With international travel set to return from July 19, many people will be booking holidays in the coming months. Given that we are still in the early stages of emerging from the pandemic, it is still important to do what you can to ensure you’ll get your money back should Covid – or something else – wreak havoc with your travel plans.
ere are four steps you should take to protect your holiday.
Check your travel insurer’s Covid cover
Travel insurance is a must but before buying it, check the insurer’s Covid policy and know exactly where you will stand should you have to cancel your holiday due to Covid – or should you contract the virus while on holiday. Most travel insurers offer some level of Covid cover but some offer better protection than others. Furthermore, even where Covid cover is available, strict conditions will often have to be met to get it.
VHI’s Multitrip travel insurance does not cover you if you’re booking a holiday now and you later have to cancel that holiday as a result of Covid-19.
Blue Insurance, Getcover.ie and InsureandGo cover you should you need to cancel or cut short your trip if you, your travelling companion or the person that you have arranged to stay with during your trip be diagnosed with Covid-19. That diagnosis must be made within 14 days of the start date of your trip – or within 28 days of the start date of the trip if there is a hospital admission as a result of Covid-19. Laya Travel will cover you for cancellation or curtailment “if you have a confirmed and documented diagnosis at the time of departure due to Covid-19”.
You may be covered for cancellation if you can’t travel because an immediate relative or close business associate is in hospital as a result of a positive Covid-19 diagnosis at the time of the trip – Getcover and InsureandGo for example would typically offer cover here.
Even where your travel insurance covers holiday cancellation as a result of Covid, it may not cover the full cost of your holiday as there will be a limit on the amount of cancellation cover provided. For example, with Blue Insurance’s Premier policy, cancellation cover is limited to up to €2,500 per insured person. So it is important to check how much cancellation cover a travel insurer offers before buying its insurance – particularly if you have booked a very expensive holiday.
Most insurers – including Blue Insurance, VHI Multitrip, Getcover, InsureandGo and Laya Travel – will cover emergency medical expenses if you contract Covid-19 abroad.
Note however that you will usually not be covered for Covid-related expenses or losses if you are travelling against the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Know where you stand if Government advice scuppers holiday
Check where you will stand with your travel insurance should the Government advise against non-essential travel to your holiday destination when you are due to travel – even if Government advice permitted travel to your holiday destination at the time you booked, and bought travel insurance for, your holiday. Travel insurance often won’t cover you for cancellation in this instance – if the reason for the advisory is a Covid outbreak.
For example, let’s say you book a holiday this month for travel in autumn 2021 – and that at the time of your booking, Government advice allows travel to the holiday destination booked. However, by autumn 2021, that Government advice has changed and so on the date you were due to go on holiday, the Government advice is against travel to that particular area as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak. “As Covid-19 is a known event at this time, if the Government advisory was to change, there would be no cover on our policy,” said a spokeswoman for Blue Insurance when asked by this paper if cancellation cover would be provided in such a case. Getcover and InsureandGo take a similar position here.
Laya Travel said it would provide cover in such an instance as long as the advice not to travel was issued after the individual had bought their holiday and travel insurance.
Bear in mind that if the reason for the Government advisory against travel is not related to Covid, your travel insurance may cover you should you have to cancel your holiday as a result of that advice.
Book through a travel agent
You should get your money back for your holiday if the Government advises that you can’t travel to your holiday destination due to a Covid outbreak – if you booked your holiday through a travel agent. Your travel agent may offer you other redress, such as a holiday voucher or the ability to carry forward your holiday, but ultimately you’re entitled to a cash refund. “If you have to cancel due to the pandemic, you’ll get all your money back if you have booked through a travel agent – so you have great protection if you book through a travel agent,” said Dr Cyril Sullivan, director of ECC Ireland.
However, if you had booked flights directly with an airline, you’re likely to lose all your money – if the flights go ahead as scheduled but you follow Government advice and don’t fly. It is unlikely that you will be able to get a refund from your airline because the flights weren’t cancelled. Most travel insurers won’t cover you for cancelling in such instances either. The best you can often hope for in cases like this is to carry forward your flights (if you can) – though it is still worth contacting your airline to see if it will offer you a refund or flight voucher as a gesture of goodwill.
Another good reason to book through a travel agent is that you should get the money for your holiday back if the travel agent goes bust. There are concerns that many airlines and travel agents could go bust in the coming months due to the devastating impact which the pandemic has had on them.
As long as you book your holiday through an Irish travel agent or tour operator that is licensed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), you should get your money back if your holiday is cancelled as a result of the insolvency of your travel agent or tour operator. This is because the CAR runs a scheme which protects customers of Irish-licensed travel agents and tour operators from losing their money or being stranded abroad should the agent or operator go out of business. This protection doesn’t extend to direct bookings with airlines or hotels however.
Don’t expect any back up from your travel insurer if the airline or travel agent you were due to go on holiday with goes bust. Many travel insurers – including Blue Insurance, Getcover, InsureandGo, Laya Travel and VHI Multitrip – won’t cover you should the airline, ferry operator or travel agent that you were due to travel with go bust and you have to cancel, or cut short, your holiday as a result. Similarly, any costs incurred by you as a result of being stranded abroad following the insolvency of an airline or travel agent (such as alternative accommodation) won’t be covered.
You may be able to get a chargeback refund if you used a credit card to pay for flights and the airline goes bust before you fly.
Don’t just have Covid on your radar with travel cover
The pandemic will in time hopefully become a distant memory – so when buying travel insurance, check the cover for risks not related to Covid.
Although travel insurers often cover natural disasters, your travel insurance may not cover you should you have to cancel or cut short your holiday as a result of a volcanic ash cloud or eruption. For example, VHI Multitrip covers delays or cancellation which arise as a result of adverse weather conditions – and will also cover you should you have to cancel or cut short your holiday if there is a government directive prohibiting all travel to, or recommending evacuation from the country or area you were planning to visit or were staying in, as a result of natural disasters (such as earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes) or epidemics. However, VHI Multitrip won’t cover you in the event of a volcanic eruption – including volcanic ash being carried by the wind.
Some travel insurers cover a certain amount of costs or irrecoverable losses that arise as a result of a volcanic eruption – though you may need to have bought an add-on to be covered. The travel disruption add-on available from Getcover for example providers cover of up to €2,000 per person in the event of a natural disaster (such as a volcanic ash cloud) – as long as certain conditions are met. To be covered by Laya Travel, you must have bought its natural catastrophe add-on.
Many travel insurers – including Blue Insurance, Getcover, Insure andGo, Laya Travel and VHI Multitrip – offer cover if have to abandon your holiday, or if your holiday is delayed, as a result of an unexpected work stoppage or strike at an airport or ferry port. Your trip will usually need to have been delayed by a minimum amount of time for you to be covered. Not all policies cover travel delay.
You will often not be able to get money back from your travel insurer should you have to cancel your holiday, or incur unexpected costs, as a result of a terrorist attack in your holiday destination. Buying a more expensive policy from some insurers could help so check if and how you can get terrorism cover. Medical emergency claims which arise as a result of terrorist activity while you’re abroad will usually be covered by your travel insurance.