Following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which was first reported in Hubei Province in China in December 2019, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is recommending limited travel to the affected countries and areas. As a result, many airlines have cancelled or suspended flights, but many people who booked their holidays far in advance have been left asking themselves: 'how will coronavirus affect me?' We take a look at what the FCO, travel insurance companies and specific airlines have to say about how the virus will impact your future travel plans…
Flights to some countries and cities have been suspended
What countries are currently affected by coronavirus?
Cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in a number of countries over the past few weeks, including Italy, Singapore and South Korea, as well as the UK, and it is now officially classified as a pandemic. Currently, the FCO is advising against all travel to Hubei Province and against all but essential travel to mainland China, a number of cities in South Korea and ten small towns in Italy, nine of which are in the Lombardy region. But with the situation constantly developing, it is important to check the FCO website for updated information about the spread of the virus and travel recommendations.
Should I cancel my holiday?
Ultimately, that is your decision but it is worth taking into account the FCO advice, your own health and the health of those you are travelling with. For example, the elderly with underlying health conditions are more at risk. However, it may not be necessary to cancel your holiday as you may be able to reschedule it for another time instead.
How will coronavirus affect travel insurance policies?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has revealed that travelling to a country after the FCO has advised against it risks invalidating your travel insurance, while those who bought insurance before the FCO issued advice may be at least partially covered if they have to cancel or rearrange their trip. Those who make alternative travel plans for upcoming holidays may be able to transfer their travel insurance to the new destination.
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Meanwhile, travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip stated that if you're looking to purchase insurance, then you can get peace of mind by finding a plan that includes Cancel For Any Reason, which is subject to eligibility requirements. InsureMyTrip recommended reading the plan details very carefully before purchasing, warning: "Some plans may exclude epidemics/pandemics and may not provide coverage for related issues." It continued: "Remember that travel insurance helps to cover unexpected events. Similar to a weather event, once an event becomes a 'known; event, it may not be a covered reason for cancellation if a traveller purchases insurance after that date."
Unfortunately, if you are concerned about coronavirus but your destination has not been listed as a no-travel zone by the FCO, your insurance provider is not likely to cover the costs if you want to cancel or rearrange the trip. This would be classed as 'disinclination to travel.'
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What are the airlines doing about coronavirus?
A number of airlines have amended their schedules or even suspended flights, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. It is important to check what your airline has said about your travel options, but here's how some carriers have responded to the virus:
BA customers flying to or from Hong Kong up until 31 May 2020 can rebook their flight for a later date, while those planning to travel between London and Northern Italy up to 4 April 2020 can rebook up to and including 31 May 2020.
The airline has reassured customers that the majority of their flights are going ahead but you can call customer service to discuss changing your holiday, provided it is more than two days before you travel.
TUI has stated that, with proof of travel, you can amend your holiday departing up to and including 31 October 2020 or cancel with a refund.
If you have a holiday booked to or from Italy until 31 March 2020, Virgin is allowing you to reschedule and they have removed change fees.
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