Coronavirus travel: most travel insurance policies won't cover cancellations

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The coronavirus is known in the travel industry as a "named and known event," which means travel insurance coverage is going to be limited.

If you have an upcoming trip planned, you should know typical travel insurance policies don't cover fear of travel if you decide to cancel.

Travel agents say plenty of people are scrambling to cancel flight tours and cruises.

"They're pretty panicked they want to know what's happening," CEO of Cook Travel in Manhattan Blake Fleetwood said.

Agents at Cook Travel are getting inundated with coronavirus concerns from clients calling to cancel summer vacations.

"Most of them are traveling on non-refundable tickets so they're going to lose all their money," Fleetwood said.

He says if your travel's months away, don't cancel now, there's no advantage.

Also don't race to cancel booked cruises because you may not get a refund.

If you're traveling now -- check your carrier or cruise line -- many are canceling flights and cruises to affected areas in Asia and parts of Italy and either repaying customers or issuing vouchers.

Fleetwood recommends calling your airline and credit card company because each will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

If an insured passenger produces a doctor's note prohibiting travel for medically necessary reasons, refunds are also possible.

"If you get scared and say 'I'm not going somewhere because I don't want to get sick' that's your prerogative, however, that's not part of an insurance policy," Insurance Information Institute Vice President of Media Relations Loretta Worters said.

Pandemics and epidemics are typically excluded from the coverage so most travel insurance policies won't cover the coronavirus.

"It's kind of like insuring a burning building, the risk is already there," Worters said.


The big takeaway - if you're buying - "Cancel for any reason" travel l insurance thinking it'll cover you for coronavirus fears -- pump the brakes.

First of all, it's not available for purchase in New York and if you are covered -- you'll only get 50 to 75 percent of the trip cost back.

Also consider thatbenefits are time-sensitive and have many exclusions, so before buying get the policy and read it thoroughly.

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