Munich.
You can find an overview of current developments at Bahn here at bahn.de/aktuell. Travelers and commuters should always check whether their train is actually running before departure.
Due to the stricter entry rules, Deutsche Bahn has to end or cancel a number of train connections earlier, for example trips to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Poland and the Czech Republic. The number of trains between Germany and the Netherlands has also been drastically reduced. In addition, intercity trains no longer run between Amsterdam via North Rhine-Westphalia to Berlin, the Dutch rail company said. There are also fewer connections on other international routes.
Customers can postpone or cancel trips free of charge: Deutsche Bahn has theirs Cancellation rules largely relaxed. No one has to go to the sales outlets in the train stations in a hectic pace: “The goodwill regulations will apply in the coming weeks, so it is not necessary to report immediately,” emphasizes the company. Refunds could also be submitted after the booked day of travel.
Regardless of the travel destination, saver price and super saver tickets can be exchanged for vouchers. In contrast to flexible tickets at the normal price, this is not easily possible. The regulation initially applies to travel until the end of April. From April 2, passengers should also be able to cancel a saver fare or super saver ticket booked online or on the go, directly online. Anyone who has booked with a flex price can cancel free of charge. All customers who just want to postpone their trip can use their booked ticket flexibly until June 30th (except for group tickets). All tickets can be converted into vouchers that can be redeemed after June 30th.
There Flixtrain until probably at the end of April, the tickets valid until April 30 may also be used for the second class of the IC and ICE of the Deutsche Bahn, if you are still traveling. Flixtrain customers could “travel flexibly on a day of their choice during this period with their ticket,” says bahn.de. All connections that correspond to the route on the Flixtrain ticket should be used. This only needs to be shown and not converted into a DB ticket.
The Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB have suspended train services from and to Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland until further notice. International tickets valid until May 1st can be canceled free of charge.
The Italian railway companies also meet customers: Trenitalia already announced in February that train journeys, regardless of tariff, would be fully reimbursed if trips were canceled due to the corona virus. Anyone who has booked a ticket for a high-speed or long-distance train will receive a voucher with a validity of one year, for regional train tickets there will be a cash refund.
What preventive measures does Deutsche Bahn take against the corona virus? If the authorities find a suspected corona on a train, the affected area will be blocked and professionally cleaned and disinfected after the trip, the company reports. The passengers would then be informed by the train staff that they should store their details (via bahn.de/corona or by calling 0800 5 14 15 14) so that the authorities can contact them if necessary.
Who pays when a train is delayed due to suspected coronavirus? On the night of Rosenmontag two trains of the ÖBB had to stop at the Brenner – only when two sick women had been tested negatively were the other passengers allowed to travel on and did not arrive in Munich until well after midnight. If, in such a case, public transport can no longer bring the passengers to their destination, they are entitled to a taxi ride under European law (however, the railway companies pay a maximum of 50 euros) or, for larger distances, an overnight stay (limited to 80 euros additional payment, often should if possible, stay in nearby contract hotels – here the compensation rules of Deutsche Bahn and ÖBB). In addition, customers who are more than one hour late can claim a quarter of the one-way fare as compensation, from two hours even half. These amounts are due for rail travel – unlike flights – regardless of fault.
What other changes and restrictions should passengers expect?
In Europe and worldwide, travelers are being thwarted by the virus: if connections are canceled, passengers get all their money back.
The Lufthansa has drastically reduced their offer, passengers should check the current status of their flight. On April 2, Lufthansa announced that it would extend its fuselage flight schedule by two weeks until May 3. All flights from the regular schedule will be canceled by this date. The daughter Austrian Airlines will cease regular flights until April 19, only return flights for Austrians will take place. Even the holiday pilot Condor reduces flights to major destinations such as the United States, the Caribbean and Turkey. The company still sent planes to bring vacationers back.
British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level cancel at least 75 percent of their flights in April and May. Air France-KLM will cut 90 percent during this period. Lot Airlines have already largely canceled flight operations. Also Easyjet and Ryanair, the two largest low-cost airlines in Europe, are decommissioning the majority of their fleets – with Easyjet, all planes have been on the ground since March 30th.
