Is travel insurance with ‘Covid cover’ giving you the confidence to book your next holiday? Just make sure you understand what it means – it might not include as much as you think.
With optimistic holidaymakers looking to book trips later in 2021, there’s been an upsurge of ‘Covid cover’ and ‘coronavirus guarantees’ offered with holidays, flights, accommodation and travel insurance.
But what do these phrases actually mean? You might assume that Covid cover includes all sorts of eventualities, but you could be in for a nasty shock if it’s more limited than you thought.
The travel insurance industry has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by offering cover for specific Covid-19 related expenses.
We checked the features of 982 single-trip and 1,008 annual/multi-trip travel insurance policies on Defaqto on 8 April 2021 and guess what? There’s no standard definition of ‘Covid cover'.
That means it’s extremely important that you know what cover’s important to you and make sure it’s included when you choose your policy.
Planning a trip? Make sure you check cover before you go
The table below shows the different elements of coronavirus cover and the percentage of travel insurance policies that include it.
Elements of Covid cover
% of travel policies that include cover
|Medical expenses covered||97||97|
|Cancellation – positive test||74||75|
|Cancellation unable to stay||46||46|
|Cancellation due to self-isolation||32||33|
|Cancellation - denied boarding outbound due to Covid symptoms||21||19|
|Enforced stay - denied boarding homeward-bound due to Covid symptoms||16||17|
|Quarantine abroad – accommodation/repatriation costs if ordered to quarantine following exposure at destination||2||2|
|Cancellation due to FCDO advice changing||0.5||1.5|
|Cancellation due to being in lockdown||0.2||0.3|
Only one-in-five travel insurance policies cover you for being denied boarding due to showing Covid symptoms at the airport"
It’s fairly likely you’ll be covered if you caught Covid before you went – almost three quarters of travel insurance policies would refund the cost of travel and accommodation if you got a positive coronavirus test before you were due to travel.
Yet you’re far less likely to be covered if your airline stops you from travelling because they suspect you have coronavirus – just one in five policies would cover the cost of trips that are cancelled by being denied boarding for your outbound journey because you’re displaying possible Covid symptoms.
If you have Covid symptoms before your trip, go and get tested. Don’t attempt to travel.
Almost all travel insurance policies included claims for medical expenses caused by Covid"
You can be pretty confident of finding travel insurance that’ll pay for your medical expenses if you fall ill with Covid-19 during your trip. We found that 97% of travel insurance policies included claims for medical expenses caused by Covid.
Unfortunately, medical bills aren’t the only extra cost you could incur from catching Covid on holiday and you’re much less likely to be covered for your travel and accommodation costs if you get ill and can’t go home on time.
Just 16-17% of policies would pay the costs if you’re forced to stay abroad longer due to developing symptoms that mean you’re denied travel home at the airport.
Less than a third of travel insurance policies will cover you if you have to cancel your trip because you're self-isolating"
It’s pretty bleak news if you have to cancel, cut short or even extend a trip because you’ve been exposed – even if you feel perfectly well.
Less than a third of travel insurance policies will cover you if you have to cancel your trip because you’re having to self-isolate after a call from Track and Trace.
So if, for example, your job means you’re exposed to social contact and at a greater risk of frequent bouts of isolation, it’s a good idea to try to find policies that include this cover.
But you’re highly unlikely to find travel insurance that’ll cover you if you have to quarantine abroad, even if you’re not ill. Just 3% of single trip and 2% of multi-trip policies cover this.
That could land you with a big bill for extra accommodation and rearranged flights, and highlights the importance of taking every precaution with your health like social distancing, masks and hand hygiene while you’re away.
You'll almost certainly not be covered by your travel insurance if you travel against FCDO advice"
Travel insurers are pretty united in not covering travel against global and government advice. You’ll almost certainly not be covered if you travel when the Foreign, Commonweath and Development Office (FCDO) guidance says you shouldn’t – even if there was no guidance against travelling when you booked your holiday or bought your travel insurance policy.
You’ll almost certainly not be covered for the costs of cancelling or changing your plans if the area you live in goes into a regional or national lockdown either. But if these things happen, don’t despair until you’ve contacted your travel agent, flight company or accommodation provider – they might offer their own protection.
Here are some examples of ‘Covid guarantees’ available from providers in April 2021:
Youth Hostel Association (YHA)
Covid-19 Flexibility Guarantee if you cannot stay due to travel bans or enforced self-isolation you can change the date, change the hostel or get a refund from 28-three days before arrival.
No-quibble refund if the park can’t offer the full experience booked, it’s closed, there are UK travel restrictions, you can’t travel or you simply don’t feel safe travelling. You can request a refund from 28-three days before travelling.
No specific Covid guarantee, but the change fee on non-refundable saver rates has been temporarily waived.
Protection Promise lets you transfer your flight fee-free up to 14 days before departure. Transfer your flight fee-free if you’re affected by new quarantine announcements, as long as you make changes within a week of government announcements. Changes or refunds allowed if you’re affected by a lockdown or travel ban.
Book with confidence commitment lets you change or cancel your booking for any reason, but if you cancel you will get a voucher for future travel, not a refund.
Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for the value of your booking is offered if you test positive within 14 days of sailing. Existing cancelled bookings up to September 2021 receive 125% FCC. You must have cruise-specific travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation and medical expenses cover for Covid-19, or you’ll be denied boarding.
Holiday Promise – If someone in your party contracts Covid-19 or has to self-isolate you can change your holiday free of charge. You can change your booking for free if you’re travelling to a destination where you’d have to quarantine on return. You can buy Covid Cover with a new booking. Although it includes a range of Covid protection not widely available with travel insurance policies, Tui says this is not a substitute for a full travel insurance product that offers baggage, cancellation and medical cover for other conditions.