With the World Health Organisation officially labelling it a pandemic, it's hardly surprising that Coronavirus is at the forefront of everyone's minds. The current government advice on the COVID-19 bug is to go about our normal lives as much as possible, washing our hands thoroughly and self-isolating for seven days if we display any symptoms.
If you had a holiday booked to a quarantined area
With airlines such as BA and Ryanair cancelling flights to Italy until the beginning of April, and Norwegian Air cutting 3,000 flights in the next three months, many holiday plans are being thrown into disarray. If you are no longer able to get to your chosen destination - perhaps because your flight is cancelled or it's a Category 1 or Category 2 region, you should be due a refund or compensation on your travel insurance.
'If anyone is looking to cancel a trip, make sure you review your travel insurance policy. Most, but not all of them, will cover cancellation for an epidemic or due to Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice,' Stuart Lloyd, Travel Insurance Expert at Columbus Direct, comments. 'If there is no mention of epidemics or reference to the FCO included within the list of things that are covered under cancellation, then there is a good chance that any losses from not traveling will not be covered by the policy.'
Airlines and travel companies will have their own cancellation policies if you're not covered by travel insurance, so be sure to check their official websites on how to claim back on your cancelled flights. Alternatively, many airlines are offering 'flexible' flights instead, which give you the opportunity to exchange your travel plans for flights later on in the year, or trade them in for a voucher.
If you cancel a holiday to a non-Category 1 or 2 region
Precautions are currently being taken by certain destinations to avoid the spread of Coronavirus, such as Disneyland temporarily closing and sporting events being cancelled. However, unless your specific hotel or travel provider chooses to do something similar, you won't be due a refund if you decide to cancel your holiday due to the virus.
'Unfortunately, choosing not to go on holiday due to fear of contracting Coronavirus or any other illness, is not something that your travel insurance would provide cover for,' Stuart continues. 'So, if you are due to travel to a country or region that the FCO has not advised against travelling to, but cancel the trip anyway, this will definitely not be covered.'
As things stand, if you are due to fly to LA tomorrow and your flight has not been cancelled, for example, you would likely not be able to claim back any money if you decide you no longer want to go due to the virus.
That said, your travel insurance does still stand while you're there. 'If holiday makers decide to go ahead with their trips, as long as these are to areas that the FCO has not advised against traveling to, their medical costs will be covered and assistance will be provided, if they are diagnosed with the virus while travelling,' Stuart adds.
If you cancel a holiday because you're 'at risk'
If you have a pre-existing medical condition that is declared on your travel insurance, you might be able to get a refund on plans you decide to cancel from your insurer. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) say you could get a full refund if your condition could put you at greater risk of contracting Coronavirus - even if you're not going to a country on the FCO's warning list - if advised by your doctor. Once you have a doctor's note explaining your situation, with their advice on why you shouldn't travel, contact your insurer for a refund.
Other important information
- While insurers may not cover cancellations, many airlines, including British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, are currently letting passengers rebook flights for free. Many hotels in areas under lockdown are offering refunds or flexibility to book in the future. However, if the hotel and location you're booked to visit is open, and the booking itself is non-refundable, you're likely to lose out if you choose not to go.
- If you end up quarantined abroad, you should check your travel insurance for a 'disruption to travel' clause, which will cover any excess costs you incur. You should also speak to your airline to see if they're covering the rearranged flight costs.
- Tour operators including Kuoni, Hayes & Jarvis, Prestige, G Adventures, i-escape, On Foot Holidays and more have also announced plans to waive fees if clients want to change the destination or date of their trip, depending on when they were supposed to be going. Reach out to tour operators individually to find out more.
- Big insurance firms such as AXA, Post Office and InsureandGo are limiting or changing their insurance cover this week, to not include Coronavirus. A new message at the top of AXA's website reads: "If you purchase a new policy now, it will not cover any trip cancellation or disruption in relation to Coronavirus." This essentially means if you choose to book a trip now that eventually gets cancelled because of Coronavirus, you would not be covered.
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