5 issues it’s essential to learn about journey insurance coverage within the age of coronavirus
In normal times – and by that we mean before March 2020 – the UK government would only apply the “anything but essential travel” warning to destinations that are obviously unsafe, often places at risk of civil unrest, political conflict or war. But in these strangest times, this list has spanned pretty much the entire globe lately. An edict by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO, formerly FCO) against non-essential travel once seemed like an all-powerful veto, but in fact you can visit a country it advises against travel to. The problem is, if you do, you may void your travel insurance.
1. Read the fine print
As early as March, given the reality of the lockdown, many insurers completely stopped selling travel insurance. Since then, many have returned to the market – but the fine print in most traditional travel insurance still precludes coverage for countries that have been denied travel by the FCDO. However, a handful of companies are now ready to offer policy coverage or renewals for an additional fee. These include Battleface, Campbell Irvine, Insurefor, and Stay Sure. Their offers vary. Some cover you if the FCDO advice changes while you are away, others if it changes before your trip – and most of them currently only cover Europe.
2. Watch out for closed borders
It’s worth noting that while the FCDO lists some locations as safe to travel, certain destinations may have closed borders for arrivals from countries where Covid-19 infection rates are high. Your insurer is less likely to have you covered if your destination country is pushing its boundaries, although Nationwide currently does and research by Which? Offers some of the most comprehensive insurance coverage for coronavirus. The Consumer Watchdog lists 25 insurers that are now offering fairly comprehensive travel insurance after the lockdown. As with many insurers, however, nationwide coverage is not available as individual travel insurance, but as a conditional purchase – in this case for building society account holders.
3. Find out how tour operators take responsibility
Most package tour providers, especially those that are bound (e.g. members of ABTA or ABTOT) are legally responsible for your safety. As such, they will not take you to a destination that the FCDO advises against traveling to. If you have already booked, part of the legal requirement is that you must be refunded for a cancellation. Most operators now have flexible cancellation and rebooking policies.
Read our guide to Refunds, Rebooking and Your Rights
As we’ve seen over the past few months, you may need to take refunds for weeks if not months, and rebooking coupons can be difficult to use in practice. When deciding which company to book with, be sure to check out how operators responded to mass cancellations and rebookings earlier this year.
Are your refunded flight vouchers still valid for travel?
If FCDO policies change while you are away, your tour operator is legally responsible for getting you home. Chris Logan, MD of Crystal Ski Holidays, part of TUI Group that uses TUI Airways, says 10,000 people were brought home quickly after the sudden end of the last ski season and is ready to do it again this season.
4. Check general coverage for Covid-19
Some companies have a “general exclusion” from coronavirus claims, others pay medical expenses if you get the virus overseas, but nothing else, such as: B. Costs due to travel interruptions or repatriation.
However, a growing number of insurers are now taking on the general costs associated with coronavirus, from travel disruptions due to the pandemic to related medical issues. But read the fine print carefully – every insurer has its own exclusions. Many will cover you, for example, if you have to drop out because you tested positive for coronavirus but not if someone else in your household has it, or if you self-isolate but are not infected.
5. Make sure you are covered against flight cancellations
In these troubled times, when many airlines are streamlining their fleets, laying off employees or filing bankruptcy, you should also check that your policy includes Scheduled Flight Cancellation Insurance (SAFI) to protect you in the event your airline goes out of business.
And as always, check a policy’s deductible. Full coverage from the Covid era is all very good, but you need to be able to afford the excess fee.
More info: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Read more about traveling in the age of the coronavirus
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