However, travelers who already had jet-setting plans prior to the outbreak may find themselves in a bind.
And generally, a travel advisory or being fearful of traveling to a destination isn’t reason enough for a reimbursement even if you purchased travel insurance.
“The challenge is if you’re canceling because of coronavirus, insurance by and large does not cover for coronavirus-related issues,” said Troy Haas, the CEO and president of Brownell Travel, which has an office in Atlanta.
So, will having travel insurance pay off in the age of coronavirus? Here’s what experts say.
Will travel insurance cover coronavirus-related cancellations?
For the most part, travel insurance has not provided much relief to travelers hoping to cancel because of coronavirus.
That’s because travel insurance companies have mostly declared coronavirus a “foreseen event.” Additionally, as Forbes reports, a number of travel insurance policies exclude “problems related to pandemics and epidemics.”
But now, some companies are changing their tune. This week, Allianz Travel Insurance announced it would make accommodations for travelers who had purchased certain coverage, although the company notes, “claims due to known, foreseeable, or expected events, epidemics, or fear of travel are generally not covered.”
Travelers who purchased Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption insurance will now be able to cancel their trip if they become sick with coronavirus before they leave.
Additionally, Trip Cancellation insurance will cover the expenses of those who purchased tickets to China, South Korea and parts of Italy for trips departing before April 1.
"This is undoubtedly a difficult time for both travelers and the travel industry. By taking these steps, we want to support our customers in a very meaningful way,” Mike Nelson, chief executive officer of Global Travel Insurance at Allianz Partners told CNN in a statement.
What is considered a “foreseen event” by travel insurance companies?
Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, notes that at this point, companies are calling coronavirus a “foreseen event,” which greatly decreases the effectiveness of travel cancellation because of the virus.
“Once an event is considered foreseen, a traveler can no longer purchase Trip Cancellation benefits for that event. The only cancellation option available for travelers is a policy with the Cancel For Any Reason upgrade,” according to Squaremouth.
The website notes that travel companies determine a dates at which point the virus was considered “foreseen.” For the most part that range is now Jan. 21-27. Trips and insurance purchased after that date will likely not be eligible for reimbursement.
“Travel insurance policies are designed to cover unforeseen events. Due to the widespread and well-publicized nature of the coronavirus, it is now considered a known event, meaning it is too late to buy a policy that can cover you to cancel if the outbreak spreads into your destination country,” according to Squaremouth.
What about “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage?
“Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, or CFAR, may be travelers’ best bet for coronavirus-related cancellations.
“A Cancel for Any Reason policy becomes relevant because it is the one kind of policy that can get you some cancellation coverage due to coronavirus,” Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, told CNN.
However, CFAR coverage is expensive. The optional upgrade to regular travel insurance allows travelers to cancel for a reason not otherwise covered by a policy.
According to travelinsurance.com, the policy must be purchased shortly after booking. You also must cancel your trip at least 2-3 days in advance of your departure in order for the policy to cover you.
Generally, CFAR will reimburse 50-75% of the trip cost.
“Do not make the expensive mistake of assuming that CFAR automatically covers every penny of non-refundable expenses. Different plans cover different percentages. Always read the terms of the policy carefully to find out what percentage is covered,” according to travelinsurance.com.
What options do travelers have?
Brownell Travel CEO Troy Haas said they are encouraging travelers to look at postponing trips if possible, instead of canceling.
“We’re working hard to get clients to reschedule for the fall. So they doesn’t lose the money, because insurance won’t cover it,” Haas said. “Hopefully as we learn more, things will settle down.”
Haas said he’s confident the travel industry will bounce back from any hit it experiences because of coronavirus.
“The thirst for travel will come back. That yearning to see the world with people that you love doesn’t go away,” he said.
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