The current COVID-19 pandemic has truly affected just about all facets of life. Starting in the middle of March, demand for travel has cratered as most countries have enacted legislation encouraging citizens to stay at home and/or quarantine. Even in areas where it is still approved to travel, many people are choosing to stay home.
In response, airlines have canceled many flights and hotels are closing their doors. Many whose flights and trips have NOT yet been canceled are still nervous about traveling. So for those who are wondering if the travel insurance that they bought covers coronavirus, let’s dive into the details.
What is travel insurance?
Generally speaking, travel insurance is insurance that you can purchase before your trip that can pay a benefit if certain things happen during your trip. There are many varieties of travel insurance but it generally can cover things like medical treatment, lost luggage, a missed connection or trip cancellation. There are 3 main areas where travel insurance can help you on your trip:
- Medical coverage – Medical coverage can provide medical expenses if you are injured while traveling
- Trip interruption – Trip interruption coverage covers expenses where you have incurred expenses due to things like lost luggage or flight delays
- Trip cancellation – Trip cancellation coverage can refund the cost of your hotels, plane tickets or other trip coverage if your trip is canceled for a covered reason
Travel insurance can be purchased on a per-trip basis or as an annual plan.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Coronavirus?
As with most agreements, whether or not your travel insurance covers any costs depends on the fine print of your contract. And of course, that can be hard to read and understand. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 situation a pandemic on March 11, 2020, so most insurance companies consider it a known and foreseen event. So most travel insurance companies will not cover most claims due to the coronavirus. This holds true regardless of whether you are planning on using the travel insurance that comes with some credit cards or you purchased additional travel insurance on your own.
Most people are not traveling right now, but if you do book a trip, don’t buy travel insurance expecting that it will cover you if you end up deciding not to go. Similarly, if an airline or other travel provider cancels your flights, your travel insurance will not typically reimburse you for any related expenses. However, it is true that most airlines are fully reimbursing customers for canceled flights at this time.
When travel insurance can cover coronavirus
There are a few reasons that your travel insurance WILL cover items related to the current coronavirus pandemic. Most travel insurances will cover cancellation or interruption if you or a travel partner actually CONTRACT COVID-19 prior to your trip. You’ll usually have to provide proof of a medical diagnosis. Additionally, if you have purchased travel insurance with medical coverage, you will likely be covered if you contract COVID-19 while traveling.
Another case where your travel insurance may cover coronavirus-related interruptions is if you were already on a trip prior to March (when the WHO labeled COVID-19 as a global pandemic). In that case, you may be eligible to make a travel insurance claim if your trip has been impacted. As always, check the fine print of your insurance contract and contact your travel insurance provider.
Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance
So far in this article, we have been talking about standard travel insurance, which is the type of travel insurance that most people purchase. There is another kind of travel insurance which is called Cancel for Any Reason, or CFAR insurance. As the name implies, CFAR travel insurance allows you to cancel your trip for any reason and receive a percentage of your out-of-pocket trip expenses. Usually, that will be 50% or 75% of your expenses, depending on the type of CFAR coverage that you purchased.
CFAR insurance typically has to be purchased at or near the time you first purchase your trip and costs about 25-50% more than traditional travel insurance. So if you have a previously booked trip, you will not be able to purchase CFAR insurance now. If you did purchase CFAR insurance, you will need to cancel your trip within 48 hours of the trip in order to have a successful claim.
Some travel insurers covering claims due to coronavirus
So, while most travel insurance does not cover claims due to coronavirus, some insurers are making special exceptions. Like most companies (airlines, hotels, Airbnb and other travel providers), insurance companies are recognizing that this is truly a unique situation and as such are making exceptions. Check with your insurer to see if they are making any adjustments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Most insurers have a page specifically dedicated to what they are doing due to coronavirus. Here are the pages for some of the major insurers:
Good luck out there and stay safe!
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.