Does my travel insurance cover COVID-19?
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Travel insurance is an essential part of travelling. It’s important both:
- When you are travelling to cover you if something goes wrong — especially a medical emergency; and
- When you choose not to travel, so you are not out of pocket.
This year, COVID-19 has shown travel insurance to be more important than ever. Would-be travellers have been cancelling plans and navigating refunds, rebooking and vouchers as they stay at home and wait for the okay to travel again. That approval has now been given for certain destinations following the U.K. government relaxing its worldwide travel ban by establishing travel corridors.
You might be battling with a travel provider for a refund because of a cancelled trip over the past four months, or you might be considering whether to take or cancel that summer trip you booked before lockdown started. You might even be considering booking new travel now the travel restrictions have changed, but will your insurance policy cover you?
Let’s have a look at the major policies in the U.K.
Amex offers complimentary travel insurance with some of its best credit cards. Like most policies, if you choose to travel to a destination where a government warning is in place, you will not be covered for this trip. This means if you travel to a country that is not part of the new exemption list and you get sick, you cannot rely on your travel insurance. If your travel is essential, this will be covered, though “I wanted to visit my family because I hadn’t seen them in months”, or “I had a non-refundable hotel room”, would not be considered essential.
If you booked travel before travel restrictions were put in place, American Express travel insurance will cover this. This covers both U.K. and foreign government restrictions. For example, if you had a flight to Australia booked before it banned tourists and you could not cancel this through your airline, the insurance would cover this.
If you catch COVID-19 at home and cannot travel for that reason — or if you catch it while travelling — the insurance will also cover this. You won’t be covered if you choose not to travel to a country without travel restrictions, such as Spain.
For new travel, provided there is no travel ban in place for your destination, and you are allowed entry, your normal travel insurance would apply. If you, for example, booked travel now for Portugal for travel in two months assuming the travel ban would be lifted by the time your flight departed and it wasn’t, your travel insurance would be void because you chose to book travel to a restricted country and should have been aware of the restrictions when booking.
Allianz is the official provider of travel insurance for British Airways, so if you’ve added insurance to your BA Holidays trip, it’s most likely issued by Allianz. Allianz splits its insurance coverage between those purchased before and after 12 March 2020, which was the day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
For pre-COVID-19 purchased policies:
- You are covered if you contract COVID-19 while you are travelling, provided there was no government travel restrictions in place when you commenced travel. You will also be covered for medical expenses on your return to the U.K., which is generous;
- If you choose to travel to a restricted country now, you will not be covered; and
- If you booked travel before COVID-19 and no longer wish to travel, you would only be covered if your policy includes cancellation coverage or there was now government advice not to travel.
For policies purchased after 12 March (i.e. when people panicked about being covered for COVID-19):
- You will not be covered for any travel where you choose to travel against government advice;
- Where you are cancelling your travel and are out of pocket. Allianz does not say it excludes coverage for expenses, though strongly suggests you exhaust all refund and compensation options from travel providers and credit card providers (for chargebacks) first before lodging any insurance claim; and
- If you have purchased a single trip policy for a trip you no longer plan to take, you can cancel and refund the policy. Only do this if you are absolutely sure you will not be making any claims under the policy (i.e. you have not incurred any out-of-pocket expenses in cancelling the trip); and
- For new travel to unrestricted destinations, your normal travel insurance coverage would apply, so you would be covered for medical emergencies including contracting COVID-19.
If you contract COVID-19 and/or require physical quarantine while covered by a Travelex travel insurance policy, you are covered by its Trip Cancellation/Interruption benefits including Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage. Travelex states that COVID-19 is treated as “any other illness” when it comes to its policies.
Travelex does not cover a change of mind where you choose not to travel due to fear of COVID-19, but there are no restrictions in place to stop you from travelling. Oddly, if you hold a Travelex policy and are unable to travel because of travel warnings like the U.K. government had issued globally, or cannot enter a country because of destination restrictions, you will not be covered for out-of-pocket costs by Travelex (such as non-refundable hotel accommodation). This makes Travelex one of the least-generous policies when it comes to COVID-19 coverage.
If you have purchased a single-trip Travelex policy and you wish to reschedule the trip the policy covers, you can do this once per policy, at no cost.
If you booked travel before travel restrictions were put in place (i.e. before COVID-19 hit), you will be covered for out-of-pocket costs related to cancelling the trip such as non-refundable accommodation costs, though you should seek these from the travel provider first where possible rather than HSBC/Aviva. This includes where you no longer wish to travel because your destination country has imposed a mandatory quarantine on arrival.
It notes that it can only accept claims less than 31 days before your departure date. HSBC/Aviva also covers you for domestic travel plans you cancel where the U.K. government advises you to stay at home and not travel.
If you contract COVID-19 while travelling, you would be covered for medical expenses by your HSBC/Aviva policy. HSBC/Aviva has a very generous policy condition that, even if you choose to travel against government advice, you will still be covered for medical expenses. If you, however, decide to just abandon the trip that you chose to take against government travel advice, you would not be covered for abandonment expenses.
The Post Office Travel Insurance excludes any coverage where you choose to travel for non-essential reasons against Government advice. It will cover medical expenses and repatriation if you contract COVID-19 while travelling in line with government travel advice. There is no coverage for change of mind, cancelling an upcoming trip or abandoning a trip where you are already travelling regardless of whether there is government advice or destination restrictions like mandatory quarantine.
This means even if you took out the policy pre-COVID-19 and booked the trip before any restrictions were put in place, you would not be covered if you no longer travelled.
The COVID-19 coverage from each of these major providers varies. HSBC’s coverage for travel even against government advice is very generous whereas the Post Office will not cover you if you booked a trip before COVID-19 even existed.
This is a good reminder to always check travel advice before you undertake any trip and understand exactly what you are covered for, and what is excluded. Where you are cancelling travel, it’s likely to be easier to seek refunds and associated compensation from the travel provider first, before lodging a travel insurance claim. Indeed, insurers may force you to exhaust all options with the travel provider before they will consider any claims.
Featured image by Gettys Images
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