The mention of ‘travel bubbles’ across Europe, and countries such as Greece hoping to reopen to holidaymakers later this summer, keeps hopes of a sunshine break alive. But there’s a big sticking point — travel insurance.
Whatever your age, it is impossible to renew or take out a travel insurance policy which will cover you during the ongoing pandemic. This is because Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice to British nationals is to avoid all but essential international travel indefinitely.
Until this changes, any travel we take would be at our own risk — a big gamble, particularly if you’re older and vulnerable to illness. So how are the main travel insurance providers reacting? Is there any wiggle room?
The specialist in travel for the over-50s has made it plain that new policies will not cover Covid-19 or any mutation of it, although it will assist with repatriation to the UK.
If you’re an existing customer, any policies renewed after April 17 exclude coronavirus cover. If you travel anyway and have a non-coronavirus related issue, then medical cover of up to £10 million is still offered as well as SAFI (Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance) cover.
This means you’ll get your ticket reimbursed if your airline goes into administration before you fly or while you’re on holiday. The cost of your repatriation is also covered. (saga.co.uk)
Existing customers will be covered for medical treatment and expenses if they contract Covid-19 while overseas, but only once borders have reopened and the current FCO advice has changed from advising against all travel abroad.
Any policies bought after March 13 with Insurewith do provide cover for medical costs but, crucially, this doesn’t include cancellations or abandoned holiday claims related to the coronavirus.
There’s a crumb of good news for Insurewith’s premium customers with Sapphire and Platinum policies. These include an End Supplier Failure clause which means customers can make a claim if the airline or hotel they’re booked with goes out of business, even if this is as a direct result of Covid-19. (insurancewith.com)
Travel insurance of any kind (either single trip or annual multi-trip) is not being offered to new customers.
Existing customers will be able to renew their annual policies and keep Aviva’s optional Travel Disruption and Airspace Closure covers if they had them on their policies already.
While the FCO advice remains in place, if customers book a fresh trip now, they will not be covered for any cancellation costs. (aviva.co.uk)
No new travel insurance policies are being offered.
For existing customers wishing to renew a policy, there’s now a general rule which excludes any claim which is caused by or resulting from coronavirus. This also includes claims arising from the fear or threat of covid. This doesn’t apply for renewing customers with trips booked prior to March 17.
Whatever your age, it is impossible to renew or take out a travel insurance policy which will cover you during the ongoing pandemic
The good news is that cancellation rights have also been altered to allow customers to cancel their annual or single-trip policy if they wish, and receive a pro-rata refund, provided they haven’t made a claim.
Admiral has also waived any cancellation fees for this.
Single-trip policyholders can change the travel dates up to 365 days from the date of issue of the original policy.
However, if a customer chooses to rearrange a trip by changing the dates, duration or destination, Admiral consider this a switch in risk and the trip wouldn’t be covered for Covid-19 related losses. (admiral.com)
Is there a Plan B?
Perhaps insurers will come up with new-style policies with optional surcharges for Covid-19 cover
If you can’t buy new travel insurance or renew your existing policy, a European Health Insurance Card (apply at nhs.uk, for free) entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident in any EU country (or in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).
But once the UK leaves the EU EHIC cover won’t apply.
‘Perhaps insurers will come up with new-style policies with optional surcharges for Covid-19 cover, or a standalone policy which only covers for the disease and can be bought separately,’ says Debbie Marshall of Silver Travel, a travel review site aimed at mature travellers.
Ultimately, the most straightforward holiday option is, once domestic lockdown is eased, to travel within the UK, until such a time as insurance policies improve or a vaccine is in place.