Like a lot of you, we had a holiday planned over the next month or two that has been disrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak. Although this trip is not officially cancelled yet, the borders for here and there are supposed to be open again (though unlikely), there is likely to be a residual impact, with a possibility of it being cancelled in the near future. It all seems very up in the air.
Something like this may seem totally out of your control but it doesn’t have to be. We talk you through our research and experience and share how you can save yourself some money, time and stress.
Re-arranging is best
We’re with AXA for our travel insurance, but looking at some of the other big players like the Post Office, Churchill and Direct Line, if you re-arrange your trip with your holiday/tour operator for later in the year, you will still receive cover for Coronavirus. This means that if you were to reschedule your trip for later in the year and we end up with border closures, quarantining and/or cancelled trips again, and/or you become unwell whilst on holiday with Coronavirus, you will still be covered.
This is the crucial bit!
You must make sure that you re-scheduled trip has the same booking reference as the original booking. This will ensure, should there be a problem when you travel later in the year, your trip will still be covered for Coronavirus.
Not only will you still get to go on the holiday you’ve dreamed of, saved hard for and desperately wanted, but you will have peace of mind that should this still be a problem later down the line, your holiday is still protected. More so, we’ve found this an extremely quick and straightforward way to put our minds at rest.
Postponing much later or making a new booking now
Flights are generally available 11 months in advance. Airlines and travel agents are offering you the opportunity to book a holiday up to 12 months after your original date of travel with no change fee. However, if you cannot secure the booking now, they’ll place the value of your ticket in an account or a voucher until you’re ready to reorganise. As such, when you do rearrange your trip, you will be given a new booking reference and therefore will not be covered for Coronavirus.
This is also true for any new bookings. If you book any new trip now, there is no travel insurance policy that will cover you for Coronavirus. Additionally, most travel insurance providers have suspended all new applications whilst they deal with the current crisis.
Bear in mind
This virus is unpredictable at the moment, there is no cure and effective treatment may not be ready until early next year. Meaning any travel, without insurance coverage, is quite a risky prospect.
Cancelling your trip
You can only approach travel operators and insurance providers for a refund of your trip if specific criteria are met.
In this circumstance, the criteria to cancel are:
- You are unwell and unable to travel
- Your doctor said you can no longer travel because of the risk- though your insurance provider must’ve been aware of your history when the policy was taken, unless this is a new medical issue since the policy was issued.
- The FCO prohibits travel from our country or to the country of travel
- The airlines have cancelled the flight
Unfortunately, even if you have travel insurance, they’re requesting that you deal with the tour operators first to pursue a refund.
As things currently stand, because of the extensive travel restrictions put in place by the FCO, only trips planned up to the 16th of April qualify, at the moment, for a refund/insurance claim.
If you’re due to travel after the 16th of April, you generally have 2 options:
- Wait and see if it will be cancelled and you can either claim through the different agents or insurance. However, if the restrictions were lifted, it may force you to go even if that meant being quarantined at the other end, having elements of your trip cancelled, and effectively missing out on everything anyway.
- Re-arrange your trip: Most agents, holiday providers and airlines are offering you the opportunity to reschedule all trips booked up to the end of May with no change fee.
If you cancel the trip yourself, because you don’t feel safe travelling, you will not get a refund or remuneration from either the operator or your insurance provider. It must meet the criteria in order to receive a refund. Again, this further highlights why re-arranging at this point is the best, and safest option.
Check your insurance
This event has been a massive shock to the travel industry but if you booked your trip and secured your travel insurance before the outbreak was known, you will be covered for Coronavirus. The general consensus around this is if you booked your trip before the 13th of March and had travel insurance in place, you will be covered.
As your very first port of call, you need to head to the website of your insurance provider to see what they are saying with regards to travel disruption due to Coronavirus.
This situation is a testament as to why you should get travel insurance the moment you book your holiday. You don’t know if you’re going to need it, and you hope that you don’t, but in any unexpected event, you’ll have peace of mind you’ve some protection.
Tips to rebooking
Airlines no change fee policy
Airlines are only offering a ‘no change fee’ for re-bookings. However, if the flight is more expensive when you’re looking to rearrange to, you will need to pay the difference. So, before you call the airline or travel agent to re-book, do a little research so you can be prepared for any extra charges. Though, because the current situation is so unpredictable, most of them are in fact cheaper. Sadly, you will not get a credit for the difference.
Make sure everything lines up
We have quite a complex itinerary for our trip involving lots of different airlines, hotels and tour operators. If you have a couple of different elements to your trip, be sure to check the policies for each provider (usually stipulated in their COVID response plans) to make sure you can rearrange for free, or the penalties involved and what date this is offered until.
Prioritise your flights, hotels and finally transfer/transport and excursions.
Be sure to speak to someone
Airlines and travel agents are dealing with unprecedented call volumes. You should be able to update your reservation online but again, because of an increase in demand, this function isn’t always working. As such, they’ve implemented cancellation procedures for trips. In some instances, this means they’ll give you a voucher towards a trip at a later date in the future. If you know you want to re-book and you want the security of travel insurance against the Coronavirus, you need to call them up and rearrange so they amend the existing booking and you retain your original booking reference.
Be creative in trying to speak to your provider: send messages over social media, email them, text them or using booking assistants.
It helps to have everything ready when you speak to your holiday provider, we recommend the following:
- Original dates of travel
- Original booking references
- New travel dates
- Payment method for any anticipated costs.
Be sure to keep a record of everything: get email confirmations, keep a folder on your computer of your original bookings and your new ones, this will help when it comes to travelling later and/or should you need it for claims purposes.
Be patient and kind
There are millions of people in the same position and everyone is desperate to speak to their holiday provider. We followed the text procedure from Virgin Atlantic and had our flight rebooked less than 24 hours after our initial text. Once they got in touch with us (approx. 18 hours later), it was all done in an hour. If you need to call up and speak to an agent, most calls are taking at least 1 hour to be answered (2 in our experience), so be prepared for long waits. Furthermore, be kind and polite to the person helping you with your query, they’re doing the best they can.
We hope this is helpful, if we can provide any further assistance, don’t hesitate to leave us a message and we’ll see if we can point you in the right direction.