With the global pandemic, Coronavirus having an impact on every element of society we are only now starting to see some of the cataclysmic effects to businesses and individuals across large sections of our community. Travel insurance and the protection that it affords the policyholder is one such area as the travel business globally has in one fell swoop has been decimated. Holidays and travel at home and abroad have all but ceased
Travel Insurance – what we know and the Restrictions
- Those who travel on airlines will in the very few cases where travel is still allowed face considerable disruption. Although most flights are now cancelled.
- The Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) deemed that all non-essential international travel initially for a period of 30 days starting 17 March is avoided. Although this is likely to be extended well beyond this initial 30 days.
- The (FCO) has also advised against travel to various countries and cities such as the Hubei province in China and cities in South Korea. Again these areas are being added to daily with this fast moving situation.
- Some countries, if you are able to fly to them require individuals to undertake a period of quarantine, so these details need to be checked prior to committing to any flight.
- Many British citizens are abroad and it is likely repatriation will occur due to them being British nationals and not necessarily the responsibility to care for of the country they are in.
- Travel insurance claims are likely to be significant, in relation to the cancellation of flights, cruises, holidays at home and abroad which have been cancelled in the short term but also that are likely to be cancelled or there is doubt in the not too distant future of there being able to be fulfilled.
- There is a huge question mark on the holiday industry and how it will survive going forward. Will airlines be able to operate regardless of any government support?: will visitor attractions be able to open again both big and small?, and will the appetite of the public to travel come back to us?.
Everyone books a holiday in good faith that both they and the firm who are organising the travel arrangements will be in business. Sometimes, holidays don’t go ahead for a variety of reasons, ill-health, the firm or associated destination due to some reason not being able to fulfil holiday. This is where a holiday insurance policy comes into play. Today that rule book has been thrown out of the window. Tens of thousands of individuals and families have had holidays cancelled where they were looking to go on holiday in the future. Where deposits or part balances have been paid and where there is a likely scenario that the holiday commitment will not be fulfilled by the operator or destination.
In addition individuals due to their significance change of circumstances in today’s climate through loss of business or employment cannot see themselves going on holiday or would not wish to go on holiday as their lives have been changed as a result of Covid-19.
Coronavirus Holiday Insurance
As cases of Coronavirus continue to rise in countries across the world many individuals are concerned for future travel arrangements and their safety and well-being. Can these concerns be computed into being able to make a claim against travel insurance? Sadly probably not, travel insurance policies have their own terms and conditions and these will need to be analysed to see if a claim can be made.
Does your Travel Insurance cover Coronavirus
Travel insurance companies are normally members of the Association of British insurance. They have concerning the Covid 19 epidemic pledged the following:-
- That information is provided to customers as soon as available and is clear concise and provided at the point of sale around the valid coverage of any policies.
- They will look at implementing business coverage plans to handle the volumes of travel insurance claims that will no doubt happen.
- When policyholders contact the insurer, will help them consider options for transferring travel insurance cover to new destinations should individuals and families wish to make alternative travel plans.
- Provide customers with direct information on how to claim compensation for loss of transport, holidays or their inability to travel abroad via airlines, cruise ships, travel providers and travel agents.
- Being mindful and understanding of the difficulties policyholders will have in obtaining medical certification where at present all but essential work is carried out by our medical services. Insurance companies should where appropriate request alternative evidence that customers can supply.
If you have booked a trip and have travel insurance there is an opportunity to claim where travel insurance provides a cancellation cover providing you have compelling reasons not to travel. The usual reasons relate to illness, divorce or bereavement and surprisingly only sometimes if the government is advised against essential travel. Is there any more of a compelling reason than fear of your own personal safety with the pandemic Covid-19!
Insurance for Coronavirus – Airline Passengers
When Flybe went into administration on 5 March 2020 (which now seems a lifetime ago!) this was the exception. Now several weeks later it is the rule of thumb where all airlines have in effect suspended non-commercial flights. How therefore do you obtain a refund for a flight ticket when normally direct flight purchases are not covered by the normal trade body schemes such as ATOL.
In the event your flight is part of an ATOL protected package holiday the travel firm who organised this should be looking at making a full refund.
If you made independent arrangements and paid via a credit card or debit card you may be able to look at recovering monies regarding a credit card transaction under section 75 of the consumer credit act. Via debit cards this would be against your bank account through a chargeback scheme which VISA, MasterCard and American Express all belong to.
If you spent money on accommodation or car hire the same would apply in that you would have to look at recouping monies via your credit card or debit card provider.
Reclaiming Money from your Credit card – Section 75 of the Consumer Credit act
If you have paid for any goods or services using a credit card you have the legal ability to reclaim these monies should the goods or services that were purchased not be provided. In terms of holidays, flights, car hire and accommodation these should all be covered under this legal right to reclaim.
Reclaiming Money by Chargeback
VISA, MasterCard and American Express all belong to a scheme that enables people to claim payments for goods and services that cannot be fulfilled and have been made via a debit card. Now prior to the Coronavirus this was a general industry agreement made under goodwill and providing individuals the same protections as is the legal right of those with credit cards. However, we are in unprecedented times and with the level of claims that are expected would expect this goodwill on behalf of debit card providers to wane.
Will you be Covered by Travel your Insurance due to the Coronavirus
Our world has been turned upside down where individuals, families, communities and businesses both big and small are fighting for their survival. Travel insurance is just one area which affects a huge numbers of individuals and families on the one side and big business providing both the holiday and travel experience or protection from the cancellation of the arrangements on the other. Normally this works well with the occasional glitch where a business may fall into administration and a comparatively small set of travellers are affected but where the industry financial guarantors such as ATOL or their holiday insurance covers them.
The world now is very different. The gloves are off as big firms try to limit their exposure and duties to refund money both through insurance claims or claims against their credit card or bank account to protect their own business. This will only get worse.
As this pandemic grips our world’s economy and society we will all have our own personal battles to face. For many of us there will be more questions than answers at this stage and this is particularly true in relation to travel and the holiday and travel arrangements you have booked.
Can you cancel your holiday because of the risk of the Coronavirus?
If you are paid a deposit for your holiday but feel unsafe paying the balance what can you reclaim?
Are you covered for additional expenses if you have to quarantine following a trip due to Covid 19?
Your tour operator has offered a travel voucher or credit to re-book your holiday. If you decline this what happens with your travel insurance?
What happens if you cancelled a trip as you were unable to get their due to coronavirus but the accommodation was available?
Can you claim travel insurance in relation to a UK trip which has been booked and cancelled?
All of these questions would normally have a straightforward answer of how to make a claim but we are in very unusual times. If you have had any form of travel arrangements that have been cancelled, re-booked or where there is a question mark on future fulfilment it is important to get the very basics correct and in place.
- Obtain a copy of your travel insurance policy if you do not have one.
- Obtain details of the holiday and the cover if the firm is covered by ATOL.
- Look at the latest guidance from the foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) to assist with any claim