Coronavirus: what are your travel rights?

by Brean Horne from Moneywise |

Find out how to recoup your costs if your travel plans are affected by the coronavirus outbreak

The spread of coronavirus has caused widespread travel disruption, with consumers facing potential huge bills for cancelled flights and trips. 

If you have booked a trip, your right to cancel and get a refund depends on the latest travel advice issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

We have rounded up everything you need to know about your rights if you have to cancel a holiday because of coronavirus, or if your trip is cancelled by a third party.

What has the government said about travel?

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in countries across the world closing their borders and suspending all flights. 

Currently, the FCO is advising against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect on 17 March for an initial period of 30 days. 

For more detail on the travel restrictions of a particular destination read the latest FCO coronavirus travel advice

What happens if my travel plans are cancelled because of coronavirus?

If you have booked a trip to an area which the FCO advises against travel or all but essential travel to, get in contact with your airline or holiday provider first.

They will tell you your options, including any refunds for your trip or alternative dates for your holiday.  

If neither your airline nor travel company offer refunds then get in touch with your travel insurer.

Travel insurance may cover non-refundable travel costs depending on your circumstances including flights, accommodation or event tickets.

Does travel insurance cover travel disruption caused by coronavirus?

Most travel insurance firms have now restricted the amount of cover they offer for disruption caused by coronavirus. 

Some companies such as LV=, Aviva and Admiral, have suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers altogether. Others, such as InsureandGo, no longer offer cover for any cancellation claim in relation to coronavirus. 

Insurers have warnings on their websites to let you know whether or not you will be covered for coronavirus. If you are still unsure, get in touch with their customer service before purchasing a policy. 

If you bought travel insurance before insurers started watering down cover, your policy should cover the cost of non-refundable expenses due to the virus.

This could include anything from flights and accommodation to pre-booked events and activities.  

What happens if I get coronavirus or am quarantined on holiday?

You need to alert your travel insurance provider as soon as possible if you are diagnosed with coronavirus while travelling. Your insurer will tell you your options and the medical expenses you will be able to claim for.

If you fall ill in Europe, your European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) will give you the same treatment as local citizens (until 31 December 2020 when the Brexit transition period ends).

If you are not diagnosed with coronavirus but are put into quarantine abroad you may also be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses from your insurer.

What happens if the FCO has not advised against travel to your destination?

If the FCO has not advised against travelling to your destination but you decide not to go, you cannot claim back the cost of your trip.

Travel insurers refer to this as ‘disinclination to travel' which is not seen as a valid reason to claim.

What happens if I travel against the FCO’s advice?

If you travel to a destination against the FCO’s advice, your travel insurance policy will be invalidated.

This means that you won’t be able to make any claims.

Where the government advises against “all but essential travel” to a destination, you should check with your insurance company if they will cover you if you go.

Holidays are unlikely to be considered "essential" so you may not be insured if you went ahead.

Do I need travel insurance if I'm going to a non-listed country?

It is vital to buy travel insurance as soon as you book any holiday. Travel insurance covers the cost of unexpected incidents that may occur before you set off on your trip, as well as covering you while you are away. 

Before buying a policy be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to ensure that you get the cover you need. If anything is unclear, get in touch with the provider for clarification. 

Once you sign up to a policy it will be impossible to claim for things that are expressly excluded. 

This article was first published on 28/2/2020 but has been updated to reflect new developments. 

This article was originally published in our sister magazine Moneywise. Click here to subscribe.

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