Updated: 11/08/2020

 

**Latest news – For more information addressing concerns over the recent change in FCO advice to Spain click here.**

 

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in over 20,319,063 confirmed cases worldwide, affected 215 countries and caused over 740,325 deaths. The virus has caused much devastation across the globe and has affected many people around the world.

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.

This restriction caused thousands of holidays to be cancelled and it is anticipated that around 400,000 people claimed for cancellation costs through their travel insurance provider during this time – which is the highest number of claims the industry has ever seen!

Fortunately, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the travel industry as it was announced that from July 10th, Britons who want to travel abroad would no longer have to quarantine upon their return to the UK, provided that the country they were travelling to was included on a list detailed by the Foreign Office.

And at the same time the Foreign Office removed its blanket ban on all but essential foreign travel which opened the door for people who want to take a summer break abroad.

We understand that a lot has happened in a very short space of time. So, we’ve drawn-up some of the most popular questions we’ve received during the pandemic and answered all travel concerns below!

 

My holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, what should I do? 

Holidaymakers’ options depend entirely on the type of holiday they have purchased. The below information is also relevant to those with upcoming trips booked to Spain.

If you’ve booked a package holiday

A package holiday is where you have booked at least two different types of services through a tour operator. For example, flights and accommodation. For information on what a package holiday includes click here.

If your holiday has been cancelled and you have booked a package holiday then you should contact your tour operator for a refund, as they are responsible for providing you with a full cash refund under the Package Travel Regulations Act. Tour operators are supposed to refund you within 14 days of cancellation, however, given the current global situation, this is taking longer than usual as companies simply do not have the money to provide cash refunds.

Many tour operators are currently offering alternative options to a refund, such as the opportunity to rebook your holiday for a later date or the option to receive a refund credit note.

Whether customers accept an alternative option to a refund is completely down to the individual and their circumstances. Although, it’s worth considering these options as they may be preferential.

Additionally, as of July 18th, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed that any refund credit notes would retain the financial protection that came with the original booking, so that should anything happen to the tour operator, customers would not be left out of pocket.

If you’ve booked your holiday independently (your flights and accommodation separately)

If you booked your holiday independently then you will need to speak to your airline and accommodation provider about getting your money back.

Some airlines are allowing customers to change their flight to a later date, while others are offering vouchers as an alternative to a cash refund. However, it is worth knowing that under EU Law, airlines have a responsibility to provide full refunds provide an alternative flight if they cancelled the flight.

Those who have accommodation bookings that they are no longer able to use due to the cancellations will need to speak to their provider directly. Most hotel and accommodation providers have strict cancellation policies but may offer to reimburse costs or move your travel dates as a gesture of goodwill due to the circumstances. It is worth noting, that this is not guaranteed and will vary between accommodation providers.

If you cannot get a refund from the tour operator, airline or accommodation provider

If you are unable to get your money back from the tour operator, airline or accommodation provider, and you booked your holiday on a credit card, then you may be able to claim back costs against your credit card provider under ‘Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act’. However, the holiday must have cost more than £100 to do so.

Those who booked with a debit card may also be able to claim costs back through their bank under a voluntary scheme called ‘Chargeback’. However, customers will need to speak directly to their card provider to discuss their options in both circumstances. More information can be found here.

Once all of the other providers have been contacted and confirmed that they are unable to provide a refund or alternative option in writing, then customers should contact their travel insurer and submit a claim for consideration.

After you have exhausted all other options, you should look to submit a claim through your travel insurance provider

To be able to successfully submit a claim for cancellation you must be able to provide your travel insurance provider with written confirmation that you are unable to recover any costs from any other provider.

The reason a travel insurer may ask for confirmation that these costs are not recoverable is because travel insurance policies are designed to put customers back in the same financial position as they were before a loss. Therefore, if a customer is able to get a refund, move their holiday, or receive a credit note to book their trip at a later date, there is simply nothing to claim back.

Of course, customers who are unable to recover lost costs would be able to submit a claim for consideration, providing they have relevant cover included in their policy.

Holidaymakers may have cancellation cover for any cause, which may be worded as “If you are unable to go on your trip”. Alternatively, they may have a change in FCO advice covered in their policy, which their claim may equally be applicable under. You should also check that you have the appropriate cover for claims related to the coronavirus, as some policies may have specific exclusions, depending on when you bought your policy.

