Many of us have had their holidays cancelled – airlines and package travel agents are pushing re-booking and vouchers instead of a refund. But what about your travel insurance for those re-booked trips?
NOTE: I’m not a lawyer and this article doesn’t constitute legal advice – just my interpretation of the current rules and laws.
If you purchased travel insurance and booked a trip prior to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, you’re likely to be covered if you’re unable to travel because of government advice, flight cancelled etc. Insurers will always ask you to recover as much as you can from the travel provider and then submit a claim for the remainder. You’re also likely to remain covered if you are able to take the trip – for example, you have annual travel insurance taken out in January and your trip is in November.
However, if you book, or re-book a holiday now, it’s likely that your travel insurance, even if it was an Annual policy taken out in January, won’t cover you for cancellation or medical costs related to Coronavirus (Covid-19). That’s because Coronavirus is now a ‘known event’. Cancellation isn’t such an issue as most travel providers are offering fully flexible bookings. Medical is a much bigger problem…
For example, you are a UK citizen and book/re-book to travel to the USA next year – it’s likely that your existing policy won’t cover your medical expenses should you become ill with any respiratory-type illness while in the USA. A new policy almost definitely won’t. If you aren’t able to secure medical cover before you go, you probably shouldn’t go – unless you can afford US medical expenses.
Another example: You are a UK citizen and plan to travel within the European Union before December 31st 2020. It’s likely that your existing policy won’t cover your medical expenses should you become ill with any respiratory-type illness while in the EU. A new policy almost definitely won’t. The good news is that you can apply for a free European Health Card and should definitely do that by visiting this site:
So if your airline or travel provider asks you to re-book your holiday for a future date, be aware that you may not be covered by your current or any new travel insurance policy.
Get a refund if you can
Airlines and travel companies are making it really difficult to claim a refund – instead they are offering vouchers or future re-booking. You are legally entitled to a refund if your flight or holiday is cancelled – but you may need to spend some time on hold before you get it. Or, if you are in the EU, you could email them and write something this:
I do not want a voucher, nor a rebooking, please fully reimburse the ticket cost within 15 working days – after that I will (request a chargeback from my credit card provider / submit a claim to the small claims court). Note that EU directive EC 261 covers flights departing from, arriving into, or transiting through the European Union. Rule EC 261 was clarified on March 18, 2020 to reiterate that travellers have the right to request reimbursement for cancelled flights instead of accepting vouchers, re-routes or alternate travel dates.