Travel insurance and coronavirus: Are you covered?


Last-minute and unprecedented travel disruptions have become a fact of life since the outbreak of COVID-19, and some Australian travel insurers have started to adapt to this. Canstar has identified a selection of companies that are offering cover to travellers in certain situations, as well as some of the important exclusions to watch out for.

Travel insurance coronavirus
New Zealand travel is about to open up. Check what travel insurance options may be available to you and read the fine print. Image source: Anupam hatui (Shutterstock.com).

Though government restrictions imposed last year left Australians banned from travelling overseas “indefinitely”, domestic travel is still allowed where state-based COVID-19 restrictions allow. There’s now also quarantine-free travel to New Zealand, under a special travel bubble arrangement.

But the emergence of a new coronavirus hotspot, lockdown, state or trans-Tasman border restriction, or even personal illness could easily throw a spanner in the works for travellers.

Canstar analysis shows there are currently 13 travel insurance companies on its database offering some form of pandemic-specific cover to Australians travelling at home or, once official advice allows, to New Zealand.

This is a big change from what was available at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, when an exclusive Canstar investigation revealed cover related to pandemics and epidemics was very restricted on most policies, mainly limited to covering some medical expenses for people who had contracted the coronavirus and had been hospitalised. There was typically no or little remuneration available to those wanting to claim losses on pre-booked accommodation and flights – myself included.

While international travel – to destinations other than New Zealand – and associated cover remain off the cards for now, we break down what travel insurance options are available for coronavirus cover from insurers on our database at the moment.

Where to find travel insurance that covers coronavirus

An investigation of travel insurance policies on Canstar’s database in April 2021 revealed there are some companies that specifically provide cover related to COVID-19 for domestic travel. Some insurers have also announced cover for travelling to New Zealand, now that that option has been available since 18 April for eligible travellers.

As it currently stands, just over half (51%) of the standalone domestic travel insurance policies on Canstar’s database are not accepting new applications, due to COVID-19. Of the 48 domestic travel insurance policies on Canstar’s database that are accepting new applications, 33 don’t provide any cover for COVID-19 related claims, due to the pandemic now being deemed as a “foreseen” or “known event”.

The other 13 policies (available from 12 providers) only cover COVID-19 related claims under certain circumstances, and terms and conditions apply. For instance, some insurers say they provide cover for trip cancellation if the insured person or a close relative is diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to departure. Cover for additional expenses may also be available to insured travellers if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 while on their trip. In some cases, travellers may also have the option to claim for the cost of alternative accommodation if their pre-booked hotel is forced to close for cleaning due to a confirmed coronavirus case.

Every policy is different, with very specific terms, conditions and exclusions applied, so it’s important to read the fine print when comparing your options. Here’s a summary of the policies on Canstar’s database offering a level of COVID-19 travel insurance in certain situations, with some of the key exclusions highlighted:

ahm

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Cover-More

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Easy Travel Insurance

For policies effective from: 31 March 2021

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ Only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Flight Centre

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Good2Go

For policies effective from: 25 November 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? No

Important exclusions: Does not cover losses due to any quarantine that is broadly imposed (i.e. not as a result of your diagnosis, or close contact with, COVID-19). No cover if you do not observe appropriate government, health department and WHO preventative measures (social distancing, hygiene, restrictions etc).

Medibank

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

nib

For policies effective from: 13 January 2021

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ Only

Important exclusions: Does not cover losses due to any quarantine that is broadly imposed (i.e. not as a result of your diagnosis, or close contact with, COVID-19). No cover if you do not observe appropriate government, health department and WHO preventative measures (social distancing, hygiene, restrictions etc).

Qantas

For policies effective from: 11 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ Only

Important exclusions: Does not cover losses due to any quarantine that is broadly imposed (i.e. not as a result of your diagnosis, or close contact with, COVID-19). No cover if you do not observe appropriate government, health department and WHO preventative measures (social distancing, hygiene, restrictions etc).

Travel Insurance Direct

For policies effective from: 15 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? No

Important exclusions: Does not cover losses due to any quarantine that is broadly imposed (i.e. not as a result of your diagnosis, or close contact with, COVID-19). No cover if you do not observe appropriate government, health department and WHO preventative measures (social distancing, hygiene, restrictions etc).

Travellers Choice

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Virgin Australia

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Webjet

For policies effective from: 9 December 2020

Domestic travel? Yes

International travel? NZ only

Important exclusions: Some benefits do not apply to claims involving travel on a multi-night cruise. Does not cover claims relating to border closures and associated mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements.

Source: www.canstar.com.au – 8/04/2021. List is not comprehensive, there may be other travel insurance providers offering cover for COVID-19 related claims. Other exclusions may apply. Read the PDS and Terms & Conditions before purchasing a policy.

Will travel insurance cover COVID-19 quarantine fees?

Of the travel insurance policies that Canstar’s research analysts investigated, cover for mandatory quarantine costs is generally not available. There may, however, be cover for additional expenses you may incur as a result of quarantine.

Cover-More, for instance, says in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for its travel cover that you may be able to claim additional expenses in certain situations. One scenario where cover may apply is if the person you were due to stay with on your travels in Australia or New Zealand was diagnosed with COVID-19 and forced into quarantine, meaning you were no longer able to stay there as planned. Cover for additional expenses up to $150 per night of accommodation may be redeemable from the insurer in that scenario.

It’s worthwhile carefully reading all the exclusions and understanding the extent of the cover available by checking with your provider and obtaining a copy of the PDS for your policy. By law, insurers who sell policies online are required to display the PDS on their website and make it easily accessible for you.

When can Australians travel overseas again?

Australians can travel to New Zealand from 9:59pm AEST on 18 April 2021 without needing to quarantine, if they have been in either country for more than 14 days and meet the New Zealand Government’s health requirements. There are no definitive plans in place for Australians to be able to travel freely anywhere else overseas at this stage. At this time, you cannot leave Australia to go anywhere other than New Zealand unless you get a special exemption from the Department of Home Affairs, which requires an online application and meeting at least one of a range of detailed criteria.

This is because there is a ‘Do not travel’ warning in place, issued by the Australian Government, for all overseas countries except New Zealand, due to the risks from the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand currently has an ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ warning level in place, with the Government’s Smartraveller website advising travellers to be mindful of the risk that any COVID-19 outbreaks in New Zealand may disrupt their travel plans.

Airlines have scheduled hundreds of flights under the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble arrangement, with Qantas saying it would have 122 return flights per week from 19 April, with its budget airline Jetstar to be included. Virgin Australia, on the other hand, said it would not send flights until 31 October – except for a few flights to Queenstown from September – due to the complexity involved in the “evolving border requirements”.

This story was first published on 24 January, 2020.


As with all our content, Canstar’s Coronavirus coverage will always be free for our readers.


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