Some countries plan to welcome tourists next month, but your travel insurance may not cover COVID-19

Wondering when Canadians can start travelling again? Here’s what you need to know

Sophia Harris · CBC News

For many Canadians, their most exciting adventure over the past couple of months has been a weekly trip to the grocery store.

But now that provinces are easing COVID-19 restrictions, some people may be contemplating travel abroad.

Here’s what you need to know about travelling outside Canada while COVID-19 still lingers in our lives.

Can I travel now?

Yes, but with a lot of conditions to consider.

On March 13, the federal government issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.

Despite the advisory, Canadians can still travel abroad. However, they may struggle to find flights and their travel insurance likely won’t cover their medical bills if they fall ill with COVID-19.

International travellers will also have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to tourists crossing by land until June 21. And that date could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — now totalling more than 1.6 million — remains a concern.

Where can I go?

Due to closed borders and a fear of flying during the pandemic, airlines have slashed their routes.

WestJet has grounded all transborder and international routes until June 25. Air Transat and Sunwing have stopped flying altogether until June 30 and June 25, respectively.

Air Canada is currently flying at about five per cent of its capacity. On Friday, the airline announced an updated summer schedule that offers flights to 97 destinations including Rome, Athens and locations in the Caribbean.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, airlines will start adding more routes, said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for the travel agency Flight Centre.

But she warns it could take up to two years for carriers to resume normal operations.

“The airlines aren’t going to come back and go to 100 per cent,” she said. “There’s sort of a general agreement that international travel will start to come back around 20 per cent by the fall — like September — and then it’ll grow from there.”

As for possible travel destinations, IcelandMexico and some Caribbean countries such as Aruba and St. Lucia plan to start welcoming back tourists in June. Greece plans to reopen in July.

But travellers may face stiff entry requirements. For example, St. Lucia and Iceland will require that visitors get a COVID-19 test before flying and provide proof upon arrival that they’re virus-free. If travellers to Iceland can’t get a test beforehand, the country plans to test them when they arrive.

Airline analyst and McGill University Prof. Karl Moore is set to fly to Iceland in August to teach for a couple of days at Reykjavík University.

But if he can’t get tested in Canada beforehand, Moore is unsure he’ll take the trip. That’s because, if he tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, he’ll have to foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine in a Reykjavik hotel. Travellers suffering from COVID-19 can’t fly back to Canada until they recover.

“It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to be quarantined,” said Moore. “I love Reykjavik, but I may end up teaching [instead] on Zoom.”

What about travel insurance?

Insurance broker Martin Firestone believes that when Canada lifts its advisory against international travel, travel insurance providers may continue to exclude coverage for COVID-19-related illnesses — until there’s a vaccine.

“A person who ends up on a ventilator in the U.S., it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so [insurance providers] are in no position to take that risk,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure in Toronto.

READ MORE HERE AT CBC News

 

St. John’s couple with pricey travel insurance now stuck with vouchers for cancelled trip

The Chronicle Harold

ST. JOHN’S — With travelling a few times a year, an annual travel insurance policy once made the best sense, but Tom Gordon is re-evaluating that logic after dealing with his insurer.

Gordon contacted The Telegram after seeing the story of senior Joan Jackson, who said she was threatened with being reported to the credit bureau or taken to small claims court if she stopped her monthly payment on her MEDOC travel insurance even though she can’t go on a trip while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.

Gordon and his wife pay $93.69 a month combined for their policy.

They had planned a spring trip to Cuba, which they cancelled with reimbursement in the form of vouchers for future travel from Air Transat. Those vouchers have a 24-month expiry date.

Gordon said he understands completely that MEDOC will not approve a claim if he already received Air Transat vacation vouchers, as that would be double reimbursement.

But the decision made him ask about what his protections were under the policy should it be impossible to redeem the vouchers before they expire.

“The situation of cancelled international travel owing to the pandemic spread is certainly fraught. The decision of the federal government to uphold airlines’ policy to issue vouchers rather than refunds is problematic enough. Consumers are involuntarily in the position of giving long-term interest-free loans to airlines,” Gordon told The Telegram.

When he asked the insurance provider what would happen if Air Transat goes bankrupt or either he or his spouse dies before they can use the vouchers, the answer leaves him on the hook for the $3,000 the couple spent on the trip.


“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel.” — Tom Gordon


MEDOC said the claim is closed.

“Federal advisory against travel outside the country; subsequent cancellation of Air Transat flights to Cuba. Air Transat has indicated they will issue a voucher valid for 24 months in lieu of a refund. However, we do not foresee the possibility of utilizing this voucher and need to recoup these costs. We have received full refunds from Air Canada for connecting flights that we had for travel between St. John’s and Toronto before and after the Cuba flights,” Gordon wrote on the online form explaining reasons for filing a claim.

“Regarding scenario 1 (the bankruptcy of the airline), since Air Transat has offered you the travel voucher, it is now their responsibility to honour it. As for scenario 2 (a death of either spouse), we sincerely hope that is not one you will need to face. In both cases, your insurance policy does not provide coverage for a travel voucher,” adjusting agency GlobalExcel responded to his inquiry in an email exchange.

