With the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus a global pandemic, you may be wondering where you stand in terms of trip cancellation and travel insurance coverage.
In mid-March, the Canadian government updated its official Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Travel advice page, and now advising that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
It is also strongly recommended that anyone currently outside of Canada find out what commercial travel options are still available, and to consider returning to Canada earlier than planned if these options are becoming more limited.
This is in addition to the earlier advice to avoid all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19.
- How travel insurance and trip cancellations work with coronavirus
- When your travel insurance works for coronavirus and when it doesn’t
- What can you do if you don’t have trip cancellation insurance?
- Credit card trip cancellation insurance
- Personal vs group employer vs credit card travel insurance
- How are major Canadian airlines and points programs reacting to the coronavirus?
- How are major hotel chains reacting to the coronavirus?
- Coronavirus news and updates
How travel insurance and trip cancellations work with coronavirus
As of early March 2020, almost all travel insurance providers consider the coronavirus pandemic to be a “known issue” and will no longer provide trip cancellation or travel insurance for bookings made after a particular date (often but not always March 5, 2020).
A pandemic is declared when there’s a new disease which humans haven’t developed an immunity to that spreads around the world beyond expectations.
When your travel insurance works for coronavirus and when it doesn’t
Travel insurance is designed to cover losses that arise from unforeseeable events and circumstances. As the coronavirus is now considered a “known issue,” most travel insurance providers will not cover events arising from it.
You’ll also have to confirm that your travel insurance policy doesn’t include exclusions related to pandemics or epidemics.
Also keep in mind that most travel insurance policies don’t provide coverage for pre-existing conditions ‒ medical conditions or symptoms that existed before your trip. And your prior medical history may be reviewed if you make a claim.
That said, some travel insurance providers have loosened their policies related to coronavirus-related claims. For example, one major provider recently announced that if you become ill with coronavirus while travelling, they’ll cover:
But will other providers follow suit?
Current status of your coverage
Everything related to the coronavirus is happening very quickly, and any or all insurance policies can change at any time. So it’s very important that you read and understand your insurance coverage before you travel.
For the most current status of your coverage, it’s best to contact your insurance provider directly.
What can you do if you don’t have trip cancellation insurance?
If you have travel booked and you don’t have trip cancellation insurance, here are 3 options you can explore.
1. Cancel your trip and find out if you can get your flight and hotel refunded
If you aren’t comfortable travelling and want to voluntarily cancel your trip, you could try cancelling your flights and hotels directly and see if you can get a refund. While this is a bit of a long shot, it’s at least worth a try.
2. Reschedule your travel and see if a change fee waiver is available to you
Many airlines and hotels understand that the pandemic is problematic for travellers and are offering change fee waivers for people who want to reschedule their travel. You should contact your hotel or airline directly to get the most current and detailed information, of course, but we do cover some of the major airlines and hotel chains later in the article.
3. Travel safely if you decide to travel anyway
If you decide to still go on your trip, be sure to take all possible precautions to ensure that you can stay safe and healthy while travelling.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly: Washing your hands with regular soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds several times a day will help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you at all times, and use it liberally: Used properly, strong alcohol-based hand sanitizer is relatively effective (although washing your hands is still better).
- Avoid touching your face: Even if you have the virus on your hands, you’re less likely to get infected if you don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth.
- Avoid regular physical greetings: Instead of hugs or handshakes, opt for a friendly wave or nod.
- Avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces in airplanes: Place a sheet of paper on your tray table so laptops and other items don’t come in contact with the surface. Use a paper towel or napkin when opening and closing the bathroom door (then throw that in the trash). Do not place food directly on your tray table, and do not use the seat pocket.
- Adjust air vents: Using a paper towel, move the air vents above your seat so they don’t blow on your mouth, face, or nose.
- Avoid crowds: This applies both while you’re at the airport and when you arrive at your destination. Maybe now is the time to indulge yourself in a visit to the airport lounge? (
This cardoffers unlimited airport lounge access.)
- Take care of yourself: Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and exercise. The healthier your immune system, the less chance you’ll get sick.
You may notice a lot of these tips are similar to the standard precautions you can take to avoid getting the normal flu, and you’d be right. You’re already trained for this, so simply practicing some germ mindfulness will increase your chances of staying healthy during this pandemic.
Credit card trip cancellation insurance
If you booked travel with your credit card, you should double check to see if your card has you covered.
You can use our comprehensive database of credit cards available in Canada to check what features your credit card has, including what insurance coverage it includes.
Simply visit the creditcardGenius credit card search page, start typing your credit card name in the search box, and select your specific card from the list to visit that card’s page.
Once you’ve found your credit card, click on the “Insurance Coverage” tab in the top middle of the page, and you’ll see what insurance your card includes.
This doesn’t guarantee anything, of course, because coverage will depend on when your trip was booked, if the insurance provider for that card has modified its policies in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and so forth.
Carefully review your credit card’s insurance certificate to be certain, and contact your card provider for the most up to date information.
Personal vs credit card vs group employer travel insurance
It turns out there are a few different ways you can get trip cancellation insurance:
- you can purchase it separately yourself as part of a travel insurance package,
- it may be a feature of your credit card, or
- it may be included in your group employer benefits.
Let’s go over each of these different situations.
Personal travel insurance
The best and most comprehensive travel insurance is generally going to be a separate plan that you select and purchase yourself.
By going through this process (and probably spending a bit of extra money), you’ll be absolutely guaranteed to know what insurance you’re getting, exactly what’s covered, and have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be covered for everything you need for the full duration of your trip.
Credit card travel insurance
You might be surprised to know that many credit cards come with up to 14 different types of insurance, sometimes that even includes rare trip cancellation insurance.
So, even if you thought you weren’t covered for trip cancellation, make sure you check the insurance coverage of the credit card you used to book it with – you might just find a pleasant surprise waiting for you.
Credit card travel insurance often covers some combination of the following benefits:
- trip cancellation,
- trip interruption,
- travel delays,
- rental cars,
- lost or destroyed baggage,
- accidental death and dismemberment or flight accident insurance, and
- emergency assistance.
If your credit card does include relatively comprehensive travel insurance, there may be some limitations you may not be aware of. For example, there are often limitations to the duration of your trip (which can also depend on the age of the travellers), and it may not have medical or evacuation coverage at all.
One other thing to note is your trip may only be covered by your credit card insurance if you paid for the full price of the flight or hotel with your card.
As always, you should take the time to read through your credit card’s insurance features in detail, so you know exactly what is (or isn’t!) covered. You should have received a detailed insurance pamphlet when you got your card, which can also often be found online, and as a last resort you can call the number on the back of your card to ask direct questions and have the insurance certificate sent to you.
Related: 11 Credit Card Terms Explained
Group employer trip cancellation and travel insurance
Similarly, it can be easy to skip reading the fine print on the trip cancellation and travel insurance that’s included with your group employer benefit plan.
Group trip cancellation and travel insurance is there to protect you and your family from potentially significant medical expenses when you’re travelling outside of your home province, but there are often limitations in place that you may not know about.
For example, many group plans include stability clauses (coverage is not available to plan members whose health has changed within a specified period of time before travel), limitations to trip duration, and the requirement that plan members have continued to be full time employees.
Be sure to confirm that your group employer trip cancellation and travel insurance is comprehensive enough and in good standing before you travel.
How are major Canadian airlines and rewards programs reacting to the coronavirus?
So, what are Air Canada, WestJet, Aeroplan, and AIR MILES doing in response to the growing global pandemic?
|Provider||Existing bookings||New bookings||Other||More Information|
|Air Canada||If you purchased a ticket before March 4, 2020 for travel before April 30, 2020, Air Canada will allow you to make a one-time change to your flight without incurring a change fee up to 2 hours before your departing flight. Other terms apply.||For bookings made before March 31, 2020 for travel until December 31, 2020, Air Canada will allow you to make a one-time change to your flight without incurring a change fee up to 2 hours before your departing flight. Other terms apply.||Air Canada has temporarily suspended or reduced service to a growing number of impacted areas. See their route suspensions page for details.||Air Canada|
|WestJet||For flights booked before March 3, 2020 for travel in March or April 2020, WestJet is allowing a one-time change fee waiver for changes or cancellations. Again, this must be done more than 2 hours prior to departure. Other terms apply.||All new flight bookings made between March 3, 2020 and March 31, 2020 will be allowed a one-time change fee waiver, as long as you change your itinerary more than 24 hours before departure.||New WestJet Vacations booked from March 3 to April 30, 2020 for travel outside December 19, 2020 – January 5, 2021 will be allowed a one-time waiver for changes or cancellations, so long as this is requested at least 24 hours prior to departure. Other terms and options apply.||WestJet|
You can cancel your Aeroplan Flight Reward online at no charge through March 31, 2020.
If you want to change your travel without cancelling the booking, you must call the Aeroplan Contact Centre. Note that they are currently experiencing a high volume of calls, and request that you do not call if your flight does not leave within the next 72 hours.
|When you purchase a ticket between March 4 and March 31, 2020, Aeroplan will allow you to make a one-time change to your Flight Reward booking without incurring a change fee up to 24 hours before your departing flight.||N/A||Aeroplan|
|AIR MILES||AIR MILES is waiving change fees on bookings and is allowing cancellations. The applies to bookings made on or before March 12, 2020.||The new change fee policy does not apply to bookings made after March 12, 2020.||AIR MILES is currently asking people to wait to contact them until their departure is 2 weeks away so they can better assist those who have more immediate travel plans.||AIR MILES|
How are major hotel chains reacting to the coronavirus?
Here’s a very quick rundown on what the major hotel chains are doing in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
|Provider||Policy changes||More information|
|Marriott International||Marriott is waiving individual cancellation fees for hotel stays through April 30, 2020 up to 24 hours before arrival.||Marriott.com|
|Hilton Worldwide||* Government Restrictions: In regions affected by government-issued travel restrictions, Hilton will waive change fees or offer full refunds.
* Existing Reservations: All reservations that are scheduled for arrival before April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
* New Reservations: Any reservation you make that is booked between today and April 30, 2020 for any future arrival date, can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
|Hyatt Hotels||Hyatt is waiving cancellation fees for existing stays made before March 13, 2020 for arrivals between March 14th and April 30th. New reservations made between March 13th and April 30th can be changed or cancelled at no charge as well. In both cases, cancellations must be made up to 24 hours before your departure.||Hyatt.com|
|AccorHotels||* Guests travelling to or from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR China, Macau SAR China, Taiwan China, and South Korea through March 31, 2020 will be able to change or cancel a valid booking.
* Guests travelling to Italy through April 3, 2020 will be able to change or cancel a valid booking.
* Guests travelling from Ital and who booked travel before March 9th for stays through April 3, 2020 may postpone their travel through December 31, 2020.
|InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)||IHG is waiving cancellation fees for existing and new bookings at all IHG hotels globally for stays between March 9, 2020 and April 30, 2020.||IHG.com|
|Airbnb||On March 13, 2020, Airbnb updated its Extenuating Circumstances policy so guests are able to cancel eligible reservations without charge. This policy applies to bookings made in Mainland China, South Korea, Italy, and the United States.
For reservations in the United States, Airbnb’s policy applies to reservations booked on or before March 13, 2020, with check-in date of April 1, 2020 or earlier.
Coronavirus news and updates
Please see the following for the most up to date and detailed information about the current state of the coronavirus pandemic:
- World Health Organization
- Government of Canada: Coronavirus Information
- Government of Canada: Coronavirus outbreak updates
- CBC’s ongoing coronavirus coverage
How are travel insurance providers reacting to the coronavirus?
An increasing number of Canadian travel insurance providers now consider coronavirus to be a “known issue,” and are no longer providing trip cancellation insurance for bookings made after a particular date. For more information, you should visit your provider’s website and find out the current state of their policies. Click here to learn more.
Should I cancel my trip now due to coronavirus, or should I wait?
Given the growing number of travel restrictions and the number of countries that are strongly advising against unnecessary travel, you’re probably better off cancelling sooner rather than later. Luckily all of the major airlines and hotel chains are offering change fee waivers.
What should I do if I already have a trip booked that I want to cancel?
If you organized your trip through a travel agent, contact the agency and they will help you work through the process of cancelling your trip. If you organized it yourself, you should contact the organizations you booked with directly (points plan, airlines, hotel, and so on). Click here to see how the major companies in Canada are handling the pandemic.
What should I do if I’m planning a trip and need to cancel later?
If you’re currently planning a trip that you want to be able to cancel later, make sure you already have comprehensive trip cancellation insurance, or be sure to purchase a package as part of your trip planning. Read more on these options here.
Will I be penalized for cancelling my flight or hotel because of coronavirus?
Right now it depends on where you’re travelling to or from, and what airlines, hotels, and booking systems you used when organizing your trip. We have provided some of this information in this article, but to be exactly sure of where you stand, you should contact your travel providers directly.
Does my credit card have trip cancellation insurance?
You can find out if your credit card has trip cancellation insurance either through our handy credit card search tool, or by reading through your credit card agreement, which you should be able to find on your credit card provider’s website.
Who provides my credit card insurance?
This depends entirely on which credit card you have. This information should be available in your credit card insurance certificate.
How do I find my credit card insurance certificate?
You probably received a physical copy of your credit card insurance when you received your card, but if that’s been misplaced, the information should be available on your credit card provider’s website as well.