The long-distance bus companies Flixbus and Blablabus have stopped operating. All national and cross-border connections to and from Germany will be suspended.
Most Cruises are completely canceled: Aida cruises all journeys of its 14-ship fleet have since been canceled by the end of May. Also the Tui canceled all cruises. Ships that are still on the move are having great problems finding a port of call with sick people on board.
Who pays when the return flight has been canceled and the traveler has to organize a more expensive return?
Airlines worldwide have cut their flight program extremely, Lufthansa by about 95 percent. This also means that normal return flights are canceled, so that passengers cannot make their way home in the Corona crisis of all places. Customers of an EU airline stands after the Passenger Rights Regulation to the fact that the airline not only pays back the money for the canceled flight, “but also takes care of the care of the passengers and places them, for example, in a hotel if necessary – and above all ensures a replacement flight,” explains travel law expert Paul Degott. If the airline does not care or does not take care of package tours by the organizers or not quickly enough, vacationers can search for a return flight themselves. Only: The few places on return flights to Germany are scarce, therefore the prices rise; in addition, single flights are generally much more expensive than return flight packages. Anyone who has booked their canceled flight with an airline based in the EU can claim the additional costs back from the airline. “It is important that the airline is given a remedial period and the so-called replacement is threatened so that the initially submitted costs can be claimed as damages or sued,” Degott says. Given the current situation, a deadline of a few hours was enough.
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Degott emphasizes that even if the airline is based outside the EU, travelers could rely on these regulations, provided that it is a return flight booked in Germany. However, if a flight ticket from New Zealand to Germany was booked in New Zealand and the flight is then canceled, the civil law of the respective country applies.
Who pays for the cancellation of the trip if you are no longer able to come to the holiday destination due to changed entry requirements?
At Package tours the organizer is obliged to either pay back the price or offer a rebooking – here the German travel law applies. Because of the exceptional circumstances, customers will not receive any compensation for lost vacation enjoyment.
Individual travelers on the other hand, have themselves booked a hotel or rental car and are therefore faced with the respective national laws. According to German law, you would not have to pay anything if you cannot use the services. “This is the case, for example, if the accommodation is located in a restricted area and cannot be reached,” says the consumer center. If a contract was made directly with landlords abroad, however, the law of the respective country applies – here it is important, for example, whether the contract is invalid because of the worldwide travel warning from the German Foreign Office. Depending on the cancellation conditions, those affected may have to hope for goodwill or try to negotiate that the hotel stay, for example, is only postponed and not canceled at a high price.
Anyone on a German speaking Hotel portal has booked accommodation on the Internet or at the hotel directly, for example in Italy, the law of the place of accommodation applies, i.e. Italian law. Travel law expert Ernst Führich advises holidaymakers to contact the accommodation company and to insist on a fee-free cancellation of the stay due to the inaccessibility of the domicile. However, by decree of March 8, 2020, Italy allowed the accommodation companies to issue vouchers instead of reimbursements for the travel price paid.
In the event of a dispute, an exception can also be brought to the consumer’s place of residence. However, the prerequisite is that the guest has booked on an interactive website of the foreign hotelier or holiday home provider in Germany. Then the activity of the accommodation company is “aligned” to Germany in the sense of the EU jurisdiction agreement. The German court then applies Italian law.
It should look good for individual travelers, though Airlines are involved, says travel law expert Paul Degott: once a country has imposed an entry ban or deleted visas for Germans, the airline can no longer transport the passenger to their destination. Otherwise, it would have to take care of the return transport immediately and would also face a penalty from the target country. “So the contract has to be reversed beforehand”, the passengers get their money back for the ticket, explains Degott.
All reimbursements may in future also take the form of Vouchers possible: The German government launched a corresponding solution, which has yet to be approved by the EU Commission.
Who pays for the additional costs if vacationers are stuck in the hotel or on the cruise ship in quarantine for longer than expected?
