Federal Court of Justice: BGH examines travel cancellations in the pandemic

Especially in the first months of Corona, many vacationers canceled their booking - when is this free of charge, when are cancellation fees due? The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) is hearing about this in three cases today.

Federal Court of Justice: BGH examines travel cancellations in the pandemic

Especially in the first months of Corona, many vacationers canceled their booking - when is this free of charge, when are cancellation fees due? The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) is hearing about this in three cases today.

In principle, package holidaymakers have the right to withdraw from the contract before the start of the trip. However, the tour operator is entitled to "reasonable compensation" - the cancellation fees. The law only provides for free cancellation in exceptional cases: "if unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances occur at the destination or in its immediate vicinity that significantly affect the implementation of the package tour or the transport of people to the destination".

Three cases are being tried

Courts must examine whether this requirement is met on a case-by-case basis. The highest civil judges in Karlsruhe have selected different constellations for the hearing:

- A plaintiff had booked a Baltic Sea cruise for August 2020 and paid around 3,200 euros for a total price of more than 8,000 euros. At the end of March he withdrew from the contract. At that time there was a worldwide travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office against "unnecessary tourist trips abroad". Some time later, in July, the organizer canceled the cruise completely. He withheld part of the down payment from the customer.

- In the second case, an over 80-year-old wanted to take a river cruise on the Danube in June 2020. Since she has often had problems with pneumonia and bronchial infections, her family doctor urgently advised her against it. Two weeks before the start of the trip, the woman canceled her booking from January. The cruise took place with a hygiene concept. However, only 100 instead of 176 passengers were allowed on board. Here the trip should cost almost exactly 1600 euros. The organizer demands 85 percent cancellation fees from the woman.

- The third plaintiff had booked a package holiday for two adults and one child to the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca in July 2020. With flights and half board, the holiday should cost just over 3500 euros. At the beginning of June, the man announced his resignation. On the same day, the federal cabinet decided to end the travel warning on June 14. The booked hotel was closed at this time due to Corona. It didn't open again in July either.

The responsible BGH senate has only dealt with a travel cancellation due to Corona in a single case. It was about a package tour to Japan in April 2020. The customer backed out at the beginning of March to be on the safe side. A little later, an entry ban was issued for Japan, and the trip had to be canceled completely.

Uniform rules in an EU directive

The judges tend to waive the cancellation fees because of this further development. First, however, they submitted the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in early August. Because there are uniform rules for package tours in an EU directive. Therefore, the verdict will be some time in coming.

It is conceivable that the judges will also involve the ECJ in the new cases. Aspects that you can judge for yourself may also be relevant. It is unclear whether a decision will be announced on Tuesday.

Announcement by the Supreme Court

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