If I buy travel insurance now for a holiday I have just booked, will it cover me going forward?
Yes. The Association of British Insurers confirmed this week that someone booking a holiday to Spain in, say, June, and buying travel insurance would be covered for cancellation, but only if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) later advised against travel to the country. The insurance has to have been bought before a country was declared off limits.
That said, Money would not be surprised if insurers – faced with a deluge of claims in the future – started to argue that the virus was a known problem when the policy was bought. Force majeure may be used to avoid paying out, although when we examined several major travel policy terms and conditions this week, we were not able to identify such get-out clauses. MB
Will travel insurance cover me if I cancel my holiday?
In most cases, no. Insurers’ cancellation cover will only kick in if the FCO advises against all but essential travel. This happened for China, parts of South Korea and the area of northern Italy in lockdown. However, if you are travelling to another destination that is not covered by the advice – and you don’t feel you want to travel because of the risk – your travel insurance will not cover your losses. MB
What travel insurance policy should I buy?
One of the problems faced by travellers has been the fact that airlines have been cancelling flights. While they will refund the cost of the ticket, holidaymakers have been left holding unrefundable hotel and car hire bookings. The better travel policies offer “travel disruption cover”, which will often pick up the pieces in such circumstances.
After Flybe’s collapse this week and the warnings that other airlines may be in the same boat, buyers need to opt for a policy that offers scheduled airline failure (SAF). About half of travel policies sold in the UK offer SAF as standard, with a further 19% offering it as an add-on according to Defaqto. In the current climate it would be a mistake not to buy a policy that included it.
MoneySavingExpert did an in-depth investigation into which policies are currently the best buys. It highlighted the AA (Silver) cover policy, which will cover you if your flight or hotel is cancelled. This costs about £29 for a 35-year-old’s annual European policy, £141 for a family worldwide. It also favours Nationwide’s travel cover for those with its FlexPlus account. MB
I’m over 70, and my doctor has advised me not to travel. What’s my position?
The possible exception to the above comes if your GP has advised you not to travel to a virus-affected area, in which case your travel insurance could kick in.
Axa said: “If your GP tells you not to travel to an [affected] area, you should contact us before your departure date, and you won’t be penalised.”
The normal conditions of declaring pre-existing conditions will apply. So, if you were told not to travel by your doctor because of an underlying lung problem that you had not declared when you bought the policy, you may find your claim turned down, or the payout reduced. Doctors may, in the current climate, take a very dim view of being asked to provide a letter to allow you to make such a claim. MB
I was due to travel to attend an event that has been cancelled – can I claim back my losses?
It depends. Those who bought tour packages to go to the Italy v England Six Nations rugby match in Rome on 14 March – which has been postponed – will be offered a full refund or tickets for the new date.
However, if you had put together your own package, buying a match ticket, and booking hotels and flights yourself, most travel policies are unlikely to pay up.
There are a few exceptions. Some insurers will pay up if you are forced to abandon the trip. For example, Barclays’ travel insurance states that it will pay up to £3,000 if “the area in which you are staying is affected by pandemic or epidemic influenza”.
Most reasonable people would think that Italy and a host of other areas have been affected, but the World Health Organization is yet to declare a pandemic. MB
I have a ski holiday booked in the Dolomites later this month. Can I get my money back?
The tour companies are, for now, sticking firmly to their terms and conditions. Only if you cancel at Crystal Ski (part of Tui) more than 70 days before departure do you get your money back – and then it’s minus the deposit. After that, there’s a sliding scale of fees: so if you cancel between 28 and 15 days prior to departure, you get just 10% of your money back; and if you cancel 14 days before it’s nothing back. It’s a similar picture at Inghams: you’ll get nothing back if you cancel within 21 days. Interestingly, both are still flying clients to northern Italy for ski trips, and are saying they will only offer refunds if FCO advice changes. You’d be mad to book right now. PC
I was about to book my summer holiday – should I still do it?
There’s little cost to delaying but if you really want to book, be smart about it. If buying a summer holiday package from Tui, for example, choose a no-deposit deal, then mark your calendar for 70 days before departure. Up to then, you can cancel and get your money back.But after that, you’ll start losing a lot of what you’ve paid.
Independent travellers should for now only book hotels and car hire with 100% cancellation rights. Many hotel groups, aware how worried holidaymakers are, have switched to 100% free cancellation. For example, Meliá, a big Spanish hotel chain, was this week offering all its rooms with free cancellation. Buy on the hotel’s own website, and, where possible, choose the pay-on-arrival option.
Flights are more tricky. Ryanair is notably tough if you choose to cancel, refusing to give any money back. If you must book now, just pay the bare minimum for the flight, and avoid the extras for “priority” or seat selection. You can add them later. You may also want to avoid the financially weaker airlines – the longer the crisis carries on, the more will go bust. Atol protection only applies if you buy the accommodation and flights from a travel agent at the same time.