“In short, Global Excel contends that because I now hold a theoretical voucher for travel rather than an actual ticket, I no longer have any right to claim regardless of circumstances,” Gordon told The Telegram.

“These circumstances include the cessation of operation of the airline or the death of myself or my spouse — circumstances that are clearly otherwise covered under my policy with MEDOC. … Global Excel has responded unequivocally: the money I paid for a vacation that I may never take is not insured because it now exists in the form of a voucher rather than a ticket.”

The annual travel insurance they once thought was a great idea given their age and amount of and type of travel they do is now being given more scrutiny by Gordon.

Planned vacations to New Zealand and Norway this year are unlikely to go ahead, but the monthly bill continues.

“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel,” Gordon said.

Their policy expires in September and they only took one trip so far, last October.

Given the fact that auto insurance premiums were reduced a little to reflect that people are driving less, Gordon said it would have been nice to see some leniency with travel insurance customers, especially when the annual sums can be more than $1,000 and there’s no place they can go.

In a letter emailed to customers on May 15 — the same day the original Telegram story ran — Johnson Insurance, the broker for MEDOC, reminded clients, similar to information in a statement to The Telegram that week, that thousands of MEDOC customers were helped to get back to Canada and that it continues to provide health insurance coverage for those who could not return to the country.

“The number of travel insurance claims has tripled and our teams are working around the clock to ensure that we serve all members to the standards that they deserve,” the statement said.

“For all customers we understand how this pandemic has impacted your plans. Rest assured that your trip cancellation coverage continues for trips booked prior to the travel advisory. Travel within Canada is also still covered, and your policy is still in force.

“However, we truly understand the concerns of those who are unable to travel and we are reviewing how MEDOC® can continue to provide exceptional value to all our customers now and for years to come.”

In response to the latest story, a spokeswoman for Johnson said the following: “We are not able to comment on individual claims due to privacy. As each customer’s situation is different, they should contact us directly if they have questions regarding their claim.”

Source: The Chronicle Harold

What Cruisers Need to Know About Travel Insurance After COVID-19

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.May 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Major cruise lines have announced they plan to resume sailings as early as August 1. For travelers planning to book a cruise post-COVID-19, travel insurance comparison site, Squaremouth.com, explains what they need to know about travel insurance.

Coverage for Contracting COVID-19 Still Available

Travelers booking cruises now, or keeping their travel plans, can still purchase a policy for COVID-19 concerns, however, coverage is limited, and varies by provider.

As of May 6, 2020, Squaremouth.com reports five travel insurance providers that offer coverage if a traveler contracts COVID-19 while cruising. These policies include emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage if a traveler contracts the virus while on the cruise and need to receive medical care or be medically evacuated.

As of May 6, 2020, there are four travel insurance providers on Squaremouth.com who include trip cancellation coverage if a traveler contracts coronavirus, or is quarantined, and unable to travel as planned.

Being Denied Boarding Due to Cruise Line Screenings May Be Covered

Previously, cruise lines denied boarding to travelers who had a fever or had recently traveled to a destination considered high-risk for the coronavirus. When cruising returns, it is possible these regulations will continue. If a traveler is not allowed to board their cruise because they have a fever or are sick, they may be covered to cancel their trip if they receive documentation from a doctor. However, if a traveler is denied boarding because of a recent visit to a risky destination cancellation coverage may not be available.

Cancel for Any Reason Is Best Option for Cruisers With Cancellation Concerns

Many of the unprecedented impacts on travel related to COVID-19 are not covered by standard insurance policies, like travel bans and border closures. The best cancellation option during this time of uncertainty around travel is a Cancel for Any Reason policy. This optional upgrade can reimburse travelers 75% of their trip cost and is the only option that allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason not covered by a standard policy, including travel bans or fear of traveling due to coronavirus.

It is important to note that travelers who purchase Cancel for Any Reason policies must cancel their trips 2-3 days prior to departure in order to be reimbursed, so a last-minute cancellation, such as being denied boarding at the cruise port, would be too late.

TRAVEL INSURANCE INFORMATION FOR COVID-19

The Traveler’s Guide to Travel Insurance for COVID-19 was created to inform travelers about their insurance options during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus Pandemic Current Event Center includes answers to frequently asked questions and providers’ position statements. These resources are updated daily as the situation evolves.

ABOUT SQUAREMOUTH

SQUAREMOUTH compares travel insurance policies from every major travel insurance provider in the United States. Using Squaremouth’s comparison engine and third-party customer reviews, travelers can research and compare travel insurance policies side-by-side. More information can be found at www.squaremouth.com.

SOURCE Squaremouth

http://www.squaremouth.com

Personal auto insurance customers will receive a 25 per cent credit on one month’s premium, expanding on the company’s COVID-19 relief efforts

Read more

No refunds for flight cancellations

The excerpted article was written by By Sandor GyarmatiDelta Optimist

You were looking forward to your dream vacation or nice little gateway before coronavirus – now travel restrictions are in place and your flight has been canceled.