Package holidaymakers are again better protected here: If they had to be in quarantine during their regular travel time, they could list this as a defect and get money back. However, they would have to inform the organizer on the spot, who in turn could try to get the amount back from the authorities who had ordered the quarantine. The paragraph also sees 651q BGB The organizer is obliged to assist, legal expert Degott explains: A package tour operator, for example, has to ensure that his customers come home with different return flights than planned. If the guests have to stay in quarantine longer than their rooms are booked and the hotel operator requests money, holidaymakers should not pay: the state that ordered the quarantine is responsible for this. Therefore, individual travelers would not have to pay for their longer forced stay – but probably for other return flights, unless the airline is accommodating.
For example, in the case of the Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife, where guests had to wait two weeks, the Tui had paid the costs for their package travelers, according to a press spokesman, and they would not have had to pay a surcharge for more expensive return flights, at least in this individual case.
What does the Federal Foreign Office advise?
- Because of the corona crisis, the federal government has one worldwide travel warning pronounced and meanwhile extended until the beginning of May.
- Changes to the entry and quarantine regulations would in some cases be issued without prior notice and with immediate effect. Numerous travelers in several countries are currently affected and prevented from traveling on or back.
- Tourists should immediately use existing flight connections for the fastest possible return trip to Germany, as long as there are still commercial flight or land connections. If a return trip is no longer possible, you should register in the return program. More information can be found in the FAQ on the return campaign.
- Travelers should register in the crisis preparedness list and keep the contact details up to date. On the way, you should keep up to date on the situation in the country, for example via the Office’s Safe Travel app.
- It also warns that quarantine measures should not be expected to be retrieved by the organizer or the federal government, but should follow the instructions of the local health authorities.
- Travel health insurance coverage should be reviewed and, if necessary, extended to include a return.
- In addition, it is advisable to organize a sufficient supply of necessary medication for the case of an extended stay abroad.
- Travelers should be prepared for possible additional costs for an extended stay and should already increase their credit line.
- The increased entry controls and health checks would particularly affect cruise ships. “There have been several refusals to call at ports. Delays, route changes and, in certain cases, quarantine measures by local authorities can still be expected,” it says.
- Also for tourists: you should wash your hands regularly and properly and generally keep them away from your face.
- If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should contact a doctor and point out a trip to an outbreak area.
- Anyone returning from a risk area should obtain information in advance from the Robert Koch Institute and the German Ministry of the Interior about travel restrictions and border controls.
- When returning after a stay of several days abroad, a two-week quarantine obligation applies at home.
For more information, travelers can find information sheet COVID-19, the Robert Koch Institute, the WHO and the Federal Center for Health Education.
What if I just come back from a trip?
Germans, EU citizens and foreigners who have lived in Germany for many years have generally been required for two weeks in home quarantineif they return to the Federal Republic after at least several days abroad – this is how the infection chains should be interrupted. The Corona crisis cabinet recommended this to the federal states, which agreed. The quarantine obligation, which will initially apply until April 19, should not affect commuters, and there are exceptions for certain groups such as truck drivers and medical personnel as well as transit travelers in the EU.
All other immigrants are obliged “to go straight to their own home or other suitable accommodation immediately after entering the country and to isolate themselves there continuously for a period of 14 days after their entry”, says the regulation. During this time it was “not allowed to receive visitors from people who do not belong to their household”. There are exceptions for nurses, for example.
If you come by plane or ship, you must announce the route and contact details Health authorities at his place of residence should then monitor compliance with the quarantine.
Fines depend on the extent of the “extent of public health hazards caused by the crime”, whether the person concerned has acted negligently or is unreasonable and whether there is a recurrence. Whoever violates the requirement of domestic quarantine after entering the country should be loud Fines catalog pay between 500 and 10,000 euros. Violations of the ban on visits should be punished with a fine of at least 300 euros and a maximum of 5000 euros. If someone does not drive directly home, he should pay 150 euros to 3000 euros. Anyone who does not meet their obligation to contact the health authority must expect a fine of between 150 euros and 3,000 euros.
Because of the corona pandemic, people who are neither Germans nor permanently resident here have only been allowed to come to Germany for a “valid reason to travel” since mid-March. Since March 16, border controls have been carried out temporarily on the borders with Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark in coordination with the neighboring countries. In border regions where there are no such controls, the federal police use the “existing search and control instruments”. This means that people who enter from there can also be quarantined or returned if they are addressed by the police in the 30 km border area.