Other facts may also play a part in the eligibility of a claim, so it’s always worth reading the finer details to find out exactly what cover is included and what exclusions your policy has, as most travel insurance policies list the cancellation reasons that are covered.

You should contact your insurance company if you are unsure or have any further questions.

 

What’s the point of having travel insurance if I have to get a refund from everywhere else?

Travel insurance is there to protect you should anything go wrong while you’re away. While travel insurance policies have many different and varying aspects of cover, depending on the type of policy purchased, all policies will cover for medical costs should you fall ill abroad and need medical attention. Of course, this is providing that any and all existing medical conditions have been declared to the insurer beforehand.

This is the main reason travel insurance is so important. Most good insurers will also cover any medical claims submitted as a result of falling ill with coronavirus while on holiday, which is useful to know.

Secondly, travel insurance offers protection should you have to cancel your trip. In normal circumstances, when a customer is not able to travel as a result of illness or another insurable reason that is no fault of the tour operators, the insurer would be responsible for covering these costs provided there was cover in the policy. However, in this circumstance, the insurer would sit behind all other providers as there is legislation in place to protect customers.

Of course, the reasons which will allow you to submit a cancellation claim will vary on the type of policy bought. For example, a cheaper policy typically bought on a comparison site may only provide you with very basic cover and be more restrictive in the reasons for which you can claim. These policies also tend to have a higher excess, meaning you may receive less back overall.

On the contrary, policies that are bought directly from the insurer (and are often more expensive) may have more cover for events beyond your control. For example, these types of policies may cover you against a change in Foreign and Commonwealth advice and have lower excess – as more was paid for the insurance in the first place.

 

I’ve cancelled my travel insurance policy as I am no longer going on my trip – why won’t my travel insurer give me the full premium back?

Many travel insurers are offering pro-rata refunds to customers who no longer wish to keep their policy in place. However, there are several reasons why some customers may not be entitled to a full refund.

You’ve exceeded the ‘cooling-off’ period

Most travel insurance policies have a 14-day cooling-off period which begins from the date customer purchased the policy. This period allows 14-days for customers to cancel their policy and receive a full refund if they change their mind and no longer want it. After the cooling-off period is up, customers are no longer entitled to a full refund as they will have had enough time to read through the policy wording, and documentation, and decide whether it is the right policy for their trip.

However, some insurers have extended this period up to 28 days due to the coronavirus outbreak. So, it’s always worth checking to see how long you have to change your mind, or else you may not be entitled to a refund should you cancel.

Protection has been in place for some time

Another reason many people haven’t been able to get a full refund is because their policy may have been in place and providing cover for some time.

For example, if you booked your trip in December 2019 and bought a single trip policy on the same day, your cover for holiday cancellation would have started that day. If your holiday then got cancelled by your tour operator in March 2020, your cover had already been in place and protecting you for any pre-travel issues for those three months, whether you needed to claim or not.

Travel insurance is there to protect you both before and during your trip. It’s very similar to car insurance in the respect that you may never need to claim on your insurance, but you will have been protected all the time cover was in place.

You’ve already claimed through your insurance policy

You may also be unable to receive a refund for your travel insurance policy if you have already claimed through your travel insurance.

For example, if you bought an annual multi-trip policy and made a claim before cancelling your insurance, you wouldn’t be entitled to a refund as you had already used your policy.

Insurance providers take a premium so that they can pay your claim. Unfortunately, they can’t settle your claim and then refund your money.

 

I bought my travel insurance policy last year to cover my upcoming holiday – am I covered for any claims related to the coronavirus?

If you bought a travel insurance policy before the coronavirus outbreak became a known event then it is worth knowing that changes cannot be made to your existing policy.

So, providing that you have appropriate cover, you should be able to claims related to the coronavirus. Exclusions for claims related to the coronavirus will only be included in policies bought around March 13th 2020.

 
I have been able to move my upcoming holiday to a later date – can I change my travel insurance policy dates as well?

If you have been able to move your upcoming trip to a later date, then you should contact your travel insurance provider as they may be able to amend any single trip policies to suit new travel dates.

