COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and travel: Before you change, cancel or book travel, contact your airline, travel agent and insurer

7 March, 2020

Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO), Karen Stevens, says check with your airline, your travel agent and your travel insurer before you cancel, change or make travel plans.

“At the IFSO Scheme we’re receiving a lot of calls from people wanting to change or cancel their travel plans because of the Coronavirus situation, but they’re concerned about insurance,” says Karen.

Cover-More CEO, Bruce Morrison, adds travel insurers appreciate the patience of customers, as many are inundated with enquiries, and service desks are doing all they can to accommodate increased questions.

“The first thing we advise is to check with your airline, your travel agent or your cruise operator as many of these providers are doing what they can to assist with options. Then check with your travel insurer to ask about your options and clarify what insurance cover you may have.”

“Most travel insurers have issued travel advisories on their websites specifying the cover they offer and the restrictions on this cover since Coronavirus became a known event in late January,” says Karen. “The advisories will be updated as the situation changes, so keep checking.”

“It’s vital to also check the Government’s travel advisory site:– advisory levels will continue to be updated so keep checking this site too.”

“All travel insurance policies are different, so it’s important to check and understand your own policy, as the following general observations may not apply to your cover.”

  • In general, travel insurance is intended to cover unexpected events. The date you purchased your insurance is likely to be relevant for this reason. If an event (such as a public health emergency or a natural disaster) has been widely reported in the media, it is a known event, and no longer unexpected. Note, medical cover for travellers is still being provided by some insurers despite this being a known event.
  • Broad exclusions normally apply for global pandemics or epidemics. Some travel insurance policies contain an exclusion for the threat of a pandemic.
  • Travel insurance is not designed to cover ‘disinclination to travel’. This could be relevant if you choose to cancel your travel because you feel unsafe, but there are no travel warnings or advisories about your travel destination. Note, some specialised cover, such as cancellation-for-any-reason cover, is available and should be discussed with insurers and travel agents.
  • Some insurers have specified the date on their websites after which there will be no cover for coronavirus-related claims.

Karen says if you’re booking travel, make sure you’re well informed about your options, and your cover, and purchase travel insurance as soon as you purchase your flights. “Even if cover is restricted for Coronavirus, travel insurance still offers cover for other unexpected events.”

For health and prevention guidance, see:

The IFSO Scheme resolves complaints about insurance and financial services. Our service is free and independent.