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Travel ban – how to claim for the loss incurred

By Athenkosi Sawutana

As with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, governments sometimes issue travel bans to prevent people from travelling to other countries. This becomes even more complicated if you’ve already planned and paid for your trip. Your flights will be cancelled, and you may lose money from cancelled accommodation arrangements. How do you claim for the financial losses incurred due to a travel ban?

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If you’ve already purchased a ticket for a flight, you have the right to cancel the ticket and get a refund. However, service providers will have different policies regarding cancellations and refunds. You may not get the full amount. Some companies will accommodate you by letting you change your flight dates without charge. For instance, with COVID-19, companies like Mango Airlines are waiving fees for flight changes and giving vouchers to those who don’t want to make use of this offer.

This also goes for your hotel bookings. Accommodation facilities also have a cancellation policy. In South Africa, you’ll be charged higher cancellation fees if your cancellation date is closer to the reservation date. In the case of a travel ban, hotels may - just like the airlines - offer cancellation waivers or ask you to delay your travel. If you’ve already booked accommodation, speak to the hotel to find out how they can assist you.

What about travel insurance?

Travel insurance exists to cover the unforeseen, not events travellers are already aware of, says Old Mutual. It covers you for stolen or lost luggage, cancelled flights, unexpected medical expenses, evacuation, travel curtailment, travel delay, and personal liability. These benefits however vary from service provider to service provider.

READ MORE: Credit card travel insurance

According to Old Mutual, travel insurance will cover cancellation if it’s due to public transport services being cancelled or diverted as a result of the virus outbreak. It will also cover the unused portion of the trip if the client is already overseas and the trip had to be cut short as a result of the outbreak.

If the public transport services aren’t cancelled or diverted, travel insurance will refund 50% of the costs subject to conditions that the cancellation must be at least 48 hours before the trip date.

What happens in the case of pandemics?

Many policies will not cover pandemics as a rule. However, certain insurers may still pay out cancellation benefits provided your policy was purchased before a warning was issued, says Old Mutual.

Most banks offer automatic travel insurance when you purchase your flight ticket using their credit cards. Sometimes your coverage depends on the kind of credit card you have. If your bank doesn’t offer enough coverage, you can always ask for top-up cover at an extra cost.

If you’re not lucky enough to own a credit card you can purchase it from any insurer that offers travel insurance or through travel agents.

When purchasing your insurance, you must check if there are age limits on the cover. Some insurers don’t cover people over the age of 85. Familiarise yourself with the fine print – you might miss important details.

Also, you need to check if your insurance covers pre-existing conditions or if it has any exclusions.

For medical aid with an international extension, click here.

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