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Travel Insurance in a Covid-19 World

Travel Insurance in a Covid-19 World

Airlines are grounded, countries have closed borders, people are cocooned or self-isolating, and overseas travel is limited. Travel insurance companies ‘closed the door’ on Covid-19 cover in mid-March, but are they offering discounts and looking for policy renewals, and will they offer Covid-19 cover and affordable cover to the over 70s when travel resumes? Neil Steedman asked travel agents around the country.

Few people may be travelling right now, but many countries are beginning to lift restrictions, airlines are planning how to get their aircraft back into the skies, and people (well, at least some) are thinking about where they will travel. Some with annual multi-trip travel insurance policies are being asked to renew, even though they will not be travelling, at least for a while, and those seeking new policies, whether single or multi-trip, may have to do without Covid-19 cover or, if they are over 70, perhaps without any due to high costs.

As for current claims, the Citizens Information website advises: “Whether you can make a claim against your travel insurance depends on the terms and conditions of your travel insurance and when you bought it. If you took out a policy with ‘disruption cover’ (also known as ‘catastrophe’ cover) before the DFA travel advice came into effect, you should be able to claim any costs not refunded by your travel provider from your insurer. Disruption cover is usually an ‘optional extra’ to your insurance policy and is generally not included as standard in most travel policies. If you take out travel insurance after the Irish Government has advised against travelling to your destination, it is very unlikely that your insurer will consider any claim you make. Many insurers have changed aspects of their travel insurance policies or have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers.”

One agent told ITTN: “We always recommend travel insurance across the board and we do find that, in most cases, clients have their own cover annually with their health or car providers, so our insurance sales are very small. However for the first few weeks around Covid-19 the sales did increase considerably!”

Discounts

Asked which liability insurers had offered a moratorium or discount on insurance premiums, some agents replied: “None” while another said: “We seldom issue insurance because our corporate clients have their own cover – our own cover is part of global and regional policies managed outside of Ireland.”

One agent replied: “We are working on this at the moment,” another said: “We are with Worldwide Insurance Brokers and our policy expires in August, but we have not had time to look at what were the options are yet,” while the most positive response was: “We have called and successfully argued a case and rightfully obtained our discount from Allianz.”

Renewals

As to whether providers are looking for annual travel insurance policies to be renewed, even before any foreign travel is recommended or possible, one agent said: “We haven’t received any renewal options yet,” while another replied: “None are pushing for it, but I am sure they will allow customers a grace period while things are uncertain – although I can’t see anyone renewing a yearly policy at the moment!”

A third simply replied “Yes, Allianz.” Another said: “Blue Insurance and Multitrip.com have and they are the main two that we use.”

Covid-19 Cover

The current positions of travel insurance companies regarding cover for Covid-19 are indicated by the quotes from their websites listed at the end of this article. Meanwhile, travel agents may struggle to find a new policy that includes Covid-19 cover, although one agent said: “We haven’t booked any new policies or had a chance to check with the insurance companies.”

Another replied: “We are currently trying to sourcing same, but have had no luck so far,” while a third said: “Sadly, most insurers are no longer covering people for Covid-19 on new policies, so it will be a concern if clients have adequate cover, should there be another outbreak.”

One travel agent said: “Blue Insurance is including Covid-19 cover BUT they will only include it on destinations that are deemed safe to travel to – as defined by the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

Over 70s

The problems facing anyone over 70 looking for a new travel insurance policy were highlighted by one agent who said: “It is extremely difficult to get insurance for our clients who are over 70. For those that we can get, there are usually high penalties for certain medical declarations and the length of holiday covered gets shorter the older they get – for example, 14 days instead of 30.”

This was echoed by another who replied: “Quite a few are offering policies to the over 70s but, as per usual, T&Cs apply such as existing illnesses, full disclosure prior to taking out the policy, etc, and these push premiums to a level where it is quite expensive.”

Two other replies were: “Blue Insurance is offering travel insurance for over 70s,” and “The AA is the only company that we know of.”

Company Website Statements

123.ie: You will be able to claim for cancellation provided that the Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel advice status of ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do Not Travel’ to the specific location or area. All cover is subject to individual policy limits. We will only consider non-refundable expenses on your travel insurance policy, so in the first instance, you should approach the airline, tour operator or travel company for a possible refund or to see if they will amend the itinerary. Important: If the policy was taken out or the trip was booked after the Department of Foreign Affairs advice changed to ‘Avoid Non-Essential Travel’ or ‘Do Not Travel’, you will not be able to claim.

AA: Any customer who purchases a new policy after 16 March 2020 will not be covered for Covid-19 related cancellation claims. If your trip is cut short, curtailment claims in relation to coronavirus will be considered if there is an updated ‘no travel’ notification from DFA for your destination while on holiday. Medical expenses claims will be considered if you contract Covid-19 while on holiday (provided you are not travelling against the advice of the DFA). For customers who purchased travel insurance before 16 March 2020 cancellation, curtailment and medical expenses claims in relation to Covid-19 will be considered for any trips booked before 16 March 2020. Any existing customer who purchases a new trip after 16 March 2020 will not be covered for cancellation in relation to Covid-19. If your trip is cut short, curtailment claims in relation to coronavirus will be considered if there is an updated ‘no travel’ notification from the DFA for your destination while you are on holiday. Medical expenses claims will be considered if you contract Covid-19 while on holiday (provided you are not travelling against the advice of the DFA).

