Travel insurance providers have adapted to the “new normal,” with some policies covering risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with many policyholders remaining confused about the product, especially during the recent lockdowns, a travel expert has offered tips on what to consider when travelling amid the pandemic.
Jodi Bird, a travel expert at Choice, claimed that he is not aware of domestic or international travel insurance that covers cancellations due to COVID-19 lockdowns or government restrictions.
He explained that most pandemic insurance products only cover the costs of cancelling your trip if you or someone you are travelling with contracted COVID-19. Meanwhile, some insurers will cover cancellations if the accommodation you have booked has a positive COVID-19 case and is required to shut down.
“Travel insurers need to state upfront whether their travel insurance covers COVID,” Bird said, as reported by The Guardian. “Because a lot of people are going to go and just buy travel insurance presuming that's going to cover … travel restrictions or even if they get COVID, and that's not necessarily going to be the case for all insurance.”
With many travellers confused about the use of their travel insurance during the pandemic, Bird identified three precautions that travellers must consider before committing to a holiday amid the pandemic and government restrictions.
1. Read the travel insurance product disclosure statement
Bird suggested reading the disclosure statement, a document outlining all the situations in which your insurance will apply, before purchasing any travel insurance product.
He noted that policy documents are often unclear, even if you have excellent English. Therefore, he recommended calling the travel insurer you are considering to clarify the coverage and ask any questions before you take out the product.
“When you call the travel insurer, the call is generally recorded, and that's kept as a transcript. So if you call them and say, does this cover me for COVID-19 if I get it, or does it cover me for government travel restrictions, the answer will be recorded, and that will be your proof later on if you have a problem with the travel insurer when it comes time to claim,” Bird said.
“That will also help clarify up front exactly what they are trying to say in their convoluted terms and conditions.”
2. Book flexible airfares and accommodation packages
Bird stated that some airlines and accommodation providers will refund or credit your booking if COVID-19 prevents you from travelling.
Flight Centre in Australia, for example, helped customers secure around $1.5 billion in refunds from airlines, hotels, and other suppliers and helped thousands of customers change their travel plans.
However, Flight Centre spokesperson Haydn Long warned that policies vary from supplier to supplier, and “not every airline or hotel will automatically offer a refund, so it pays to ask or check at the time of booking.”
3. Get your cancellation policy in writing
Bird warned about a few “unscrupulous providers” that do not offer flexible bookings up front and would not give refunds if travel restrictions are imposed. Therefore, he recommends always getting policy details in writing before booking any accommodation or airfare to clarify what happens if restrictions prevent you from travelling.
“Even if it’s a caravan park, check the website, have a look at their terms and conditions and see if it is written there,” Bird said. “Some of the smaller providers might not even have updated [their policies around Covid-19 cancellations] on their website, but they might still have that policy unofficially.”