Can I buy travel insurance – and will it cover coronavirus?
This means you can rest assured you are covered for both for medical treatment and getting back to the UK if you contract coronavirus while you are on holiday.
However, for your policy to be valid, you must not be travelling against FCDO advice. This means you will not be covered if you travel during a lockdown or to countries that do not feature on the FCDO exempt list.
What extra protection does enhanced cover offer?
Enhanced cover can offer varying levels of protection depending on the provider you choose - this can include the following situations:
- If you catch COVID-19 before travelling and need to cancel
- If your travel provider goes into administration due to COVID-19
- If you are denied boarding by your airline due to COVID-19 symptoms
- If you show COVID-19 symptoms while on holiday and have to cancel pre-booked excursions
However not all providers will offer the same cover, so it's important to check before booking a holiday and buying travel insurance.
Will travel insurance still cover cancellations due to coronavirus?
If you have a package holiday booked during the nation-wide lockdown then you should get a refund from the holiday company. If you booked flights independently and the flight is cancelled you should also get a refund. But different airlines will have different policies so check with your airline.
If your airline still operates during the lockdown and your flight is not cancelled this is more of a grey area. In most cases the airline should allow you to rebook or offer vouchers.
If you are buying a new travel insurance policy, as things stand, most travel insurance providers will still NOT cover cancellations to your holiday as a result of coronavirus.
However, this is starting to change.
The Post Office, Southdowns, Coverwise, Cedar Tree and Coverforyou.com – all listed on MoneySuperMarket – are now among the insurers that WILL cover for cancellation if you cannot travel due to coronavirus (so long as your destination is not listed under the FCDO travel ban) – and more insurers are expected to follow suit as travel rules change.
If you have an existing travel insurance policy and your holiday has been cancelled whether you are covered will depend on your circumstances:
- If you booked your holiday before the destination was listed by the FCDO you may be able to claim for cancellation, curtailment (coming home early) or rearrangement. However, this may not be for the entire cost, depending on the amount of cover you’ve taken out
- If you booked your trip after the destination was listed by the FCDO, travel insurers won’t cover you for cancellation
It's also worth noting that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will still cover you for state-provided healthcare in the EU - however if you are applying for a new one you'll get a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. However, while you should always make sure you take it with you, the card is not a substitute for travel insurance.
What about countries not on the travel exemption list?
If you are having to quarantine on your return from abroad, your travel insurer is unlikely to cover you – for example, for expenses incurred because you had to cancel an event that you can’t attend as you will be isolating.
If you were due to travel to a country no longer on the exemption list and can no longer go because of having to quarantine on your return to the UK, your travel insurance is also unlikely to cover you. Check with the policy provider.
If you choose to cancel your trip based on FCDO advice, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance. This is so long as you took it out before the original FCDO blanket travel restrictions were in place.
If you are due to travel and your package holiday has been cancelled, you should be entitled to a full refund from the travel operator.
What can I expect from my existing travel insurance policy?
If your holiday – which you bought before the coronavirus pandemic – has been cancelled due to coronavirus and you had existing cover, you should be covered. Check to see if it is a member of the Association of British Insurers. Collectively, these insurers have pledged to protect customers – get full details at the ABI website.
Do I get my money back if the airline collapses?
You almost certainly won’t get a refund from the collapsed airline itself. But if your flight was part of an ATOL-protected package holiday, the travel firm you booked with should organise alternative outbound and inbound travel or provide a full refund.
If you made independent arrangements and paid by credit card or debit card, you may be able to recoup the price of your ticket via the chargeback scheme – VISA, Mastercard and American Express all belong to it.
Under the scheme, your card provider will seek a return of your money from Flybe’s payments operator. Your provider will advise you on the process – but they’ll do the legwork on your behalf.
If you paid by credit card (and spent more than £100 on your ticket), you have recourse to a piece of consumer protection regulation known as Section 75. More details here.
If you have spent money on accommodation or car hire or other services and are out of pocket because you have not been able to travel, you should first of all try to get a refund from the business concerned.
If this doesn’t work, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance but only if the policy includes ‘scheduled airline failure’ cover – many do not.
What exactly does essential travel mean?
The lifting of the FCDO’s guidance against all but essential travel applies to all of the countries on this list – but many countries still fall under the travel ban.
What constitutes ‘essential’ travel is limited – for example if you are involved in any kind of freight transport, including by air, ship, road and rail.
Visiting friends and family abroad does not qualify as essential travel.
What happens if I travel anyway?
If you travel against FCDO advice, you’ll render your travel insurance invalid and you won’t be able to make a claim.
In practical terms, you may not be able to return to the UK. If you are able to get back, it’s likely you will have to quarantine in self-isolation for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine.
What if I contract coronavirus while overseas?
If you’re diagnosed with coronavirus before you are able to get home to the UK, you will need to seek medical treatment first. If you fall ill, tell your insurer immediately and they will advise you of your options.
Your travel insurance should meet any medical expenses you incur, provided you did not ignore government travel advice.
You may also be able to claim for additional expenses incurred because of your prolonged stay overseas, such as bed and board for other members of your party.
If you are placed into quarantine abroad, you may also be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses. And many insurers are paying out for claims for emergency medical and repatriation related to coronavirus. As ever, check with your insurer.
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