If you have a vacation planned in the midst of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak and purchased travel insurance like the responsible traveler that you are, you may be surprised to learn that your travel insurance plan would likely not cover you if your trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Why? Because “known and foreseeable circumstances or events” and “epidemics” are considered general exclusions in travel insurance plans.
As soon as the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak was announced to be an epidemic, it became a “known and foreseeable event” that was no longer covered for anyone who purchased a travel insurance plan after that date. Epidemics are considered a general exclusion because insurance carriers aren’t able to assess the risk involved with those events, like they can with other covered events.
“What?! What’s the point of purchasing travel insurance in the first place?”
The point is that there are still a number of potential events that could happen on your vacation that would be covered, like missing a paid excursion due to a travel delay, having to fly home early because your mom was hospitalized, or breaking your wrist after an innocent fall in the subway.
What are travel providers and insurance companies doing to help?
Because an epidemic is completely unforeseen and out of anyone’s control, it can feel very unfair that the plan that you purchased would not cover you in this event; however, the good news is that travel providers like airlines and hotels are offering refunds or waiving the change fees due to the outbreak.
So where travel insurance companies have your back when it comes to situations like travel delays, stolen baggage, and medical emergencies while on vacation, the travel providers are typically stepping up to assist in the global events like an epidemic.
Some travel insurance companies are also loosening their exclusions a bit as well. Allianz Travel Insurance has made some temporary exceptions to its rule and allowed certain claims to be processed for plan members as a result of the outbreak:
- “Emergency medical care and emergency medical transportation for a customer who becomes ill with COVID-19 while on their trip”;
- “Trip cancellation and trip interruption if a customer becomes ill with COVID-19 either before or during their trip.”
- “Non-refundable, non-transferable trip cancellation expenses for customers who purchased their plan prior to January 22, 2020 for trip components in Mainland China, South Korea, or the Lombardy or Veneto regions of Italy and departing prior to April 1, 2020.”
So in some situations, your travel insurance plan will cover you if you get sick with the virus while on your vacation, despite the virus being a foreseen and known event as well as an epidemic; however, you will not be able to cancel your vacation unless you purchased your travel insurance prior to the virus being named a known event and epidemic.
Travel insurance does not cover a fear of travel
If you have a vacation planned to a destination where there are cases of the coronavirus, but your flights have not been cancelled and you are able to get to your destination, you will not be reimbursed by either the travel providers or an insurance plan if you cancel out of fear.
The only exception to this is if you purchased a Cancel for Any Reason plan within the required time-frame. This travel insurance plan costs more than a standard plan, but will reimburse up to 75% of your nonrefundable travel expenses if you cancel for almost any reason not covered by the standard plan.
Cancel for Any Reason plans can vary on their requirements, but generally will require that you purchase the plan from within 24 hours to 21 days of your first payment towards your vacation. The safest way to make sure that you are covered is to purchase a Cancel for Any Reason plan as a default immediately after making your first payment on your vacation.
Before you run and snag that cheap flight and think “I’ll just purchase a Cancel for Any Reason plan”, some insurance carriers are temporarily not offering this plan due to the influx of travelers choosing this plan.
So will I be covered by my travel insurance plan?
The short answer is that it depends, but probably not. It depends on when you purchased your policy compared to when you made your initial trip payment. It depends on your specific travel insurance plan and supplier. And it depends on how much your insurance provider is willing to flex the rules and restrictions in light of this crazy event.
The first step to dealing with any potential cancellations, interruptions, or changes to your vacation is to check with the travel provider first to see if they will issue refunds or allow you to postpone your travel to a later date. If you can work something out with the provider, you will not have to bother with initiating a claim through your travel insurance plan.
A note from the author: We are dealing with unfortunate times right now in terms of travel + vacations. If you are worried about dealing with your upcoming vacation plans, reach out to Angela, founder + travel advisor of Wild Hair Travels, for support.