AIG.ie: Where a customer buys an individual or family travel insurance policy through AIG.ie or one of our partners, cover is provided for cancellations provided that the Department of Foreign Affairs allocates a security status of ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ to the destination, after a customer purchased a travel insurance policy and after they booked a trip. There is no cover for cancellation or any other claims arising from the Covid-19 outbreak if the DFA had already allocated an ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ security status to the intended destination at the time of booking the trip or taking out insurance. Medical expenses resulting from Covid-19 will be covered while abroad provided that the DFA had allocated a security status of ‘Normal precautions’ or ‘High degree of caution’ to the intended destination prior to booking the trip and prior to departure. No cover will apply under this heading if the destination country had a security status of ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ prior to a customer travelling.

Aviva: If your travel insurance was purchased or trip was booked after the Department of Foreign Affairs advice changed to ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘do not travel’, you will not be able to claim.

AXA: Your travel insurance will not cover any cancellation or disruption claims in relation to Covid-19 for overseas trips booked after 9am on 19 March 2020.

Blue Insurance: This policy does not cover any claims caused by or relating to Covid-19 apart from emergency medical expenses claims which will include cover for Covid-19 as long as the area is deemed safe to travel by the DFA or WHO. Please refer to the policy wording for full information.

FBD: If you travel to China or any other area against the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs or World Health Organisation there is a risk that any subsequent claim on your travel insurance relating to Covid-19 (e.g. curtailment or medical costs) could be denied unless you can provide proof that your travel was essential.

Irish Life: Your travel insurance policy provided by Allianz Assistance does not provide cover for any cancellation costs incurred as the result of a notice to ‘Avoid Non Essential Travel’ from the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is no cover for expenses incurred by a person who is put in quarantine without receiving medical attention or self isolates while overseas.

Kennco: On 11 March 2020 the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. As this is now a known event, there is no cancellation or curtailment cover for claims relating to Covid-19 for policies issued or trips booked on or after 18 March 2020. For policies issued prior to 18 March 2020 insurers will consider cancellation claims where the DFA advise against all or all but essential travel, providing your trip is due to depart on or before 30 April 2020. If your trip is due to depart after this date, unfortunately there is no cover in the event of cancellation due to DFA travel restrictions.

Laya Healthcare: Laya travel insurance policies provide cover for cancellation if the Department of Foreign Affairs allocates a security status of ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ to your intended destination after you purchased your travel insurance policy and booked your trip. Information regarding the security status of individual countries can be found on the DFA website www.dfa.ie. If the DFA had allocated a security status of ‘Avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ to your intended destination prior to you booking your trip or taking out your insurance, this is not a covered circumstance. All Covid-19 travel claims submitted will be assessed in line with the terms, conditions and exclusions detailed in the travel policy wording.

Multitrip.com: It is too late to purchase a policy now if the DFA have advised against travel to that area or country. Policyholders who have purchased the optional Travel Disruption cover will be able to claim for cancellation provided that the DFA states that they advise against ‘All But Essential Travel’ to the specific place or area. A 7-day moratorium applies to cover added to a policy. All cover is subject to individual policy limits. We will only consider non-refundable expenses on your travel insurance policy, so in the first instance you should approach the airline, your tour operator or your travel company for a possible refund/to see if they will amend your itinerary. If the policy or trip was booked after the DFA advice changed to ‘All But Essential Travel’, the policyholder will not be able to claim.

VHI: We have continued to review our ability to meet the claims of our customers and, regrettably, as the potential scale and duration of this crisis becomes clearer, we have had to make some changes to our VHI MultiTrip policy and to the cover that we can provide. These changes are valid from midnight on 18 March 2020. For existing customers who have received renewal notice on or before 23:59 on 18 March 2020, if you travel against the advice of the DFA any claim relating to Covid-19 (e.g. curtailment or medical costs) will not be covered. VHI MultiTrip will provide cover for both cancellations and curtailment to areas on the DFA’s non-essential travel list as long as the trip was booked prior to the directive coming into force and was also booked before 23:59 on 18 March 2020. VHI MultiTrip will not provide cover if a customer chooses not to travel to or wishes to leave a region which is not on the DFA’s affected area list. After 23:59 on 18 March 2020 there will be no cover for any claims relating to or as a result of Covid-19. Regrettably, we have had to remove cover in respect of Covid-19 for any new policies purchased and trips booked after 23.59 on 18 March 2020. This will also impact existing policies that will be renewed after this time.

Zurich: If your trip was booked before the DFA and/or WHO alert was issued, you will be able to submit a claim provided you also purchased your insurance before the alert was issued. However, you must first contact your travel and accommodation providers to seek a refund. If you booked your trip after a DFA and/or WHO alert against non-essential travel was issued, you will not be able to make a travel insurance claim for any resulting costs. In this situation you will need to seek a refund from the travel provider.

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. Noel o Callaghan

    June 5, 2020 at 11:22 am

    I took out travel insurance in March, America closed its borders and I cannot travel and won’t travel for a long time, yet the V.H.I. will not refund my money for the travel policy because of a 14-day clause. It took almost two months just for Aer Lingus just to answer the telephone.

  2. David Kirwan

    September 16, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Same for me. My VHI multi-trip insurance automatically renewed in March. When I called to ask about travel, they said I was not covered for anything, not just Covid-19, if I travel anywhere against DFA advice – which means almost anywhere! Basically they collected the premium but are extremely unlikely to face any claims. I wish I could do business like that!

    As regards Aer Lingus, I put a deposit on travel to the USA then discovered that travel wasn’t possible. I repeatedly called Aer Lingus before the balance was due to seek advice but they weren’t picking up the phone. Eventually I got through to be told I couldn’t get a refund because I hadn’t paid the balance on the trip I couldn’t have taken!

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, editor and proofreader for 53 years, and ITTN's News & Features Editor for 43 years. His travel blog is at www.thetravelbuddhist.com.

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