***Updated 15th April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in over 2,000,734 confirmed cases worldwide, affected 210 countries and caused over 126,776 deaths. Sadly, these numbers are likely to increase and cause more devastation across the globe as the virus spreads.
The travel industry has also seen the damage Covid-19 has caused after the Foreign Office announced a travel ban for any non-essential trips overseas. The travel restriction was put in place on March 17th for an initial 30-day period effective until April 14th. However, on April 4th the FCO extended this ban ‘indefinitely’, meaning there is no current end date in sight. Although, it is worth noting that this change in advice is mostly the same as the initial ‘all but essential’ travel guidance, and could be lifted at any point.
But what does this mean for your holiday? Currently, travel companies are looking at imminent departures and deciding how far in advance they will begin to offer alternative arrangements or refunds. We recommend that those with upcoming trips keep an eye on the FCO’s website for up-to-date advice and contact their tour operator to discuss their options.
Those with trips booked later this year may have to wait until nearer to the time to see if they can get a refund or make a claim on their travel insurance, as the advice may well change again. More information about travel restrictions can be found on the FCO’s website.
Will my travel insurance protect my trip against coronavirus?
As long as your travel insurance policy offers cover against a change in FCO advice, your trip will be protected – providing you purchased the policy before the change was announced. If you are looking to purchase a policy now, you should read your policy wording before buying to find out exactly what cover is provided, as many policies now exclude cancellation claims related to the coronavirus.
The FCO has changed its advice due to coronavirus, what am I entitled to?
If you booked a package holiday, you should contact your travel agent or tour operator who will either offer to reimburse the cost of any pre-paid expenses or offer alternative travel dates or destinations. Terms and conditions will differ between companies, so those due to travel soon should speak directly to the company they booked with.
Some airlines may offer to rebook, reroute, or refund passengers; however, they are not obligated to provide compensation for cancellations due to the FCO advising against travel. This is due to coronavirus being considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ (something which is outside of the airline’s control).
If passengers are unable to recuperate costs from their tour operator or airline, they will need to speak to their travel insurance provider. It is worth noting, however, that not all policies will include cover for cancellation if the FCO advises against travel to a specific region. If passengers chose to travel against the advice of the FCO, it is likely it will void their policy.
Travel insurance policies that do offer cancellation cover if the FCO advises against travel, will need to have been purchased before the announcement was made.
My flight has been cancelled because of the coronavirus, what should I do?
If the airline has suspended flights, those who have not booked through a tour operator or travel agent should contact their airline who will refund the cost of any unused tickets, or rebook the flight for a later date.
Those who have accommodation bookings that they are no longer able to use due to the cancellations will need to speak to their hotel directly. Most hotel and accommodation providers have strict cancellation policies but may offer to reimburse costs as a gesture of goodwill due to the circumstances. It is worth noting, that this is not guaranteed and will vary between accommodation providers.
Those who are unable to recuperate costs are advised to check the cover available under their travel insurance policy. If their flight back to the UK has been cancelled, and passengers are stranded abroad, then some travel insurance policies will contribute towards the cost of food and additional accommodation, some may also include cover for the additional costs of getting home. The cover available will differ between insurers, so it is best to speak to them directly.
Will my travel insurance cover cancellation due to coronavirus?
Cancellation clauses between travel insurance companies will differ greatly. Generally speaking, cancelling due to the fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection, or allergic reaction will not be covered.
As mentioned above, some travel insurance companies will offer to cover for cancellation if the FCO advises against travel.
Those who can change their travel dates or destination should speak to their travel insurance company, who may offer to amend the policy to suit their new trip, free of charge. In some cases, an administration fee will apply. Similarly, those who have been able to recuperate costs elsewhere and no longer need their travel insurance policy may be entitled to receive a pro-rata refund.
If I catch the coronavirus abroad, will my travel insurance cover medical expenses?
Generally speaking, those who contract the coronavirus abroad will be covered for medical expenses under their travel insurance policy. In the event where medical repatriation is necessary, travellers will need to obtain a fit to fly certificate from the treating doctor and keep in contact with their travel insurer.
If I am quarantined abroad, what cover am I entitled to?
Those who are confined to their accommodation due to the coronavirus may be entitled to claim a small contribution from their travel insurance company for food and the cost of returning home. This will differ between policies, so travellers will need to check their policy wording carefully.
Am I covered if my connecting flight stops over in a country affected by coronavirus?
Travellers who are due to catch a connecting flight will need to speak to their airline directly to amend their route.
Travellers passing through airports in affected areas should ensure they are following the advice of airport staff and take personal hygiene incredibly seriously.
I’m stuck abroad – what should I do?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised on March 17th that all British nationals should return home immediately. However, many countries have since closed their borders and numerous airlines grounded their flights. This has left tens of thousands of Britons stuck abroad because of the coronavirus.
On March 30th the UK government announced that those stranded abroad will be flown home under a new arrangement between the government and airlines. BA, Virgin and Easyjet are among the airlines working with the government to fly Britons back to the UK.
The UK government also pledged £75m to charter special flights to bring home UK nationals from countries where commercial flights are unavailable, with priority given to the most vulnerable (the elderly and those with pressing medical needs) and also to countries where there are large numbers of British tourists stuck.
British holidaymakers stuck abroad should book these available flights as soon as possible to avoid being stranded completely. More information about what to do if you’re stuck abroad can be found on the FCO’s website.