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Coronavirus: what it means for your travel insurance

Major insurers pull coronavirus cover in the wake of the outbreak

Coronavirus: what it means for your travel insurance

Travel insurers will pay out at least £275m for coronavirus-related claims, according to estimates from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

This will set a new record for annual cancellation payouts, almost doubling the previous record of £148m set in 2010. Insurers are expecting 400,000 claims for cancellation and disruption due to the pandemic.

Some 28 insurers, including Admiral, Aviva, Churchill, Direct Line, LV, More Than and the Post Office, have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers. Existing customers are unaffected.

A further 19 insurers, including Axa, Saga and Staysure have changed aspects of their policy – full details below.

But as an existing customer, you could be able to claim back the costs of cancelled holidays, or costs incurred trying to get home.

We’ve compiled the key contact numbers and advice that you need if you’re making a claim.

  • You can keep up to date with our latest advice on the coronavirus outbreak over on our coronavirus advice hub.


Find the answers to your questions by clicking the links below:

How can I make a claim?

Many people buy travel insurance hoping they’ll never actually have to claim on it.

But the pandemic has left thousands of holidaymakers with no choice.

If you had a trip booked that you couldn’t take, or if you have one coming up, you might need to make a claim yourself.

Before you get in touch with your insurer, you should try to get a refund from travel or accommodation providers.

Insurers will only pay out for costs that couldn’t be refunded, so if you approach them with a claim before exploring the refund route, they will want you to do that before you can progress further.

Next, make a list of all the non-refundable costs you want to claim for. Not just hotels and flights, but transfers, tours and excursions.

After that, you’re ready to contact your insurer. We’ve gathered the claims numbers for more than 40 travel insurance providers in the table below. Click the name of the insurer to see our review of its service and find more details about how to make a claim.

If we don’t have a review, contact your insurer directly for more information.

Can I make a claim from abroad?

The spread of coronavirus and countries’ measures to tackle it have led to cancelled flights and closed borders all over the world. Which? has been inundated with messages from people trapped abroad asking if they’re covered.

If you’re experiencing problems outside of the UK, your insurer may be able to help over the phone. Some have separate phone numbers for claims being made from abroad, as seen in the table above.

Your insurer will also have an emergency number, generally for medical emergencies. You’ll find this in your policy, or you can read our travel insurer reviews.

Which insurers have withdrawn from the market or changed policies?

More than 30 insurers have stopped selling travel insurance since the start of the pandemic, leaving a shrinking pool of providers that will cover you for travel.

We’ve collated the insurers that have paused sales of cover or changed cover for new or existing customers.

As well as excluding coronavirus-related claims, some of these insurers will no longer cover you in the event of any future pandemic.

Some insurers that initially paused travel insurance sales have started selling policies again.

We’ve linked to insurers where we can provide more information. If no link is available, contact your insurer directly.

Where we note ‘no new cover’ we mean for policies bought after 11 March.

Insurers no longer selling cover Insurers changing cover details
AA AllClear – no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
Admiral Allianz Assistance UK – from 12 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
Asda Alpha Insurance – only covering trips booked on or after 17 March, departing after 25 June. No cover for coronavirus-related claims, except emergency medical treatment
Aviva Axa – no new cover for coronavirus-related cancellation
Churchill Boots – only covering trips booked on or after 17 March, departing after 25 June. No cover for coronavirus-related claims, except emergency medical treatment
Clydesdale Bank Columbus Direct – from 13 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
The Co-op Debenhams – from 16 March no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
CoverMore Direct Travel – from 17 March, no new cover from coronavirus-related claims
Direct Line Ergo Travel – exclusions regarding any epidemic or pandemic as declared by the WHO
Esure Holidaysafe
ETA InsureandGo – no new cover for coronavirus-related incidents
First Direct Insurewith – only covering trips booked on or after 17 March, departing after 25 June. No cover for coronavirus-related claims, except emergency medical treatment
Flexicover JS Insurance – no coronavirus-related claims except emergency medical treatment
Fogg Travel Nationwide – from 18 March, new policies won’t cover coronavirus
HSBC NFU Mutual – still selling annual policies to existing home insurance customers but have stopped the sale of single-trip policies
LV Saga – from 13 March, no new cover for coronavirus-related claims
More Than Staysure – no travel disruption extension for new customers
M&S Bank TopDog – only covering trips after 26 June
Now I Can Travel
Post Office
Puffin Insurance
Sainsbury’s Bank
Santander
Sheilas’ Wheels
Spectrum
Virgin Money
Yorkshire Bank
Zurich

Note: details correct as of the article publication date at the top of the page.

