Disrupted flights and travel insurance: how the coronavirus is affecting travel for Australians | World news


The world still continues to grapple with the impact of coronavirus, and now with more new infections outside of China for the first time, questions are being raised as to whether the world can contain it, and whether it is safe for Australians to go on their Easter overseas holidays while there is still so much uncertainty.

Here is the latest on the travel situation.

Will I still be able to go on holidays over Easter?

For Australians, the current travel advice from the department of foreign affairs and trade (Dfat) just states to not travel to China.

Dfat has also warned there is a heightened risk of transmission of coronavirus for people travelling to parts of Northern Italy, South Korea, Iran and Japan.

Big questions remain over top Australian travel destination Indonesia, which has not, at the time of reporting, declared any coronavirus cases.

Are Australians cancelling their trips?

It is too early to determine whether Australians by and large are cancelling their plans and staying home. A number of big travel companies have reported to market that coronavirus will hurt their profits, but cannot currently say what impact it will ultimately have.

“Leisure travel patterns have also been increasingly affected recently, with some customers reviewing or reconsidering short-term holiday plans and monitoring the virus’s possible spread to locations outside China and Asia in the future,” Flight Centre told the market this week.

“It is impossible to predict the virus’s impact at this time, but [Flight Centre] expects it will lead to subdued activity through to the end of FY20.”

Webjet said the main impact was in China, with flow-on effects to the rest of the AsiaPacific region, and minor impact on Europe and the United States.

Helloworld told the market last week it expected coronavirus to impact tickets to China, Hong Kong, and to a lesser extent Singapore.

A spokeswoman told Guardian Australia the company had not seen any reduction in flights to Bali yet, but was closely monitoring the situation.

What’s happening with flights?

Due to the cancellations major airlines including Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin are cutting flights across Asia as a result of a drop in demand due to coronavirus.

Qantas is cutting around half of its Hong Kong flights to and from Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, and reducing the number of flights to New Zealand by 6%.

Jetstar is cutting the number of flights to Japan and Phuket by up to two a week.

Virgin Australia reported the coronavirus had reduced international and domestic demand, and as a result the company was cutting several domestic routes for budget carrier Tiger: Sydney to Adelaide, Cairns to Coffs Harbour, Melbourne to Coffs Harbour, and Hobart to Gold Coast.

The company is still forging ahead with plans for the Brisbane to Tokyo route launching next month.

People with flights booked are encouraged to check their flight status, as they may be moved to a different flight due to the decreased demand.

What about cruises?

Helloworld also indicated it was seeing a downturn in cruise bookings, but according to Cruise Lines International Association in a statement earlier this month, most bookings are still currently going ahead.

People who have travelled from or through China within 14 days of embarkation will not be allowed on board, as well as those who have been in close contact with someone suspected or diagnosed with coronavirus.

There will also be extra screening measures and medical support.

Will my travel insurance cover me?

It depends on when it was purchased.

Lisa Kable, communications manager for the Insurance Council of Australia, told Guardian Australia that after Dfat made its announcement on 23 January on the risk of travel regarding coronavirus, it became a “known event” for insurers that is adjusted for coverage.

“If people are travelling and bought their travel insurance before it became a known event … the majority of travel insurance policies should cover people if they contract coronavirus overseas, or if their trips have to be moved around countries or places.

“If you bought it after, most travel insurers exclude pandemic, epidemic disease or infectious disease or a known event.”

The same rules apply if people are already travelling, or have yet to start travelling – it only matters when the insurance was purchased.

What sort of travel insurance should I get?

If you are planning to travel and haven’t bought insurance yet, Kable says people should call a travel insurer and find out what the best product is.

“There is a travel insurance product in the market called ‘cancel for any reason’. It’s not a bad thing for people to be considering, it’s an optional extra – it might give some people peace of mind if they’re booking three or six months [ahead] and we’re not sure what’s going on.”

Kable said people can get 75% back on what they’ve spent, but they need to buy it within 48 hours of booking flights and accomodation and other big purchases.

“Buy the right travel insurance, do a bit of research,” Kable says.



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