Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Corona virus and travel: you need to know that now – travel

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(As of March 28, 11.30 a.m.)

The corona virus slows public life to an unknown extent, freedom of movement is severely restricted, borders are closed. Many vacationers have difficulty returning to Germany.

How does the Federal Foreign Office help vacationers who are stranded at their travel destination?

Since the start of the return campaign on March 17, the federal government, together with organizers and Lufthansa, have brought more than 160,000 vacationers back to Germany. Traveling home would be more difficult as commercial air traffic continues to decline. Therefore, the number of charter planes used by the government will probably increase. After returning from closer holiday regions, Germans are now being brought home from more and more long-distance destinations.

It will take two weeks, at least. “It will be more difficult for countries that have only small groups of scattered adventure vacationers. We can not only pick up ten people somewhere, but try to form groups locally,” said the Foreign Office’s crisis officer, Frank Hartmann der dpa on Friday. For example, tourists from the Pacific Islands in New Zealand are drawn together and then flown out

Unlike at the beginning, the return campaigns are now also coordinated at a European level, and flights in Brussels have to be registered, said a spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Office. Other EU citizens would also find space on almost every flight. Conversely, Germans would also be flown back from the Caribbean on French flights.

The government initially provided € 50 million for the largest return campaign in the history of the Federal Republic. The Federal Foreign Office estimates that up to 200,000 German tourists will be 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 – as of March 28, 11.30 a.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, Argentina, Bali (Indonesia), Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, of the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Islands (Spain), Kenya, Colombia, Cuba, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia and Uruguay. Other goals are in preparation, according to the Federal Foreign Office. If you are in one of these countries and would like to return to Germany, you have to go to the newly established one Enter website rueckholprogramm.de. For some countries, this has to be done repeated daily become. 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.

Nevertheless, all Germans abroad should also register on the crisis preparedness list in order to be provided with current information.

The return program is primarily intended for Germans and their family members in regions particularly affected by travel restrictions who are temporarily there, for example for a vacation, a school exchange or a voluntary service. For people who have a residence permit for Germany, live in Germany and traveled from there on vacation, efforts are made “within the capacities to find a solution,” says the Federal Foreign Office.

Countries for which there is no return program are also urged to move to the Crisis preparedness list “Elefand” to register and to use all still existing exit and return possibilities, be it with regular connections, be it with special flights of the organizers and shipping companies. In the Lufthansa a return flight schedule applies. It is essentially based on the needs of European citizens who want to return to their home countries. If your travel destination is not on the return list, individual travelers must continue to try to organize an exit themselves. Only if this does not succeed will the Federal Foreign Office “endeavor to find a solution for all Germans” – or if countries stop all air and ferry traffic. (You can find a detailed article on “How vacationers come home now – and who pays which costs” 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 end of April – this also affects the Easter holidays. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasized that “it is really irresponsible to go abroad now because you may have to reckon with not returning to Germany for a long time.” When the travel warning will be lifted is uncertain: A decision on a possible extension will not be made before April 20, Maas told Südwestrundfunk on Friday.

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.

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 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 travel agencies are closed, but can be reached by phone or email.

The FTI Group (FTI Touristik, 5vorFlug, BigXtra and LAL Sprachreisen) meanwhile announced that all trips are canceled until April 30th; Schauinsland Reisen until April 23. Studiosus, Alltours, THE tourism and Vikings travel cancel trips until April 30th. Anex Tour, Öger Tours and Bucher Reisen as well as Gebeco have canceled their offers up to this day.

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: From Monday, March 23, a reduced timetable for regional transport (RE, RB, S-Bahn) applies initially until after the Easter holidays on April 19. 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. Tickets valid until April 13th 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. Italian express train operator Italo will reimburse tickets for travel until April 3.

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. 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 is still sending planes these days 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 – too Easyjet and Ryanair, the two largest low-cost airlines in Europe, shut down the majority of their fleets.

The long-distance bus companies Flixbus and Blablabus have stopped operating. All national and cross-border connections to and from Germany will be suspended.

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Most Cruises are completely canceled: Aida cruises all trips of its 14-ship fleet are initially canceled by the end of April. Also the Tui canceled all cruises.

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. Normal return flights are also canceled, so that passengers cannot start their journey 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 or the tour operator does not care at all or does not care quickly enough, the holidaymakers themselves have to look for a return flight. You should set a deadline for this by email – a few hours are enough during the global health crisis and whether the reduction in flight connections will suffice.

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. If the latter “culpably refused” the transport, for example for purely economic reasons, passengers are also entitled to compensation, Degott says: It is not enough that the airline invokes the corona crisis. However, if the airline is based outside the EU, the rights of the respective country apply.

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. Given the sums to be paid out, the industry is demanding more flexible reimbursement arrangements: credits should also be possible.

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 on the Internet for the applicable German law, explains travel law expert Ernst Führich. Then vacationers turn to the agent – i.e. the portal – and insist on a free cancellation of the stay. In the event of a dispute, the consumer can be sued at the court of residence.

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.

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 end of April. Until mid-March, the Federal Foreign Office had only advised against unnecessary trips abroad in its information on the Covid 19 situation.
  • 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.

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?

Interrupting the chains of infection is one of the most important measures against the rapid spread of the coronavirus. A joint crisis team of the Ministry of Health and the Interior has decided that passengers from countries such as China, Iran or Italy must now provide their data when they arrive in Germany. Appropriate exit cards are intended to ensure that all travelers can be contacted quickly if it turns out that a passenger is infected. Such disembarkation cards are also to be filled out in cross-border train and bus traffic; this was also ordered in shipping.

How do travelers behave correctly if they are afraid of being infected or were in a risk area?

Returnees from Italy, Austria and Switzerland should quarantine themselves according to the recommendation of the Ministry of Health. “If you have been in Italy, Switzerland or Austria within the last 14 days: avoid unnecessary contacts and stay at home for two weeks”, Minister Jens Spahn and his ministry wrote on Twitter. This applies “regardless of whether you have symptoms or not”.

The Robert Koch Institute advises vacationers who have been in regions with Covid 19 cases, but who are not yet considered to be risk areas: Anyone who gets fever, cough and shortness of breath within two weeks should see a doctor – but only after registering by phone, which explicitly refers to the trip. You should avoid contacts and stay at home as much as possible, and adhere to cough and sneeze labels and good hand hygiene. Anyone who has been in a risk area identified by the Robert Koch Institute should not go among people, regardless of symptoms. Whether holidaymaker or not: Anyone who has had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the Sars-CoV-2 virus should report immediately to the responsible health authority – even if they feel fit.

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