Coronavirus: Your travel insurance questions answered

Here's how travel insurers are responding to the pandemic.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Since then, not only has the risk of catching COVID-19 increased, but travel itself has become complex.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential international travel until further notice. Airlines, including easyJet, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic, have allowed fee-free changes and cancellations, countries have introduced new travel bans and travel insurance companies are suspending cover to new customers.

So, can we still get cover from travel insurance, can we still travel and how can we reduce travel expenses?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward. Here we look at your main coronavirus travel insurance questions.

Can I still get travel insurance for cover against coronavirus?

Unfortunately, no.

The majority of travel insurers have suspended sales of travel insurance or at least restricted cover to any new customers for the time being. This includes brands like Churchill, More Than, LV= and Direct Line.

This is because COVID-19 has been a globally known pandemic since 11 March. Therefore, if you buy a policy after this date (which varies amongst different insurers), they would expect that you entered the policy with the knowledge of potential loss.

In addition, some travel insurers exclude epidemics and pandemics from cover – this is usually mentioned in the insurer’s product information document.

Can I still get general travel insurance cover?

You could still potentially get general travel insurance for cover against overseas medical expenses, luggage loss and cancellations but only if the claim is unrelated to COVID-19 – and also only if there are no restrictions on travelling to that country. Keep an eye on the FCO website for the latest travel advice.

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Can I get my money back if my trip is cancelled?

If you bought travel insurance before the 11 March cut-off date, you should be able to reclaim some of your lost expenses.

First off you’ll need to see if your travel service provider is willing to refund you directly or provide some other alternative. Most are directly offering their customers refunds or alternatives. Travel insurance will only cover you for expenses that you can’t get back anywhere else, and what you get will depend on what’s included in your policy cover.

⚠️If you still decide to travel with this warning to a country where all travel has been banned by the FCO, your travel insurance policy will become void.

Can I cancel my policy if I’m not travelling anymore?

You can cancel your policy, but you won’t get a refund unless you cancel within the cooling-off period, which is usually within 14 days of the issue date, and you have no outstanding claims on the policy.

This is because, even though it might not feel like it, your travel insurance has already been offering a service. If you injured yourself and you couldn’t travel, your travel insurance would refund you the costs of your trip. It might not feel like you’ve used your travel insurance, but it has been providing a service since the day you bought it. That’s why you can’t cancel it now and get any money back.

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What if my flights have been cancelled or delayed?

All major airlines have suspended or reduced flights, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Ryanair. Most are offering refunds or free rescheduling services to affected customers, so you shouldn’t be out of pocket for the cost of your ticket. However it might take a while to get your refund, so ask for confirmation that it’s in progress.

As for your other pre-paid travel expenses like accommodation, cruises or tours, you may be able to claim back your losses with travel insurance.

What if I’m stuck overseas and can’t return home?

On 23 March, the government called for all British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad to return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available. You’ll then have to self-isolate for at least 14 days.

Unless you get coronavirus (COVID-19), the likelihood that you’ll get stuck overseas for an extended period of time is low. But if you do somehow get stuck abroad, and you have a valid travel insurance policy, you might be able to claim back on benefits such as medical expenses, additional accommodation and loss of income.

As the situation develops, it’s very important that you check if you have a valid travel insurance policy. The main things to consider are:

  • Whether you bought your cover before the insurer’s cut-off date
  • Whether you are covered for pandemics and epidemics
  • Whether you have followed the advice of the FCO

What are epidemic and pandemic exclusions?

Often, general travel insurance policies have an exclusion that restricts what you can claim in relation to epidemics or pandemics. This means that, even if you bought your policy before your insurance company’s cut-off date, you might not be covered in the way that you think you are.

If your insurance company has an exclusion, you’ll be able to find it in the policy disclosure statement. Or call your insurer directly to find out exactly how you’re covered. In situations like this, insurers usually assess on a case-by-case basis, so it’s best to contact them directly.

What should I do next?

Remember that travel service providers are still offering refunds and other alternatives to help mitigate the losses for customers. So first off, make sure you check for direct refunds or changes before using your travel insurance.

And the situation continues to evolve rapidly, so how your insurance company responds this week might not be the same way it responds next month. The best way to find out how your policy can help is to check your insurance provider’s website and social media channels or call it directly.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatarfinder Customer Care
    RonnyMay 1, 2020Staff

    Hi Margaret,

    Thank you for your query.

    Do you mean change provider or change the time of your trip?

    Regards,
    Ronny

  2. Default Gravatar
    daleApril 22, 2020

    I purchased travel insurance for a trip to America on the 8th March, 2020. I have now been told that my claim has been refused because it was reported via some media that holidays maybe cancelled. The only reason we purchased the policy was due to any potential medical bills we may of incurred as its well documented to be costly in the states

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RonnyApril 30, 2020Staff

      Hi Dale,

      I’m not sure I understand your query – have you made a claim on the policy you purchased for trip cancellation?

      Regards,
      Ronny

  3. Default Gravatar
    CarolApril 1, 2020

    On 3rd March I purchased travel insurance and now know I will not be travelling can I get a refund

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      AnnaApril 1, 2020Staff

      Hi Carol,
      As you bought your insurance on 3 March – ie before WHO officially declared coronavirus a pandemic on 11 March 2020 – you should get a refund.
      However, travel insurance will usually only cover you for expenses that you can’t get back anywhere else. So first off, see if your travel service provider (airline/travel agent etc) is planning to refund you directly or provide some other alternative, depending on where you were going and when.
      If not, then get in touch with your insurer directly to see what you’re covered for.
      Anna

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