What the “do not travel” advice means for you and your travel insurance
A global level 4 alert has been issued for the first time – here's what it means for would-be travellers.
On 18 March, the Australian government issued a blanket travel warning, urging all Australians not to travel to any other country. It's the first time this has ever happened, so there are lots of questions about what this means for people who have holidays booked, and whether travel insurance will help cover the costs of cancellation.
If you bought travel insurance in January or before
There's a chance you might be covered for cancellation costs. This is because the coronavirus outbreak didn't become recognised as a "known event" until mid to late January, although the specific date varies between insurers.
This is important because as soon as something is recognised as a known event – whether it's a natural disaster, labour strike or global pandemic – any travel insurance policy bought after that date won't cover claims related to the event.
However, if you booked your trip a few months ago, and bought travel insurance at the same time, there is a chance you could be covered for cancellation costs.
If this applies to you, contact your insurance company immediately. It's likely you'll be told to request refunds from your airline or travel agent first, but your insurer will be able to walk you through the claims process, and let you know if you're eligible.
If you bought your travel insurance after January
It's highly unlikely you'll be able to claim for cancellation costs if you bought your travel insurance policy from 1 February onwards. Some insurance companies have even earlier cut-off dates, so check with your provider directly.
If you want to cancel your trip, your best option is to contact your travel agent or airline. They may be able to help with rescheduling or refunding of your booking.
If you have a credit card which offers complimentary travel insurance, there is a small chance you may be able to claim back some of your lost expenses. Contact your provider immediately.
What if your insurance policy has a pandemic exclusion?
Some travel insurance policies have exclusions which restrict claims related to epidemics and pandemics, so even if you bought your policy months ago, you might not be able to claim.
Check your product disclosure statement (PDS) carefully to see if it mentions anything about epidemics or pandemics being excluded.
We checked 32 travel insurers in Australia, and found that 14 exclude cover if a claim is related to a pandemic, 10 offer some cover, and 8 aren't clear on how they treat pandemics.
What if you still want to go on your holiday?
You will not be covered for any claims, even if they are not related to the coronavirus, if you go on holiday to another country while the current travel alert is in place.
If you travel against the government's advice, insurance companies believe you are intentionally putting yourself in harm's way and will not offer any compensation for any type of claim.
It's impossible to know exactly how long the government's current travel warning will be in place, so if your holiday is still a while away, the alert may be lifted by then. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did suggest everyone should reconsider all international travel plans for the next six months.
Warning: From 9pm on Friday 20 March, non-residents will not be able to enter Australia. If you are a non-resident and plan to travel overseas, you will not be able to return until the government changes its stance.
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