The outbreak and spread of the coronavirus is causing widespread disruption, with airlines worldwide suspending all flights to China.
At least 213 people have died from the virus, which originated in Wuhan, and the US State Department has advised against all travel to China, escalating its warnings to the highest level.
The situation has left travelers with questions over whether they can expect insurance compensation for canceled trips.
Travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip has reported a substantial increase in calls from worried passengers looking for clarification on their travel coverage.
Although many airlines have relaxed their policies, offering waivers on amendment fees or the choice to cancel for credit towards an upcoming flight, it seems most travel insurance policies simply do not account for scenarios such as this.
“While many travel insurance plans provide for cancellation for an airline shut-down in services due to a mechanical failure, adverse weather or natural disaster, they do not provide for an airline shut-down due to the coronavirus outbreak,” explains Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com.
Can I claim compensation?
According to Sandberg, although some plans will provide for cancellation due to a traveler quarantine, this only applies to plans purchased before the outbreak became a “known event,” which was around January 21.
However, there may be some level of trip cancellation protection available to those who happen to have purchased a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) optional upgrade.
“For those holding an existing travel insurance policy, they should contact their travel insurance providers to find out if their plans have any coverage,” he adds.
British Airways, American Airlines, United Airlines, Air Asia, Air India, Cathay Pacific, IndiGo and Lufthansa are among the airlines who’ve opted to cancel flights as authorities desperately attempt to contain the virus, which causes respiratory illness.
Hotel chains such as IHG, Marriott and Accor have pledged to waive cancellation fees for booking at hotels in and around China until February 8.
Cruise passengers have also been affected, with cruise lines, including MSC, Costa and Royal Caribbean reportedly canceling planned sailings to China, as well as boosting screening measures for passengers boarding from Chinese ports.
Any travelers with impending plans to fly to China are advised to check with their airlines and look out for advisories published on the carriers’ websites.