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Your rights explained: what the coronavirus means for travellers


With the World Health Organization (WHO) now characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic. Worldwide, more than 110,000 cases have been recorded in more than 100 countries. From cruise ships to airlines, we explore what this health crisis means for travellers and what obligations travel companies have to their customers to keep them safe.

Being confined to a tiny room on a cruise ship when it’s in lockdown for a deadly disease is a nightmare that most people will never experience. For the nearly 3,000 people who were stuck on The Diamond Princess – a quarantined cruise ship that was stuck in Japan – it is a scene that is all too familiar.

What is the coronavirus?

Highly contagious diseases can spread rapidly in closed environments – like a cruise or an airplane – and the coronavirus has proven that it is no different. The Covid-19 strand of the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan in China and can cause viral pneumonia (which cannot be treated with antibiotics) and in severe cases, organ failure.

Spreading through large droplets produced by coughing and sneezing, the coronavirus presents similarly to the common cold and therefore regular handwashing is considered the most important precaution to reduce your chances of contamination. Any surface an infected droplet falls on will become contaminated so doctors recommend sneezing into your elbow, not hands.

What are the responsibilities of tour companies and airlines to prevent outbreak?

Cruises and flights around China and other coronavirus-impacted countries are being delayed or rerouted to ensure that they are doing everything to keep passengers safe. It is the responsibility of tour companies and airlines to ensure that they keep abreast of government-issued travel warning and do whatever possible to protect passengers.

What are travel companies doing to minimise the spread of infection?

  1. Restricted travel for travellers to and from China: Many cruise lines and airlines are temporarily preventing passengers who have recently travelled to or from China or Hong Kong from boarding. These restrictions do not just apply in Asia but all voyages in the world.
  2. Mandatory health screenings: Flights and cruises are carrying out compulsory health screenings. Guests who have a fever are denied boarding.
  3. Under quarantine: Guests who fall ill on a cruise ship are quarantined to prevent the spread of infection and their food is brought directly to their cabin – rather than the usual cruise ship buffet.

Can I claim for travel delay compensation?

Our legal team specialise in travel negligence claims. In cases that your travel has been delayed due to lockdowns or rerouted, we recommend speaking with your tour company and travel insurance agency about your best options for recovering expenses that resulted from these precautionary changes.

Am I entitled to compensation if I fall ill with coronavirus on a cruise ship?

In short, maybe. Read your contract carefully before you travel. Cruise liners are generally not required to compensate passengers who fall ill on their ship except in cases where negligence can be proven. Negligence means not exercising a reasonable level of care. If the ship should have known or knew of the virus and then has not followed procedure to contain the spread of infection during outbreak – including avoiding infected ports or conducting screenings prior to boarding - you may have a claim. Don’t forget, you have a responsibility to notify the crew immediately if you become ill on a cruise ship.

Gathering evidence to prove negligence

If you become sick on a cruise pay attention to the following:

  • How many other people are sick and what are their symptoms?
  • Are the crew taking additional precautions (like cleaning more often or not letting people serve themselves at the buffet)?
  • Are there are a lot of people in the ship’s hospital?
  • Have the crew made any announcement or warnings in relation to the illness
  • Are sick passengers quarantined?
  • Did the cruise ship follow the original itinerary or deviate from its course?

I want to make a cruise ship compensation claim – what next?

If you or a loved one has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus as a result of neglect by a travel company, cruise ship or airline, our expert travel law team can help you to claim for compensation. Contact us today to find out if you have a claim.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 13, 2020.

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