You’ve booked flights to China, paid hundreds of dollars for travel insurance and you want to cancel your trip, but you’re not sure you’ll be covered after the coronavirus outbreak?
- Major airlines around the world have suspended or cut back flights to China
- An insurance expert says some travellers may not be covered for cancelling their trips
- It all depends on a range of factors including when you purchased the insurance
We’ve taken a look at some of the options for travellers currently in China, planning to travel to China or who want to cancel their trips altogether.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has jumped to 5,974 and the virus has so far killed more than 130 people.
In Australia, seven cases of the virus have been confirmed, with health authorities warning anyone who has travelled to Hubei province to isolate themselves for 14 days.
The latest advice provided by the Federal Government’s Smart Traveller website advises people to “reconsider your need to travel” to China. It also advises people to not travel to Hubei at all.
Travellers currently in China, or on their way there, may also need to be quarantined, depending on their health and where they are travelling from.
How often do we travel to China?
Australia has a strong relationship with China in terms of tourism, showcased by how many people have travelled there over the past decade.
Bessie Hassan from consumer comparison group Finder said its research had shown travel from Australia to China has more than doubled from December to February in the past 10 years.
“The research came in at 152,000 and previously it was at 71,000 [travellers],” Ms Hassan said.
“Looking at the calendar year in 2019, that means there were more Australian visitors to China with an 86 per cent increase when compared to 2010.
“That’s reflective of our population and cultural ties to the region.”
But what if you want to cancel your trip amid health fears following the coronavirus outbreak?
What’s going on with flights?
Some airlines around the world have already suspended and cut back services to parts of mainland China.
If you’ve already booked your flights, the best advice is to contact your airline or travel agent.
British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China, while Air India, Seoul Air and Indonesia’s Lion Air are also halting all flights.
Other carriers including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, and Jetstar Asia are slashing services, while US carrier American Airlines has suspended Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing.
In Australia, Qantas is offering full refunds for customers who bought tickets to, from or via mainland China issued on or before January 24, and will waive change or cancellation fees.
But normal operations are continuing for Qantas on flights to China, with the airline telling customers it was monitoring the situation in the country.
Jetstar, which does not fly directly to China from Australia, is offering refunds for customers with Jetstar bookings as part of an itinerary to mainland China.
Will your travel insurance cover a cancelled trip?
Put simply, it should. But it depends on which policy who have, and what date you purchased it.
Lisa Kable, communications manager at the Insurance Council of Australia, said some travellers may be covered, but others may not.
“There are people over there travelling, and then there are people here planning to travel, so there’s two very different groups of people,” Ms Kable said.
“Some travel insurance policies may cover travellers in the affected region for medical expenses related to coronavirus if they commenced the travel before the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) advisory was lifted to level 4.”
She said the advice level was lifted for the Hubei region on January 23, when the outbreak became a known event, meaning policies purchased after that date may not be covered.
“Some travel insurance policies may cover travellers who decide to cancel the remainder of their trip if they’re already in the affected region or around China, before DFAT raised its travel advice to level 4,” she said.
“Travel insurance policies bought after that advice level was raised may not be covered for epidemic, pandemic and disease, because that’s an exclusion that is in many travel insurance policies.”
What if you purchased insurance too late?
Although you may not be covered if you purchased your travel insurance on or after January 24, options may still be available — but it would depend on your individual circumstances.
Ms Kable said many operators and airlines were currently contacting travellers to offer assistance with their travel.
However, many insurance policies will not cover you for simply changing your mind about travelling.
“The number one piece of advice is if you already have travel insurance, call your travel insurer with the individual product that you’ve purchased and your individual circumstances,” she said.
“If you’re planning on travelling, also call the travel insurer you’re planning on purchasing with and have a chat with them.
“If you’ve already booked, call your airline, call your travel agent and see what help you can get.
“Operators are doing things, we know airlines are doing different things, it’s really a very much moving situation.”
Ms Kable said to ensure you know what exclusions your policy has read the product disclosure statement.
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