The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) may announce its first Corona judgment in travel law on Tuesday (9 a.m.). When the pandemic broke out, the plaintiff dropped out of a package tour to Japan, which had to be canceled a little later anyway.
Now the question is: does he still have to pay cancellation fees? However, it is unclear whether the judges in Karlsruhe will decide this directly themselves. It may also happen that they take the case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
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The plaintiff had booked the trip, which was to take place from April 3 to 12, 2020, for more than 6,000 euros with a Munich tour operator. On March 1, he withdrew from the trip because of the worsening situation in Japan and paid 25 percent cancellation costs, just under 1540 euros, as contractually agreed. An entry ban was issued at the end of March.
According to the law, the customer can withdraw from his booking at any time. However, the tour operator is entitled to “reasonable compensation” – the cancellation fees.
There is only a right to free withdrawal “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”.
So far it has been disputed whether it is solely a matter of the time of the resignation or also of further developments. Depending on the court, the judgment is sometimes one way or the other.
In the present case, the Munich I Regional Court had agreed with the organizer because there was no travel warning on March 1, 2020 and the situation could have eased. “A significant occurrence of infection at this point in time is not reported,” says the judgment.
In the BGH hearing at the end of June, it became apparent that the top German civil judges would not agree with this. However, there are uniform rules for package tours in an EU directive. It could therefore be necessary to first let the ECJ in Luxembourg decide. (Az. X ZR 53/21)
Many tour operators now offer free rebooking or cancellation due to Corona under certain conditions. With so-called flex tariffs, the option can be booked for an additional charge.