As the situation is changing rapidly, we recommend you carefully check policy details and exclusions prior to purchasing a policy, or booking new trips with an existing annual multi-trip policy.

What does the FCO advice mean when I’m making a claim?

On 17 March, the FCO advised against ‘all but essential travel’ to any country for an initial 30-day period. And on 23 March, the government advised all Brits abroad to return home.

If you’re booked to travel anywhere during this time, your flights may be cancelled, meaning your airline should refund you or let you rebook.

If this doesn’t happen, FCO advice is often the trigger for insurance cancellation cover, so you’ll be able to make a claim if you have that.

However, some policies include a clause that explicitly says FCO travel warnings are not grounds for cancellation claims, so you’ll have to hope your airline and hotel offers you a refund instead.

The FCO’s advice isn’t permanent, however, so if your holiday is booked for after 16 April, you’ll have to wait and see whether the FCO is still warning you against leaving the country by then.

I’ve booked a holiday, should I cancel?

If your holiday’s a while away, but you think the pandemic will stop you travelling, you can get your money back immediately by cancelling any refundable parts of the trip.

If you booked non-refundable flights or accommodation, you can wait for your airline or hotel to cancel your trip itself, as it will have to offer you a refund or allow you to rebook.

However, there is the risk here that your trip still won’t be cancelled.

If you don’t already have insurance for your upcoming trip, it might be too late to get a policy that covers you for coronavirus-related claims.

Still, it’s worth getting what cover you can if you do think your holiday is likely to go ahead later in the year.

If you’re still shopping for travel insurance, look out for:

  • Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI) This will cover you if your airline goes bust before you fly. The coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on airlines as demand for bookings falls. Flybe, which collapsed recently, might not be the only airline to do so during the outbreak. Find out more: what are my rights if an airline goes bust?
  • Excesses These are how much you’ll have to pay towards what your insurer pays out. You’ll still need to be able to afford the excesses if you’re going to make a claim.
  • Travel disruption cover You might find it more difficult to find this, since many insurers have removed it from their policies, but keep an eye out just in case. It will reimburse you for costs associated with delays, missed departures or being forced to remain at your destination for longer than planned (as is the case with the holidaymakers trapped overseas).

Which? recommends getting the following levels of cover:

  • Emergency medical cover: £2m for Europe, £5m worldwide
  • Cancellation, curtailment and missed departure: £3,000
  • Personal belongings and money: £1,500
  • Personal liability: £1m

Find out more: flight cancellations and compensation

What is ‘essential travel’?

The ‘all but essential travel’ warning has been talked about a lot recently, but what does it actually mean?

The FCO itself doesn’t specify which types of travel are essential. The government website says this:

‘Whether travel is essential or not is your own decision. You may have urgent family or business commitments to attend to. Circumstances differ from person to person. Only you can make an informed decision based on the risks.’

At the start of the outbreak, we asked insurers about what ‘essential travel’ could mean for their customers. Some of them have since stopped selling or changed their travel cover, but their answers will still be accurate for policies bought before these changes were made.

Admiral, Co-op and NFU Mutual said they wouldn’t cover anyone who travels to a country that has an ‘all but essential travel’ warning in place, regardless of the reason.

Other insurers we spoke to seemed more flexible.

Saga said it would decide on a case-by-case basis.

M&S Bank advised customers to follow advice from the FCO and local authorities, but said ‘travelling against FCO advice would not invalidate your cover’. It said: ‘If you do decide to travel, because the FCO advice is already in place, there would be no cover if you later decide to abandon your trip and come home early.

Before it stopped selling cover, Aviva told us it had a similar position to this.

Nationwide said its travel insurance would cover people travelling if there was an FCO ‘all but essential’ travel warning in place. But not if there was an ‘all travel’ warning in place.

Despite all of this, the government’s recent call for all Brits to return to the UK as soon as they can suggests that it’s very unlikely your trip will be essential enough to go through with, no matter what it is.

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