BRITS’ holidays are under threat of a coronavirus outbreak which has so far seen thousands of people across the globe struck with the illness.
So far, Ryanair and British Airways have scrapped hundreds of flights as holidaymakers ditch destinations affected by the virus.
Read our coronavirus live blog for all the latest news and updates
Generally, passengers will receive a full refund for cancelled flights from the airline of holiday provider unless they accept an offer of alternative travel times or destinations.
But unlike tour operators, airlines won’t pay out if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) declares your holiday destination “all but essential travel”.
This is because flights aren’t likely to be cancelled, which is when your travel insurance should kick in.
Tourists who’ve already taken out a policy for upcoming trips will be covered for cancellations, unless specified otherwise in the small print.
Those are still yet to take out cover face price hiked of up to 227 per cent in the wake of the outbreak, according to GoCompare.com.
And now experts are warning that insurers are inserting “no coronavirus claims” into new policies, something that you’ll need to look out for before making a purchase.
But don’t let it put you off purchasing a policy because you could be worse off without one if anything does go wrong.
Here, we explain which travel insurers will payout for holidays affected by cancelled flights if you’ve been refused a refund elsewhere:
Which travel insurers will cover you if your flights are cancelled due to coronavirus?
If the coronavirus outbreak has caused your flights to be cancelled then your first point of call should be your airline.
Because the decision not to fly was beyond your control, they should issue you a refund or offer passengers alternative flights.
What happens if I don’t have travel insurance?
IF your travel insurance doesn’t cover coronavirus cancellations, or you don’t have any travel insurance, it’s worth getting in touch with your travel operator.
You’re not guaranteed any help but it might arrange an alternative holiday or allow you to rebook at a later date.
Free cancellations aren’t guaranteed if you’ve booked through an ATOL-protected tour operator either.
This is because the protection is against the failure of the package holiday provider, and not for a major medical outbreak like the coronavirus.
Some travel companies are still offering worried holidaymakers help where possible.
For example, Greek airline Aegean Airlines is offering customers with flights to any destination before March 20 the chance to rebook for free.
If you’ve booked flights and accommodation separately, ask the airlines and hotels if they can help.
Some airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Easy Jet, told The Sun that flights will go ahead as planned if the FCO declares the destination as “all but essential travel”.
In these cases, the airline won’t issue you a refund but you may be able to get your money back through your holiday provider instead.
If neither of these organisations will pay out, your travel insurance may kick in, as long as it doesn’t have any clauses in it excluding trips affected by coronavirus.
This is what the insurers are saying:
- AXA – If customers aren’t able to make alternative arrangements for their trip with the airline or holiday provider, then it will issue a full refund.
- Direct Line and Churchill – Refunds will be given to policy holders worth up to £5,000 per person if their trip is cancelled due to a travel ban.
- Insure And Go – It will only consider non-refundable expenses, so you’ll only get a payout for cancellations if your airline or holiday provider refuses. If you don’t make a claim and choose to rearrange your trip, it will transfer your policy to a later date within three months for free.
- LV= – Holidaymakers will be offered a refund if flights are cancelled to areas where warnings against travel have been issued.
- Marks & Spencer – The provider will pay out for all trips cancelled due to an FCO warning, including “all but essential travel”, if the costs can’t be recovered from your holiday provider.
- Post Office – If the FCO’s travel advice to the area you were due to go to has changed to a ban or “all but essential travel” after you bought the policy, you may be able to claim back some of the non-refundable costs. Alternatively, you can amend your trip dates to within six months of the original trip for free, although additional charges apply if you’re changing the destination or duration.
- Virgin Money – If your airline or holiday package provider won’t issue you a refund for trips cancelled due to an FCO warning then you can claim through your insurance.
We’ve also put together a guide to the what policies airlines and holiday package providers have on coronavirus affected holidays.
What to look out for when buying a new travel insurance policy
It’s important to take out travel insurance for an upcoming trip if you haven’t already because you could end up forking out hundreds of pounds if it’s cancelled and you’re not covered.
If the FCO issues a travel ban to a country not already on the list and you don’t have insurance, then you won’t be able to get a refund.
Once an FCO travel ban is in place, you won’t be able to take out a new policy for holidays until it is lifted.
For example, you won’t be able to get a policy that covers you for a trip to mainland China until the FCO says that it’s safe to travel there.
Travel insurance will also add a layer of protection for those who booked their trip separately, rather than through a travel agent, as they won’t be ATOL protected.
Martyn James, from complaints tool Resolver, warned that some insurers may be inserting “no coronavirus claims” clauses into new contracts, which is something you will need to look out for before making a purchase.
What should you look for in a good travel insurance policy?
TRAVEL insurance policies can vary a great deal, but here are some ‘must have’ features you should look out for from the Money Advice Service.
- Medical expenses – A good policy will give cover of £1million or more for travel in Europe and £2million or more for the USA
- Repatriation service – The costs of getitng you back to the UK for medical reasons should be covered automatically by your policy
- Cancellation and curtailment – A good policy will cover you for £2,000 or more if you have to cancel or shorten your holiday
- Missed departure – Covers additional accommodation costs and travel expenses up to £500 or more if you miss your flight due to circumstances out of your control
- Delay – You’ll usually be covered for £250 or more if your travel plans are delayed due to circumstances out of your control
- Baggage cover – Covers you if your baggage is lost, damaged or stolen. Look for policies that have cover of £1,500 or more.
You should also look out for clauses that specify that you won’t be covered for cancellations caused by a pandemic, in case COVID-19 is escalated to this level by authorities before your trip.
Like with any policy, make sure that that you’re covered for costs incurred as a result of delays, missed flights or being put into quarantine while on holiday.
You should also make sure you’ve got enough medical cover – consumer group Which? recommends you take out £2million for Europe and £5million worldwide.
The policy should also have an affordable excess, otherwise it won’t pay out for any treatment you need while you’re abroad.
“If you can’t get cover, speak to the hotel, airline or travel agent before you book,” said Martyn, “and ask them to confirm in writing if you can move your booking to a later date depending on the spread of the virus.”
Should I get travel disruption cover as an add on?
Sometimes, cover for flight cancellation will be offered as an add-on to your insurance policy at an extra cost.
But these aren’t guaranteed to protect you from cancellation costs due to coronavirus, especially if you’ve already been advised that it isn’t safe to travel.
Spencer Roberts from Resolver said: “My advice would be to read the terms and conditions thoroughly and check with your insurer before making a decision.
“The situation isn’t particularly clear at the moment, so I’ve no doubt that people could run into trouble if they try to buy add-on policies to cover coronavirus.
“We see too many problems with add-on insurance that isn’t sufficiently clear about the ins and outs of what it covers.”
Will I be covered if I cancel my flights due to health or age concerns?
Normally, you won’t be able to get your money back if you decide to cancel your holiday because you’re worried about the outbreak.
But if you’re concerned about travelling to an affected area due to age or health problems that put you at greater risk of contracting the illness, then your travel insurer may cover you – even if you’re not going to a country on the FCO’s warning list.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) warns that this will be on a case-by-case basis though and whether you’re covered will depend on both your policy and your medical condition.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said that you’ll also need to provide proof from your GP that they’ve advised you not to travel.
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Resolver’s Martyn also points out that regular travel insurance may cover cancellation due to unexpected illness or injury.
You may even be covered if you’re pregnant and your doctor advises you not to travel after you’ve purchased your insurance policy (pregnancy doesn’t count as a pre-existing condition).
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