Depending on how far in advance your new holiday is and whether there has been a change in destination or duration, there may be a small additional premium to pay.

 

I have a cruise holiday that I am no longer able to go on – can I claim costs back through my travel insurance provider?

On July 9 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a statement advising British holidaymakers to avoid travelling on cruise ships and encouraged those with existing bookings to contact their tour operators.

Fortunately, most Brits with cruise holidays should be entitled to a cash refund under the Package Regulations Act. However, it’s worth checking your rights with the provider you booked through and remembering that refunds are taking a little longer to process during the current crisis.

Those with cancelled cruise holidays will be able to claim through their travel insurance policy, provided they have exhausted all other avenues in the first instance and are not entitled to any vouchers or refund credit notes (as detailed above). They must also have the relevant cruise cover or extension in their policy.

 

I am looking to buy a travel insurance policy for a trip next year – are there any policies that provide cover related to the coronavirus? 

Yes. Many travel insurance providers have started covering medical expenses related to the coronavirus.

Quite frankly, this is one of the most important aspects of any travel insurance policy as very few countries have the luxury of a free National Health Service like we do in the UK.

So, to avoid large bills and difficulty getting home, should anything unexpected happen to your during your trip, it is essential you take out appropriate travel insurance.

 

Are any travel insurance providers offering cover for cancellation claims related to the coronavirus?

At the time in writing this, there are some travel insurance providers who are offering limited cover should you need to cancel your holiday due to the coronavirus – they mainly cover situations where you are told to self-isolate after contracting the virus.

However, the situation is changing daily so it is likely that as the holiday season picks up, more providers will be announcing more comprehensive cover.

 

If I catch the coronavirus abroad, will my travel insurance cover medical expenses? 

Yes – depending on your policy.

Most travel insurance providers are now providing policies which include medial expenses related to the coronavirus. So, if you fell ill while abroad with the coronavirus, and needed emergency treatment, you’d be covered.

In the event that you needed to be repatriated (flown home early due to the severity of the illness) you’d also be covered.

 

If there is a second wave and I am quarantined abroad, am I covered? 

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.

However, this will differ between policies and depend entirely on when the policy was purchased. So, travellers will need to check their policy wording carefully or contact their travel insurance provider for more details on this.

 

Will my travel insurance cover me if I travel to a country that is not detailed on the Foreign Office’s list?

No. We completely understand that the travel restrictions may be frustrating, but if you do decide to travel to a country against the FCO’s advice, then you most likely won’t be covered by your travel insurance provider should anything go wrong.

 

Do I need travel insurance for a holiday in the UK? If so, why?

Yes! A UK travel insurance policy or ‘staycation’ policy is similar to the normal insurance policy you’d buy if you were travelling abroad, except it includes specialist cover to protect you against unexpected events that could happen during a break in the UK.

For example, some UK policies will provide you with cover for events such as property damage, should you accidentally break something in your holiday home, and not get your deposit back. While others offer cover for things like vehicle breakdown, which can be a real perk if you only have ‘near home’ cover on your roadside policy and need assistance while on your way to your holiday destination.

Similar to the normal travel insurance policy you buy when you’re off abroad, staycation policies also provide you with the standard elements of any travel insurance policy, including cancellation, curtailment, and personal possessions protection. Just because you’re staying in the UK, doesn’t mean that things won’t happen which requires you to cancel or cut short your holiday and losing out on that money.

While you may not need the benefit of having emergency medical cover in a staycation policy (as we’re fortunate enough to have access to the NHS in the UK), you’ll need to be sure that your trip and belongings are 100% protected through other insurances (such as home insurance) if you do decide to risk travelling without insurance. Alternatively, you’ll need to check that you have cancellation protection with your holiday provider, should you decide to risk it.

 

Are travel insurance policies likely to increase in price?

While no travel insurance provider has said that travel insurance premiums will increase, it is possible that policies could go up in price due to the financial challenges that the industry has suffered this year.

Therefore, if premiums do increase, it is likely to be a result of two main factors: the dreaded coronavirus pandemic and Brexit (as the transition period ends on December 31st, 2020).

So, we would recommend buying a policy for any upcoming trip sooner, rather than later.