The long-haul picture is brighter. Virgin Atlantic and BA have said they will waive flight change fees for new bookings this month, so you can buy and then postpone if needed. PC
Will the Ehic cover me in Europe if I need prolonged hospital care?
The Ehic – European health insurance card – is an EU-wide scheme that remains in force until the end of December this year, and gives you state-provided healthcare in the EU for free or at reduced cost until you return home. The UK has issued about 27m cards, and you can still apply for a free one: search for “NHS Ehic” on the internet and don’t fall for any of the dodgy websites that charge fees.
The Italian government has pledged to offer free access to Covid-19 treatment to all tourists, with the president of Tuscany, Enrico Rossi, telling daily Corriere della Sera this week “the Italian health system is free and for everyone”. PC
Will flights get cheaper?
They already are. Ryanair is currently selling flights from London to virtually everywhere in Italy for under £20 in June and under £30 in July. Flights to Rome for the Easter weekend start at £80 return, when usually they would be double or triple that price.
Long-haul prices are also dropping. British Airways is currently offering London-New York returns at about £250 return through March, April, May and June. Google Flights’ “price graph” and Ryanair’s “fare finder” options are useful for showing the cheapest deals.
Airlines are reducing capacity and cancelling some flights, so don’t expect prices to fall much further.
I’ve paid £265 for a ticket to Glastonbury festival. What happens if it gets cancelled? And what if it goes ahead but I decide not to go?
With some countries imposing restrictions on large public gatherings, people are anxiously crossing their fingers and hoping Glastonbury will go ahead in June. On Wednesday this week, organisers said they could not confirm if the festival would definitely go ahead, and were continuing to plan for it while closely monitoring developments.
If the event is cancelled, you can expect a refund. The festival website states that after midnight on 7 May 2020, “no refunds will be made other than in the event of the cancellation of the festival. Booking fees and postage and packing charges are non-refundable.”
If you decide to cancel before that date, you will be reimbursed the value of your ticket, minus a £25 administration fee – so if you are worried, the good news is that you have got two months before you need to make a decision.
Some ticketholders will have bought TicketPlan refund protection, where refunds are provided if you cannot attend because of certain circumstances. RJ
I have tickets for a gig at a large venue. What happens if it gets cancelled?
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star) says the UK government and deputy chief medical officer have advised that there is no clear reason for cancelling events. “Unless specific events have been cancelled by an artist or event organisers, all other events are scheduled to go ahead, and the standard policy will apply. Cancelled events are often rescheduled, but if you can’t make the new date or the event is cancelled completely, you are entitled to a refund of at least the face value of your ticket.”
Some events have already been cancelled – for example, early last month the Korean band Seventeen cancelled their gig at London’s Wembley Arena tomorrow (8 March) because of the outbreak. Regarding that gig, the Wembley website states: “All tickets will automatically be refunded from point of purchase.”
Some venues such as the O2 in London do have small print that says neither they nor the event organiser “will be liable to you … to the extent that any loss or failure … is caused by a force majeure event”.
It states that force majeure “means any cause beyond AEG’s or the organiser’s reasonable control”, which suggests venues/organisers could in theory use this clause to reject claims.
Keep a close eye on venue and ticket agency websites, especially before you set off – many are providing regular updates.
If you opt not to go, there are a number of fan-to-fan resale websites, including Twickets, where you can sell your tickets and hopefully recoup your outlay. RJ
‘Our insurer refused to pay despite travel restrictions’
A couple who were forced to abandon a rowing trip to American Samoa after the governor of the tiny Pacific island imposed a 14-day quarantine over coronavirus fears have been told by Barclays, their travel insurer, that they can’t claim for their lost flights.
John and Caroline Turnbull, from Woking, were due to take the trip of a lifetime in April to meet fellow rowing enthusiasts for a two-week tour of the little-known, remote American territory in the South Pacific Ocean.
Having booked expensive flights from London to Hawaii, and pricey business class tickets for the five-and-a-half-hour flight to Pago Pago on American Samoa, the couple, both in their 70s, say they have been forced to abandon the Samoa part of the trip to the island, after the governor banned all foreign nationals from landing on the island unless they have spent 14 days in Hawaii.
The island had already been battling a deadly measles outbreak that has killed more than 60 people.
“The ban effectively rendered our flights unusable. Hawaiian Airways won’t refund us, as it says that it is still operating the flight,” says John.
The couple had worldwide travel insurance provided by Barclays as an add-on to a bank account and duly claimed the £2,500 they had spent on the Hawaii to Samoa flights they could not use.
However, Barclays turned down the cancellation claim on the basis that the UK government has not advised against travel to the island.
After the Guardian’s intervention, Barclays took a second look at the case, and has now paid up.
“The initial decline decision was the correct given there is no cover in our policy for ‘closure of borders’. We have, however, reviewed the specifics of this case and have decided that the claim will be paid as a gesture of goodwill,” it said. MB
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.