13 April 2020 by Anna Staford
With travel bans in place and millions of travellers already being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s no wonder lots of holidaymakers are concerned about their travel plans that have already been booked and paid for. Many people have already tried to call their airline operator, accommodation or travel agency to reschedule or cancel their impending travel, but for those of you who are still unsure what the coronavirus pandemic means to your travel plans, hopefully this article will help to identify your options and explain the situation.
Depending on when your trip is planned it will determine your potential options. Most worldwide travel is restricted and banned for the remainder of April 2020 with reviews in each country being evaluated every week because of the evolving situation of the pandemic. Therefore, if you have booked in April and early May, your holiday provider might have already been in touch regarding your cancellation with potential options of a refund, rescheduling or travel credit to be applied to rebooking. Each travel booking will have different terms and conditions, so even though most imminent travel in the next couple of weeks should be refunded, or rescheduled, it is not necessarily 100% guaranteed for every single travel provider or booking. If you do travel to a country that is advised as ‘do not travel’ , or ‘all but essential travel’ by the FCO, then your travel insurance cover may well be void, regardless of the provider or policy option.
If your travel is booked for much later on 2020 and you want to move it to 2021 to avoid any uncertainty, then it’s worth getting in contact with your airline or travel operator to discuss options to rebook for a later date.
It is the travel providers obligation to deliver the services you have booked with them and if they are unable to provide that service, then in most cases, an alternative option should be available. It’s worth checking the Civil Aviation Authority guidance as this may help you know your rights. If your trip was ATOL protected, this also offers protection if the travel company ceases trading (see below in this article). Most airlines and travel agents are more than willing to help you to rebook your trip given the current circumstances, especially if your travel is within the next couple of months from April 2020 to June 2020. Due to the complication of rebooking, airlines or accommodation might give you credit to then rebook yourself rather than advising you of what flights or hotels might be operational over the next three to six months. If your trip has been cancelled and your travel operator will not help you at all with any alternative options for rescheduling, then check your rights as they may be breaching local legislation. You also have the option of your credit card company (if you paid for travel on credit card) as that may provide a refund option.
This all depends on your travel insurance policy and also when and who you booked your travel insurance with. If you booked your policy well in advance of coronavirus, it is usual for travel insurers to stand by the terms of the policy that were sold you – and this may have included some kind of pandemic or health outbreak cover.
The majority of travel insurance providers made changes to their policy terms during March 2020 in response to the unprecedented pandemic crisis to exclude COVID-19. In fact, consumer watchdog “Which” reported in April 2020 that some 28 insurance companies, including Admiral, Aviva, Churchill, Direct Line, LV, More Than and the Post Office, have temporarily suspended selling travel insurance to new customers. Usually for most travel insurance, you will be expected to contact your travel providers as your first port of call and to mitigate any losses you can. The benefit of your travel insurance is that, depending on your cover, it may cover you for irrecoverable losses, i.e., costs you cannot get back from any other source. Check the small print and full terms and conditions in your policy for details of your claims for trip cancellations.
Read also: COVID-19: A Message From Globelink
If your flights have been cancelled and travel is still restricted, then your first point of contact should be the airline, as they must offer alternative flights, credit or a full refund. If for any reason you don’t have travel insurance, or you booked travel insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic, then it’s highly unlikely that you will be covered as it’s a known event causing mass disruption. Moreover, the vast majority of policies now exclude COVID-19. Always get in touch with your travel operator directly and ensure you are happy with the option the offer. If not, it’s worth checking your rights as they may not necessarily initially volunteer your favoured option.
ATOL protection is mainly for protecting you if the travel company ceases trading or suffer financial difficulties. It will not cover you for the coronavirus pandemic as it’s an unforeseen circumstance that doesn’t come under this scheme. However, now more than ever, it’s worth opting for an ATOL protected operator, in these highly financially unstable times for travel operators.
Each individual case is different and we know that there are many particular questions that you might have if you have Globelink travel insurance, so feel free to review our travel guidance and FAQs on the coronavirus pandemic. Alternatively, you can contact us directly with any questions.
Important Travel Advice: Whenever and wherever you travel, always check FCO’s travel advice to help you stay safe and travel aware.