Coronavirus and gaining refunds
An outbreak of a new coronavirus is affecting travel to and from China. Here is some advice on how this may impact on your trip and on your travel insurance.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to Hubei Province and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao) because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection for which there is no specific cure or vaccine and may have originated in a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals are traded illegally.
If you are currently in China
The FCO has advised against all travel to Hubei Province and advises British people there to leave if they are able to do so. However, British Airways has already suspended flights to and from mainland China. Other airlines are still flying but it is expected that they will follow suit. Those in China should look to make plans swiftly.
Britons flying back to the UK are being put in quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms.
If you are due to fly to China
Because the FCO has warned against travel, you are likely to invalidate your travel insurance if you still fly and so you should check with your insurer. Whether you are covered by your insurer would depend on the cover you have and the reason for travel. If, for example, you are travelling for a holiday then it is unlikely that this would be considered essential and you should be covered.
An insurer will only cover you if you have booked the trip and obtained insurance before the virus was known about. So, if you bought the trip and left buying the insurance until later you won’t get cover because the virus is now known. It is ALWAYS advisable to take out travel insurance at the same time as booking your trip.
If you are able to make changes to your plans you may also be able to transfer your travel insurance to the new destination.
If you’re booked onto a scheduled BA flight between 26 January and 23 February, you should request a refund. The airline is also offering alternative flights which is a possible option for some travellers.
Although many airlines are offering refunds there is no actual legal obligation for them to do so.
Booking China flight and accommodation separately
If you are covered by travel insurance it may also refund your accommodation costs, if they has already been paid. It also may cover you for out of pocket expenses but this will always depend on the cover that you have.
If you don’t have travel insurance you may struggle to get a refund on the accommodation and the outcome will depend on the insurer’s terms and conditions.
Travelling to an area where there are reported cases of coronavirus
At the point of writing (29 January 2020) the FCO has not advised against travelling to any other places affected by the coronavirus. If you take the decision not to travel then travel insurance will not cover a refund of your ticket costs.
All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel links to various posts about flights and holidays
Moneybox 29/01/20 discussing callers issues with travel around the area and booked holidays.