Airlines are searching for ways to get Canadians travelling again

Melissa Lopez-Martinez CTVNews.ca 

TORONTO — As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted around the world, the travel industry is looking at ways to get Canadians back on board.

While airlines, hotels and cruise ships are eager to open their doors, experts say convincing Canadians to travel again will be a tough sell.

Incentives are being introduced by airlines, resorts and hotels as a way to bring aboard new passengers, according to Allison Wallace, vice-president of communications at Flight Centre Canada.

“We should see better pricing and if not better pricing better value and that can be a room upgrade, it could be resort credits, it could be on board credits for cruise ships,” Wallace told CTV News.

Air Canada recently announced revisions to their goodwill policy that will allow customers of cancelled flights due to COVID-19 the option to receive either a travel voucher with no expiry date or bonus Aeroplan miles.

The airline also promised to reduce airfare for domestic flights as it introduced its new summer schedule including domestic and international flights. However, the airline is on a long road to recovery as it has been down 97 flights from the 220 it had the previous year amid the pandemic.

Tamer Hanna is among the many Canadians who had a flight cancelled because of the novel coronavirus. Hanna’s $5,000 Italian trip was put on hold and he received a credit for the flight but said he wants a refund.

“The travel situation is not going to be the same and its really about the safety of myself and my family at this point,” Hanna said in an interview with CTV News.

Many airlines are also catering to the post-pandemic world by introducing new cleaning measures and reconfigured seating. While these measures can help ensure safer travel, McGill University business professor Karl Moore said they will likely cost more for businesses to stay afloat.

“When you take away the middle seat at best you can get the planes maybe 70 per cent full, but at 70 per cent the planes can’t make money and that’s not a viable business model for them,” Moore in an interview with CTV News.

Travel experts say the new travel incentives are enticing, but the risk remains high. With COVID-19 now a known risk, companies are no longer offering travel insurance to cover the cost if Canadians become ill abroad.

President of Travel Secure Inc. Martin Firestone told CTV News that with no coverage, travellers risk incurring high hospital costs if they catch the virus while travelling.

“Quite frankly if you’re away and that second bout or third bout they talk about hits, you have the dilemma of having no coverage and being stuck in an emergency room in a hospital and you’re paying the tab,” Firestone said.

Industry leaders said travel interest is slowly picking up again, with most Canadians interested in domestic trips.

CTV News 

 

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

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