Don’t count on the airline giving you a cash refund, but you will likely get a voucher, which has many people fighting mad.

Barb Mills with Tsawwassen Insurance said the Canadian Transportation Agency endorsed airlines not refunding passengers for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 or other reasons outside an airline’s control.

Mills noted airlines are only obliged to ensure passengers can complete their trip and are offering customers vouchers, adding most airlines are offering at least a year for people to use those vouchers.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says in the past, travel service providers usually provided consumers with refunds where the service provider was unable to provide service, but over the past month, that changed and they are now offering vouchers or credits that consumers can use for future travel.

On March 25, the Canadian Transportation Agency updated its endorsement of the use of vouchers or credits as an appropriate approach for Canada’s airlines as long as the vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time.

“Travel insurers are advising policy holders that if you have been offered this type of full credit, or voucher for future use by an airline, train or other travel provider, in many instances, under the terms of your insurance policy you will not be considered to have suffered an insurable loss,” a news release by the association notes.

The association also notes disputes over refunds and credits should be directed to travel service providers, transportation carriers or the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Airlines already have a fight on their hands, meanwhile, as a proposed class-action lawsuit targeting airlines that only offered vouchers, including Air Canada, Air Transat, West Jet, Sunwing and Swoop, has been filed. The suit claims that the airlines should not be allowed to hold onto customers’ money indefinitely for a purchase that they may or may not make in the future.

The advocacy group Air Passenger Rights says the transportation agency has given the false impression the initial endorsement of vouchers was a legally binding determination.

Source: Delta Optimist

CDN’s stranded abroad may lose travel insurance as some providers impose March 31 deadline

The Globe and Mail

Canadian travellers stuck abroad may find themselves without emergency medical coverage as some insurers impose a March 31 deadline when coverage will expire while refusing extensions for people showing signs of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to return home while they still can, but made it clear that anyone with symptoms of the virus will not be allowed to travel to Canada until they have recovered.

Canadians showing signs of the novel coronavirus will need to remain quarantined for 14 days in the country they are currently visiting, and not be allowed to board any flights to Canada. For some, that could mean a lapse in their current emergency medical coverage.

The uncertainty in guidance issued by travel insurers – which has been changing by the day in some cases – has left thousands of Canadians unsure of whether they will be covered while they attempt to get home or remain under quarantine.

Out-of-country medical policy coverage can range from $2-million to $10-million a person. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues, insurance companies have deemed the virus a “known event,” which could mean they are not covered for the illness.

Last week, several retired teacher associations alerted their members – many of whom are snowbirds vacationing in the southern United States – that emergency medical coverage provided by their association would be expiring at 11:59 pm on March 23. The policy change was triggered by a March 13 travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada.

Many insurance policies allow an individual to purchase an extension or top-up to their coverage. But to qualify for the extension, most Canadian insurance companies require the policyholder to answer several qualifying questions.

Two common questions asked before an extension is granted is whether an insured person is in good health and knows no reason to seek medical attention, and whether he or she has been examined or treated by any physician or been advised by a physician to seek treatment, says Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a seller of travel medical coverage.

“Automatically these individuals – who are being turned away from our border due to coronavirus symptoms – are not going to be eligible to top up or extend their coverage,” Mr. Firestone said.

Canadians who are stranded abroad can apply for an emergency loan from Global Affairs Canada of up to $5,000 for essential needs. But for those without medical coverage, hospital bills can quickly run into the tens of thousands and the government may have to provide further assistance.

“If an elderly traveller comes down with symptoms and ends up in an intensive care room in a hospital, they could be looking at $25,000 a night,” he said. “If their insurance has expired, where are they going to turn? I would suspect the government has to have some contingency fund set up to handle people whose travel insurance ended.”

Manulife Financial Corp.’s individual travel plans for emergency medical coverage allow for extensions as long as “there has been no event that has resulted, or may result in a claim against the policy,” and “there has been no change in your health status.”

Travel insurer Group Medical Service Inc. (GMS) updated its policies to allow clients to extend or top up their coverage until March 31, although the company would not confirm whether people showing symptoms would qualify for the extension.

“[The March 31 deadline] should give clients the additional time they need to arrange travel back to Canada as per the government’s recommendation,” GMS said on its website.

TuGo travel insurance allows clients to purchase a one-time 10-day extension to their travel medical coverage, as long as clients can sign a “health declaration, have not seen a doctor, and have made no claims.”

If clients need more than 10 days, TuGo offers an option to purchase additional days required to “reasonably evacuate” the country or area they are returning from.

One of the country’s largest travel insurers, Allianz Global Assistance Canada, would not confirm to The Globe and Mail whether their medical coverage would be extended for people unable to return to Canada owing to coronavirus symptoms.

“As the COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly each day, we are reviewing our policies alongside the Canadian government’s border and travel restrictions to ensure we can assist customers abroad in their safe return to Canada,” spokesman Dan Keon said.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest