Travel insurance won't cover a pandemic

Travelers shocked to find that canceled trips don't mean full refunds
Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 16:02:46-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Easter is normally one of the busiest travel times of the entire year - but not this year.

The Covid-19 global pandemic has travelers scrambling to postpone, reschedule and cancel plans.

One of the frustrating realities of the situation is many travel insurance policies are not covering the pandemic.

"It is either take a chance and get them {family} infected or lose the money," said Chris Brown from Buffalo.

Brown paid $5,100 this past November to take five members of his family, including his mother age 70, to Ireland from Canada during June 2020. In addition, Brown bought a travel insurance policy that cost $318 just in case something happened to prevent the trip.

Concerns about going on an international flight during the crisis motivated him to try and cancel his trip; thinking the cost would be covered by his travel insurance.

It will not.

Of the $5,100 dollars he paid up-front, only $2,064 can be refunded, meaning Brown would be out more than $3,000.

"It is very frustrating because I don't make a lot of money," said Brown.

The AAA of Western & Central NY said travel insurance companies decided, earlier this year, the pandemic was not a reason to cancel a trip and get a refund. Travel agents for the AAA are recommending older travelers, or people with health issues, get a note from their doctor saying they cannot medically travel.

"That should help with your travel insurance because insurance will not cover if you just say you don't want to travel because of coronavirus," explained Elizabeth Carey, public relations director for the AAA of Western & Central NY.

Chris Brown said he tried to get a note from his mother's doctor but the travel insurance still refused. "So, either I take what I can now, or take a chance and lose it all in a month," added Brown.

There are some travel insurance policies that will allow you to cancel for any reason. Those policies are usually more expensive and refund 80% of your money.

AAA said things are evolving daily as travel vendors are being overwhelmed with requests for changes. While many are offering flexibility, that flexibility is not extending into the summer season - yet.

Elizabeth Carey said, right now, it is easier to postpone a trip than to cancel because vendors are trying to keep money. As a result, many vendors (cruises, hotels, car rentals, airlines) are offering incentives to encourage people to reschedule.

"If you are willing to postpone to later this year or next, rather than cancel, many travel vendors will give you an extra travel credit to work with. That is is the easiest thing to obtain," said Carey. In some cases, that can be an additional 10-20% value, or upgrades that some cruise lines are offering.

If you booked through a travel agent, let the agent work on your behalf. If you booked a trip yourself, it will take a lot perseverance to get through to agents and make changes, explained Elizabeth Carey.


AAA of Western & Central NY

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Southwest Airlines

One other thing to keep in mind. When life finally returns to normal, there will be pent-up desire to travel, explained Carey, and that's why now is a good time to book a future trip because "there will be limited inventory and availability."