Travel insurance may or may not cover your losses related to a SARS outbreak. Most travel insurance will not cover you if you go against the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If the FCO advise against "all but essential travel" when you book and you later decide that you don't want to travel, it would be unreasonable to expect an insurance policy to pay cancellation/curtailment costs. We consider the risks of one of your party contracting the illness itself, the need to cancel your trip if your destination is badly infected, the ability to return home early if you are in an area hard hit by an outbreak and the additional costs you might face if there is travel disruption (because airports you are travelling to or through, or airlines you are using close routes).
We assess the risks and highlight insurers who offer special protection against these risks.
The most comprehensive policy we have come across is the Aviva Travel insurance policy with both Travel Disruption and Airspace Closure Upgrades. Aviva advise us that SARS outbreaks were very much the type of incident they had in mind when they designed the product.
This policy will cover both the risk of not being able to reach your holiday destination or that of having your holiday curtailed if a significant outbreak occurs. As they are upgrades, travellers can decide what cover they want and what they don't. If you are planning to visit a destination where an outbreak has already been confirmed, do check with Aviva before you buy a policy to ensure it will cover you - but Aviva tell us that you will be insured if you take out a policy to a destination currently free of SARS.
Visit travel policies from Aviva for more information.
Provided you do not travel to an area which already has a SARS outbreak and are not travelling against FCO advice, any good travel insurance policy should cover you for medical treatment should you fall ill abroad.
Firstly ensure you have taken the cancellation option, as some policies allow you to opt out of this cover in exchange for a cheaper premium.
If you need to cancel your trip as you have already contracted SARS, the cancellation element of your travel insurance will come into effect. You should normally be covered for cancellation if you fall ill.
If SARS has broken out in your travel destination and you no longer want to go there, things are more complex. In it's simplest form, this could be called 'disinclination to travel' and you won't be covered but it does depend on Government advice. If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office direct that trips to the affected area should not be made or 'essential travel only' then some companies will cover you. Others may point to policy exclusions for 'epidemic'. Columbus Travel Insurance and Direct Travel Insurance both allow cancellation following FCO advice.
This means if you need to return home early - if you are ill yourself you are almost certainly covered if doctors feel you should be repatriated, but otherwise cover is unlikely unless you have taken an upgrade such as the Aviva policy.
The Aviva policy would cover the closure of airports or ports, and in many circumstances would allow alternative means of transport to be contracted.
Direct Travel Insurance offer optional Natural catastrophe travel and cancellation cover. It is an excellent package including cover for being stranded at UK & international airports; travel expenses to get home by alternative means; extensions on car parking and kennel/cattery fees; and more. Exactly what you'd want. Unfortunately it only covers natural catastrophes not epidemics.
Most policies have a travel delay section which would also come into effect, although this compensation tends to be modest.
If you have a contract with a hotel, airline or other supplier and they are unable to provide you with they service, they would normally be expected to compensate you. So, if your hotel has been closed by local health officials, the hotel is your first point of call for compensation. However this becomes more difficult if it is a particular hotel or town that is impacted, but flights are still flying to that area, or you have hired a car that is paid for and ready for collection. The hotel may compensate you for your room cost, but because you have been unable or unwilling to rearrange the rest of your trip you could still be well out of pocket. That's when the Aviva policy kicks in.
This content was last reviewed on 01/10/2019